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25 June 2013

The Marks of a Professional

Moonlight over DeForest fog

Ever have the contractor or vendor that is consistently late for meetings or deadlines? Or the client that doesn't know what she wants from your service? How about the designer that delivers the copy master as an unlabeled (not even writing!) bare disk?

Why would you put up with such behavior? Many of us do, because we feel it would be more inconvenient to go to another provider, or in spite of way the work was delivered, it's still very good work. The clueless client may pay you very well (you hope) for the time you take to walk them through deciding what they want and need from you.

Does their value to you make their behavior right? No. Quite simply, you condone and even encourage these things by merely accepting them. On the other hand, some of these things have contractual or real life consequences. A missed deadline for you means you can't get your product into production on time. You don't get paid. Your reputation suffers. In the creative world, a good reputation is golden and gets you jobs. 

Labelled discs are bad enough about straying, an unlabelled one? *shudder* I have hundreds of discs in my work area. Most of them are blank and unburned. I NEVER complete a disc burn without marking it with at least it's title. My clients get discs with full labels on them that include my name and contact information. In fact, all my delivered work has this information. How can business repeat if your client can't find you again?

How not to be a problem vendor

It's real simple. Care about your client. Give a rip about their time and deadlines. 
  • Be on time for meetings, deadlines and work days. 
  • Be ready to do the job: Is your research done? Are your questions ready? Is your notepad (paper or electronic) handy? Do you have your pencil/stylus? Are the batteries charged? Do you have all your equipment ready to set up and use? Are the proofs printed/on the screen?
  • Actively listen to your client. Make sure you understand what they tell you. This way you can usually anticipate their needs, and often offer a novel solution to their situation.
    Setting up for portraits
  • Stay focused on the job while you are there. Wasting the client's time is wasting your time, too. There are other, often little, things you can accomplish as soon as you are done working on your client's project. Don't cheat yourself of that time by wasting it during a job. (I understand if your client or someone assisting you has to complete a task between when you set up and when you do your thing. You might be idle, but often that time is necessary to complete the project.)
  • When you deliver, make sure your product is ready to go away from you. Is it in the form your client can use? Is it packaged to protect the contents? Can your client find you from your packaging or enclosures? Is it attractive?
When you care about your client, you are building a (hopefully) profitable long-term relationship. These relationships tend to be the main source of income in the creative world.

Problem People

Before it gets too far, have the courtesy to ask them (nicely) to meet your expectations. It's just good people skills and good business.
  • "By the way, my client was upset because of the delayed meeting. Please be ready for the next one. It's so and so time at such and such place. Do you need directions?"
  • "It's really hard to estimate the license fee when we don't know how the pictures will be used." or "How big are the walls you want to put these on? That will determine the size of the prints I will deliver. Do you want me to go over there and measure?"
  • "Hey, that brochure layout was great! I'm glad I got it loaded right away, because the disc slipped off the table and got scratched. I have this great source for the sleeves I use. Do you want to try them?"
 Sometimes you just have to fire the people that cause you too much grief. That includes clients as well.
  • "I'm sorry. I can't afford to work with you anymore."
Professionalism is a choice. It says you care enough about your business and clients to make the effort. That effort is expected and sometimes rewarded.

Both images are under the copyright of W. Clinton Hotaling.