4 Ways to Better Communicate with a Client
Understand what is at the heart of what they want.
One thing I see constantly in video production is filmmakers claiming a project was 'derailed by the client' or 'they ruined it'. Obviously there are circumstances where this happens, but I always wonder if a bit more discussion could have solved things up front.
Here's what I mean; Some clients know what they want to achieve, but aren't sure how to get there. That's fine, but then some clients will use guess-work to determine what they think makes a good video and only tell us that's what they want to make. They jump right into the concept process before you're a part of the conversation. You can't control this from happening, but you can learn to ask the right questions to find out what the video's goal is. If you feel their concept isn't going to generate the results their looking for, kindly ask if their open to other ideas as well.
While discussing with your client, really listen to what they are asking for and try to summarize the goals back to them. If you feel like you're on different pages, try asking your client to summarize their need and goal in a sentence or two.
Problems sometimes come up in production, it's just the nature of the industry. We're all human, it's fine, but it's important to communicate with the client as early as possible to manage their expectations. Many people can be surprisingly sympathetic with an unexpected issue or even a personal problem coming up that somewhat effects production. Just share with them.
Something that runs along side communicating early is staying in touch. If you have a shoot where a client isn't present, shoot them an email after saying that things went great and that you're excited! If you create an enjoyable, safe experience for your client and then also deliver great work, they'll come back time and time again.
Convey who you are clearly.
The first step to communicating who you are is knowing who you are. Seek to define yourself as an artist. What style of work do you do and why? This is many times referred to as a personal brand. Create a style or approach that you are known for and you will find yourself getting called by the right types of clients. Having a personal brand will also jump start the process of concept creation. If you can establish this then your client is likely coming for your style and approach.
If someone is coming to you with a project that doesn't fit your brand consider these two things; time and money. We have clients that we don't promote the style of work we do for them, but they are large corporations who have large budgets. Also, if times are slower or you're just starting out, take those jobs you may not be thrilled about and still do your best!
Establishing a process cannot be stressed enough and works hand-in-hand with everything above. Create a process or things will fall through the cracks. When this relates to clients this is everything about managing expectations.
What is the first step to every video you do? At The Union Productions we start every project with our New Project Form. Our clients fill out all the info on; what they are looking for, deadlines, possible budget, what the video is supposed to accomplish, and even who is responsible for the leg work of different parts of pre-production. This answers a lot of questions right of the bat and saves anyone from assuming, because assuming is how things fall through the cracks.
For project management, we use a program called Asana. Below is a screen shot from our Pre Production check list for every project. We can figure out the information for almost all of these check points based on our new project form.
Once you have a system like this created, it's much easier to educate your client on estimated turn around times and what information you need from them off the bat. This will help things go smoother and limit the number of meetings, calls, and emails that happen as you think of more things you need to know.
Show your client that you know what your doing and create an enjoyable process for them! Creating videos can be fun, that's why we got into this in the first place, and once you know how to handle your clients well it can remove a lot of unnecessary stress.
I'd love to hear about good ways you've found to work with clients. Leave them in the comments below.