An inevitable occurrence in the life of every art school graduate is a conflict between your vision and the opinion of the client you intend to serve. You can imagine some of the issues when disagreement arises — for example, clients who are steadfast in their ideas, emboldened by the fact they are paying for the service and therefore, assume a sort of authority, challenging you, the artist, who is trained, experienced, and demonstrates a true talent for your craft. Added to this dynamic is your desire to prevent a rift so contentious that you damage the relationship and threaten to destroy your chances at future business from the client.
Even if you learned an array of impressive new creative skills at art school, communicating your clients is a skill you can’t afford to ignore. So, what are the best ways you can balance the opinions of your client and your experienced ideas and vision?
Keep an Eye on the Big Picture
First and foremost, whenever a conflict arises with a client, be sure to keep it all in the proper perspective. Oftentimes, an artist will take the discontent personally and allow a range of negative thoughts to be injected into the project. Allowing the disagreement in artistic opinion to affect you personally is not a healthy and productive way to operate and will do nothing to solve the issue. Avoiding the feeling of a personal affront is easier said than done but is, nevertheless, a point that cannot be overstated. What is most important is your ability to satisfy the client’s requests while making every effort to provide your experienced and talented artistic eye.
Keep an Open Mind
This advice seems to go without saying, and should be a standard rule of working with clients and colleagues. However, in the case of dueling opinions regarding a client’s project, you should make a special effort to remain as personally detached from your ideas as possible — enough to give the client’s suggestions a fair and dispassionate review.
Remembering to maintain objectivity not only affords you the ability to absorb your client’s opinions in a fairer and more approachable demeanor, doing so will allow you to better understand what is going to be required of you once the back and forth has ceased. You do not want to be so intransigent in your position that you are unable to hear the countering opinion, only to be left without definite direction once the dust settles, as you go about altering the project.
Give the Client Some Credit
While many of your clients lack the artistic education and experience you bring to the table, the client has at least one advantage — perspective. Your client is likely skilled at identifying the target audience in ways that you may be unable to perceive. The client’s perspective is honed over time and should be revered for nothing if not the experience that informs the opinion.
A client who has a different set of goals and offers opinions as to how to achieve those goals, no matter how different from your opinion, is not always doing so from an undeservedly powerful position. Their experience should be duly considered, and you would be wise to listen to their perspective and needs.
If you still disagree with their opinions, then calmly and professionally communicate your reasons, backing your opinions with evidence and data from user and case studies (some of which you may have saved from your art school classes) as well as blogs and expert opinions where possible. Explain how your choices could benefit their business and help them achieve their goals, as well as how doing something else may detract from these same goals. Ideally, you can combine their audience knowledge with your creative expertise to build something truly effective and inspiring.