Will Bryant’s classic quote, a good reminder to us all!
By the one and only Will Bryant.
Will Bryant’s classic quote, a good reminder to us all!
5 Ways to Improve Your Relationships with Clients
In the creative world we sometimes perpetuate this false story that it’s us (creatives) v.s. them (clients).
If you are a creative professional, clients aren’t going anywhere.
Here are five things that have helped me through client struggles:
1. Teach your clients how to treat you.
I recently read a blog post over at Donald Miller’s blog about this, and it really opened my eyes.
It totally makes sense. If you act like you’re pestering someone, they will feel like you are. If you act like you are doing someone a favor, they will often feel as though you did.
When it comes to clients it’s important that you understand what the relationship is.
It’s no secret that I’m a Geoff Mcfetridge fan.
I’ve listened to several talks of his over the years and I’ll never forget what he said about this. The gist of it was this: the clients weren’t doing him a favor, they were hiring him to help them. They needed what he had, not vice versa.
If you feel like your clients treat you in a condescending way, maybe it’s how you’re presenting yourself.
2. Categorize your clients.
When I work with someone who hires an illustrator all the time, it usually goes quite smoothly. There are standards and history there that we both understand. This is my first category.
I’ve learned that I have to interact very differently with the second category, a client who rarely or maybe even never has hired an illustrator. In the past these situations have not always been the best for me, but I feel like I’m getting the hand of it.
When I work with someone in the second category I play my role a little stricter. The truth is if I don’t set the expectations really clearly, I can’t expect them to know how this works.
Hiring an artist is very different to hiring an accountant, but if I’m not clear with expectations I can get treated like one.
Category three for me are clients I won’t work for at all. There are certain major red flags that I sometimes see, and I now know not to even go there.
3. Find your balance between Mr. Smee and Miles Finch
I recently had a few phone conversations with my dad about some troubling client relations.
He kept joking about how I need to be more like Miles Finch, you know the kids book author they bring in on the movie Elf?
Miles Finch appears to be the classic self-obsessed narcissistic artist. He tells them the exact way they need to treat him, the temperature the car needs to be and even makes them pay up front before he even speaks at the meeting.
Finally on the last call with my dad, he explained that he was only half joking. He said that you don’t have to be this crazy demanding diva, but you do need to demand respect and set the expectations clearly.
This got me thinking.
I’ve decided that when it comes to client relations I want to fall right in between Mr. Smee from peter pan and Miles Finch. I don’t want to be the bumbling, fall over-himself-to-help servant with no self respect, and I don’t want to be the rude big headed egomaniac either.
I’m shooting for the sweet spot in between these extremes.
4. Do not Assume
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got all puffed up from a voicemail or email from a client, assuming they meant something that they didn’t.
I’d say 9 out of 10 times what I thought they were saying, they actually weren’t. So many times it’s nothing more than a misunderstanding.
I’m trying to unlearn this us v.s. them mentality. I’m trying to understand that on the other side there is another person doing the best job they can, and as often as possible, give them the benefit of the doubt until I can speak with them myself.
There is that 1 out of 10 when I was right, and they were being offensive or in my eyes in the wrong, that brings me to 5.
5. Do not be afraid.
This is the most important. Not everyone struggles with this.
Some people find it extremely easy to open and honest and clear. Some people need to learn to be a little more afraid.
For me though, I have had to learn to fight my own corner.
If you’re thinking “What if they won’t want to work with me anymore if I say this?”
The answer is, if they don’t, do you really want to work for them?
When you stand up for yourself professionally, you get the respect you deserve. If you don’t go elsewhere.
Need more client assistance? Watch this amazing Creative Mornings talk with the great Michael Bierut.
5 Vows Every Creative Person Should Make
Sometimes I learn something really super important and then totally forget it and quit practicing it all together.
That’s why I thought of communicating these as vows. I think they are so important, they should be written on our hearts! Without further ado, here we go:
1. Vow to Be Authentic
Authenticity is such a buzzword that it’s nearly laughable.
However, rather than dispose of it on these grounds, I say we elevate it.
I would propose that it’s unrivaled height of buzzwordiness is due to how desperate we are right now for truth and honesty.
For years advertising has tried to pull fast ones on all of us, thousands of times a day. Over time we all developed extremely accurate BS detectors. This is just one of the reasons we long for authenticity.
If your plan is to pretend to love something you don’t, to get in on trends you don’t care about or earn an easy buck, forget about it. The creative world is not for you.
You have to actually care.
If you don’t care they will see it.
Who will care about your creation if you don’t?
2. Vow to Do What it Takes to not Compromise
If you rely solely on your work for sustenance, and your work isn’t cutting it, the only answer is to compromise. When you scramble you make decisions out of desperation.
Decisions in desperation are very different than decisions due to inspiration.
If it’s not working, get a side job until it does. Take the pressure off. Your best work is going to come from a place of interest and passion. Not from trying to make rent.
There are exceptions to this. Some people thrive under pressure, but the truth is you know where, when and why you compromise in your creative work.
Get out of those situations.
3. Vow to Never Stop Growing
When I first graduated I was lucky enough to get featured by a few great online publications and it helped kickstart my career (thanks Pitchfork, BOOOOOOOM, The Fox is Black and It’s Nice That! I couldn’t have done it without you!). And even though at the time I probably wanted my work to really ‘blow up’, I’m actually really glad that it didn’t get toocrazy.
If it had, I don’t think I would have been so intentional about pushing myself and developing my practice. I’ve seen people whose work blew up and that’s all any client seems to want from them.
If I was still doing what I was doing 5 years ago I’d be miserable. I hate doing what I was doing 6 months ago!
If you don’t grow your work you will miss out on one of the greatest pleasures of doing creative work: seeing yourself create things you never thought you could.
4. Vow to Make Something Everyday
Alright, maybe take weekends and vacations, but beside that, you need to make stuff.
Doing my daily NOD project, where I created a new character every weekday for year, really solidified this idea in my mind. I realized that it was essential to my well being and my growth as an artist. Taking too much time off from creating is regression. When it comes to creative pursuits, if you’re not growing you’re shrinking.
I feel like we refer to Will Bryant’s classic quote “I Make Stuff Because I Get Sad if I Don’t” quote every week, but it’s just that brilliant!
5. Vow to Do the Work
This one directly relates to the above vow but it’s also different.
After reading this amazing Great Discontent interview with James Victore I took his lead and looked into Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art. Pressfield also had a follow up book called Do the Work. These books were about what he calls the “Resistance”.
In my understanding the “Resistance” is that thing that keeps you from doing what you were put on this earth to create. The thing that makes you start late. The thing that keeps you not making. The thing that makes you procrastinate.
The only thing that counts is stuff you actually did. Quit worrying about how no one will care, quit being afraid of what they will think, quit putting it off til tomorrow. Do the work! Take 4 hours and work on “your thing”, then repeat.
I really do believe in these things and I hope writing this helps me practice these things better myself!
A side note for the Art Directions community: I do Art Directions because I am passionate about sharing the things I am learning about following your creative path. Even more than blogging, I love talking face to face with people about their creative problems. So I am offering a skype video chat consulting session with anyone who feels stuck trying to go to the next level in their creative path. I realize this might be new concept for many people, but I believe I can add value and I know that I am passionate about doing so. So for now I will be doing 1 hour skype video chats, on a pay-what-you-think-it-was-worth basis when the skype chat is over. No questions asked. During these skype chats we will focus on ways of getting through your current roadblocks, and also answer any questions you have. For more info, email me at: email@example.com P.S. I’m really goofy and not scary.
Lastly, what vow am I missing?
Creative Fuel: Creative Mornings - Draplin “50 Point Plan to Ruin Yer Career”
I remember when I first heard this talk. It put me on cloud 9. Not even sure exactly why or what it is about Draplin that is so inspiring but I dare you to watch this and not truly love him.
Maybe it’s his quintessential Midwesterness? I’m a true midwesterner, and Draplin reminds me of family.
Be ready to be overwhelmed by creative wisdom and joy.
Creative Mornings is free morning lecture series held across the world. It was started by Tina Roth Eisenberg aka swiss miss. It is a brilliant archive of the current world’s creative knowledge and I highly suggest you stop what you are doing and go overdose on amazing lectures.
P.S. I do feel the need to say that Draplin’s language isn’t exactly PG, so be warned. : )
Interview with Grace Danico
Grace Danico has been an internet friend for a few years now, and recently in New York I had the pleasure of finally meeting her face to face. She has always been supportive of my work, and has finally started her own career in illustration! Her work is fantastic, and she has many interesting things to say about it, enjoy.
Could you introduce yourself, including what you consider to be your most appropriate job title?
My name is Grace Danico, and I am an artist and illustrator living and working in Brooklyn, New York. I contribute to the design and illustration blog Grain Edit, occasionally writing about illustration, and just finished up my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science.
Are you ever frustrated by the job titles available today? (For example I see myself more as an artist and designer, even though most people may consider me an illustrator)
Yes, completely. I like to do so many things, ranging from art, illustration, design, writing, archiving, and a bunch of other things. It’s tough when people try to peg you into “one” title. I’d say I’m a “specialist,” specializing in many things.
What’s the whole story of you getting into the illustration world? (go as far back as you need to or would like to!)
I’ve always been fascinated by art and design since I was a kid, and wanted to study art in college. My family wanted me to pursue what they thought was more “useful,” and I ended up getting a degree in English. In 2008, a friend of mine sent me a link to a design blog called Grain Edit, and I instantly fell in love with its content. From there, I asked its founder (Dave Cuzner) if he needed help with the site, and that’s how it started. I’ve been writing about illustration since then, met a lot of artists from all around, and finally started pursuing illustration last year.
How do you stay motivated to keep making new work?
Will Bryant says it best - “I make things because I get sad if I don’t.” I think this is very true for who I am. I motivate myself by just constantly keeping busy, thinking of new things to make and ways to connect with others.
As a fellow excitable person, I really relate to your tagline for your work, “Always Excited”. What gets you creatively excited?
So many things! I easily get inspired by my surroundings. Walking around, eating well, traveling, looking at patterns that exist around me, observing people on the street, listening to music and daydreaming…all of these things get me excited. So, I guess you can say life gets me excited, and the potential of living each day differently and having a good time helps contribute to my creative endeavors.
Your work has a very specific aesthetic in someways. It’s fun with a hand-drawn aesthetic. Why do you think that is? Is that the direct result of who you are?
I think my work is a direct reflection of what I like and who I am. I am generally a cheerful person by nature, and am curious about the world and situations around me. I appreciate doing things by hand, love color and the grit of pencils and crayons. Combining my personality and with these techniques provides interesting results that are fun and sometimes unexpected.
With art directions I try to emphasize the importance of side projects and contributing to things outside your own work. How has contributing to Grain Edit affected your own practice?
Contributing to Grain Edit has introduced me to so many talented artists. Seeing work produced by these folks is definitely stimulating, and provides me with inspiration and ideas on making my own work. It’s also allowed me to reach out to peers and gain insight into something I’m very much passionate about. I have a bunch of other side projects on top of Grain Edit, including running a pop-up restaurant, starting a jewelry line, and teaching an online class on zine making. I pretty much tackle a lot of things to add variety and richness to my life.
Do you have a vision of what you want your work to be?
Overall, my main goal is to add some cheer to people’s life. The world can get you down, so if my images can help with that, I’m all for it. I also want it to be smart and thoughtful in its delivery, and unexpected in some ways. I’m always looking to try something new and find ways to improve what I do.
It looks like you’ve done a lot of editorial illustration, was that intentional? Do you want to keep developing that side of your work or explore different areas?
It happened by accident really. I remember Liz pushing me to reach out to art directors about work. I tried it once, and got an assignment almost immediately, which boosted my confidence. All projects following that were purely by chance. To be honest, I feel like I haven’t done enough editorial illustration! It I would be totally interested in pursing more of that in addition to doing product design, books, and personal projects.
These days the self-promotion game is an interesting battle, how do you share your work?
Self-promotion is really tough! I typically share my work online, typically through my site, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I’m working on a promotional zine to send to friends and art directors as a collectible tangible visual artifact of my work.
The creative industry can be a little scary sometimes, has fear ever played a role in your career?
It has. When I first starting pursing editorial illustration, I was (and kind of still am) a ball of nerves! It’s hard because although you may be happy with your work, there’s always that bit of uncertainty that someone won’t like what you’re doing. The best way to overcome this fear is to do what makes you happy, and have confidence that if you do good work, everything will fall into place.
Grace, are you or are you not a “sketchbook person”?
I keep a sketchbook to brainstorm ideas and draw on the train when I’m going to and from places. I don’t have a regimented schedule where I have to draw things. I keep things loose and do it on the fly.
I know you share a studio with some really talented people, has that impacted your work?
I’d say so. Gavin, Liz, and Dan are constantly working on something, and being surrounded by them gives me energy to work on my own work. It’s important to be in a creative environment where you can bounce ideas off one another or ask each other for advice. Whenever I’m unsure about a project I’m working on, I always turn to them for their thoughts and opinions because they may see something that I may have missed.
I say Art Directions is a pep talk for creative people, any encouragements for our creative readers?
Do what makes you happy, and always make time for yourself and your personal work. Even if it’s for a few minutes a day, it makes all the difference! Also, don’t be afraid to try something new. Always challenge yourself so you and improve your craft. The last thing you want to do is be complacent and get stale. Most importantly - live life, eat pizza.
Monday Morning Wisdom
A classic quote by the great Albert Einstein.
Illustration by the very talented Bradford Haubrich.
Thanks Bradford for taking the initiative to contribute!