The Client is Always Right
Even when they’re not
Of course this is more of an attitude than a literal truth. Point being, you’re the only one responsible for your business.
I worked in two projects recently and both clients went out of their way to thank me for my cooperation and good attitude, that got me thinking…
How is everyone else working? Why do they feel it’s necessary to thank me for just doing my job properly?
So I have decided to leave technique aside for today and write about being a service provider. Lets face it, as freelancers, we need to train ourselves to think like one.
Each project is unique, behind every project there’s a person.
So first thing, first: Treat your client like a person.
Know their name, be respectful, understand how they think, what they like, their needs and circumstances.
As much as you’d like to think so, the client is not “out to get you”. You’re not there to fight or argue, you’re there to advice and provide solutions.
When you know who you’re working with, you can accommodate to their specific needs and times. It’s not the same to deal with an art director who is handling 35 projects at the same time, than it is to work with a hair stylist who needs images for his/her portfolio or a small company producing their first catalog. You need to accommodate to the specific ways of working of the person you’re dealing with.
No client should be more important to you though, in terms of service. If you take on a project, treat your client with respect no matter how much is worth to you. Because those images mean a lot more to them.
Which leads us to the next point: Treat each project like your one and only project.
We make decisions and we must live by them. If you agree to do a certain job for a certain amount of money, then you do your best to deliver in time and form.
I’ve seen so many people agree on a budget and then complain about that same job they agreed on.
I simply don’t get it… you said yes, now deal with it! Next time, find out more about it before you say yes.
Decision-making is a key skill in any business, and is particularly important if you want to be an efficient freelancer. The ability to make a good call with available information is vital to making a living out of any creative field.
That’s why: Always quote with a brief in hand.
Yes, I know… there isn’t always a brief and not all situations are ideal, that’s why we must take responsibility for our own way to deal with potential clients. If there isn’t a brief you make one.
It doesn’t have to be exact, proper or use a pre designed sheet with the company pantone color scheme, but you do need to make everything clear before you start. Doing this you will save yourself (and your client) a possible future headache.
Being clear, honest (don’t promise more than you can do, overselling is never a good idea) and realistic about your skills (taking the deadline into account) when briefing is a great way to start a good relationship.
What do you need to know before compromising to a project?
The deadline, whether they have a pre-stablished budget, amount of images, references for the final product, print size and use are just a few things to consider.
If you want to know more about pricing you can read it in another article I wrote
So lets say you and your potential client agree on a fee for the job. Congrats!
This is just getting started.
Keep the client close to your workflow, closer if you’re working with those more directly involved.
If you want to be a professional retoucher, you should have an efficient, non destructive, client friendly workflow that allows several approval stages and follow up corrections.
As soon as I have the selection, I send the client a screenshot of the images I’ve got in my computer. Yes, the same images they just sent. Why? Easy, people make mistakes and If you can’t spot them, they become your responsibility and it’s a waste of precious time.
You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today. - Abraham Lincoln
Who ever works in editorial or advertising knows time is always limited and you don’t want to waste any of it for any reason.
Ideally you have the same brief everyone else in the team has - including concept, intent and references - but if you don’t you need to ask for the information in order to understand the aesthetic needed for this particular project.
At this point, you can always make suggestions as you see fit about the tones, elements in the shot, give some feedback to your client about references, etc
Also, if you need or think you need any extra images (more hair, different hair, another arm, cleaner accessories, something in a different angle, the background on its own, closed mouth, open eyes, better exposed outfit) you ask for them and place them in a different folder called “extras”
For big projects I usually get a selection of raws to select from in case I need “extra parts”
And we haven’t even opened photoshop yet!
The first step of my actual photoshop workflow is to create a working file.
Once I’ve done the tones with several raw conversions, placed all the parts - if any - and I’m done with any structural changes to the image, I send it out for approval.
This is beneficial for several reasons:
The client knows you’re going in the right direction
Gives them peace of mind
Helps them trust you on the following aesthetic decisions you might make.
It works as confirmation you’ve started on the project already.
It’s also beneficial for you, since you can now keep on working knowing there won’t be any structural corrections later on.
With this certainty you can apply the same look and feel to all of the images from the series, work on details, texture, minor color corrections, light and send the image back out for a second review.
While you might still be working on them, the client will spot things you didn’t think of and will also make them feel they are cooperating and contributing with their own input.
They become a part of your process.
Everyone in this line of work feels they need to justify their existence, be it the photographer, the art director, the magazine editor or even the set designer! They will, more often than not, have corrections for you.
My advice: Send the image out while you’re still working on it so obvious things will get noticed first and they won’t need to “find” something else.
It’s also helpful for your own sanity, since you KNOW you’re not done yet, corrections don’t feel as “something more to do” but as a part of the job.
Just to get this clear, always leave a little something to correct, don’t send out an incomplete image because that would certainly scare off your client.
One more thing about corrections: People make mistakes, people forget things, people change their minds. Within logic and respect, allow your clients to make corrections until everyone is happy with the image. When you’re a freelancer your name is all you’ve got and to provide a good service is not only to have good photoshop skills, but also being understanding and flexible.
This is not to say you should let people walk all over you. I state in every job "corrections not included in the original brief will be charged by the hour" but I still allow a lot of little things to pass.
Also, keep in mind you can always have an opinion on the feedback you receive and it’s part of your job to advice the client accordingly. Not because you don’t want to do something but because you don’t feel it would make the image better or even sometimes you can feel a certain change would make it worse
Remember though, the paying part will always have the last word on any matter, if you disagree with their taste too much, you can always decide not to work with them again.
Keep communication fluent at all times whether it be phone, email or even Skype. Be available and always keep a pleasant tone.
Don’t make up excuses, ever. Not only because the client won’t care, but also because your problems are yours, not theirs. Everyone’s got issues, we all deal with personal situations all the time and still get the work done. You’re no exception to that rule, nor is your client who also has a client of its own and problems yet still delivers. Keep your problems to yourself and find a way to get it done.
Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses. George Washington Carver
Send the invoice only when they approve the finals, along with the link to the high resolution images, and always thank them for choosing you to work with them. Never take any client for granted. Never take anyone for granted.
The client is always right, because you will always make them feel like they are. Even, or specially when they are not.