Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about rejection, communication, and the importance of contracts. By now you might be exhausted. I assure you we’re nearly done. Before I set you free to go sell your work we need to cover what goes into your contracts.
Last week we talked about rejection. But let’s step back into the light and assume you’ve nailed it. That potential client is ready to be a client. Can I say, “booyah?” No. Stop celebrating for a moment. This is the most dangerous point of working with a client, in my opinion. Before you can move forward, you must a establish a contract with the client. Here’s a secret: all four of us have made the mistake of not using a contract before. “Contract” can be a spooky word. It’s binding. But it’s protection for both you and the client. So take some time to put together a comprehensive contract that conveys all the agreements that were made in negotiating the project.
Once you’ve both signed and agreed to the contract you can get to work. Sometimes re-negotiations happen. But that’s an article for another time. Just remember, moving from potential client to official client can happen in mere minutes and you need to stay on your game, and conduct yourself professionally.
If you’re thinking you’re ready to start selling your work then you are a professional. Something Travis and I concluded was, “you may not have mastered your field yet, but if you’re selling, you are a professional. Never be afraid to acknowledge that about yourself.” Conducting yourself professionally will ensure better work and happier clients. There are bad clients, rejections, and dry spells, but you should always strive to be a good service/product provider. In doing so, you’ll see fewer things fall apart, with more things coming together.
Pro Tip: I can’t stress the importance of contracts enough. It’s a professional relationship you’re building and you want to protect that as much as possible. If you want to see an example of negotiating a contract, watch this Strip Search Episode. (May not be suitable for all audiences)
Get yourself comfortable with communicating with your audience.
I’ll get more into what needs to be in your contracts next week, in our final article, “Contracts and Closing Words”.
So, you’ve been honing your craft for at least a week. That’s great! But, before we get into successfully landing a client, let’s go down the dark road of rejection. Sometimes potential client expectations don’t match up with their budget and what you can offer. Don’t undercut yourself. If you have an hourly rate, stick to it. They’re good to have as a base to build from. If you know your rate can’t go lower, if you can’t rework the scope of the project, respectfully walk away. As Travis puts it, “if a client approaches you for something you can’t do, or are not comfortable doing, refer someone else. It builds community and a relationship with the potential client. Never turn away a chance to make a connection.” Be honest and forward with a potential client at all times. It’s better to turn them away than upset or disappoint them.
Pro Tip: Jeffrey mentioned, “they don’t see the years of struggles, tears, breakdowns and rejections.” It can be hard, but remember that you have a different perspective on your work and educating clearly is very important. And keep this in mind, too: “The phrases ‘Never make compromises’ and ‘the client is never wrong’ are both wrong. Find a balance. Clients are not money cows,” reminds Galacia Barton.
So the hunt is over, you have a client on the hook and it’s time to start working. Like us, you’re probably so hungry for work it feels like you’re starving. And that can lead you to making any number of mistakes.
If you’re ready to sell any of your work, you should have at least a strong idea of what you’re worth. Never undercut yourself. Before even considering numbers, get a grasp on the scope and expectation of the project. It won’t be uncommon for clients to be working on fixed budgets, so understanding their intentions will allow you to negotiate the cost effectively.
It’s not crucial to have the client lay down the first number, but it doesn’t hurt. And it can be easier to “tailor your skills to fit their range,” as Galacia says. Don’t be afraid to offer an augmented, or simplified service to accommodate what the budget is.
Tailoring isn’t always the resolve though. Unfortunately, powerful tools like the internet can hinder professional work with services that allow people to sell their skills for unimaginably low rates. This is where your knowledge of your work will put you in the role of an educator. Especially in the realm of digital artwork, clients can sometimes be blind to “the decisions and research that goes into great design,” says Travis Bentley. No matter what you’re doing digitally, teach your potential clients about your processes to show them exactly what they’re paying for.
All of this will help you build positive relationships with your client, and help you refine your audience. Your audience won’t always be idly viewing your work, think of them all as potential clients. In understanding your audience you’ll be ready for next week’s topic of client interaction.
Pro Tip: My animation client somehow got my contact information. I failed to inquire from whom. Always find out how someone found you. Know your audience.
Next in this article series is “Client Dealings and Contracts”. Stay tuned!