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when your client’s unhappy, or you’re not charging enough


A couple years back I was assigned to do a food shoot for a small publication.  The restaurant was  decidedly dark and I made the creative decision on the go to shoot with a hard light to match what I felt was the vibe of the place.  After I delivered the images and they were accepted I got a note from my assigning editor.  She gently let me know that she wanted to offer some feedback from the shoot.  She proceeded to tell me that the art director didn’t like the harsh lighting and would’ve much preferred something more naturally lit to match their vision for the story.  While initially surprised by her note, after some thought I realized that I was incredibly grateful for her feedback.  I apologized for taking the creative liberty and explained my reasoning.  She responded understandably and we continued to have a good working relationship for a few years.  This has only happened once during my entire career and I honestly wish it would happen more.  I was so grateful that she took the time to offer some feedback and we were able to have a conversation about it and therefor continue a good working relationship… vs, her disliking the photos and never hiring me again.  While there’s many many pros to being your own boss, there’s also a few cons.  One of those being that you don’t often hear feedback from your client in the form of constructive criticism for the work performed.  As a creative I’m always hoping that I deliver up to the expectations of my client.  As a human, not every single shot is knocked out of the park.  It’s just not possible.

On another note I recently had a potential client reach out for an estimate.  I was able to land the job.  A bit later they wrote again as an FYI about some of the other quotes they’d received.  They weren’t trying to downsize my quote, as we already had an agreement signed… but rather wrote to say they felt it might be helpful for me to know what similar creatives were charging for the same job.  FWIW, the other quotes were considerably higher than what I was charging.  Again, this has only happened once in my professional life and again I was so grateful that they’d taken the time to give me a heads up that I was underbidding the competition.  I felt valued by their communication, since they certainly didn’t have to offer that feedback.  All of this is to say we I think we can so often write each other off or ghost someone if we’re not happy with their work or pricing scheme… but in both these instances I felt valued by the feedback and felt that it improved my abilities moving forward.  I think it’s good to remember that on the other side of an email or a service provided, there’s still a person and that warm, clear communication will win every time over no response.  There’s many times I could write about when I was asked for a quote and then never heard back only to follow up and finally hear that the cost was wrong, or they went another direction.  I don’t take these things personally, but I am left always wishing they had taken the small time to let me know instead of being left hanging.  Just a few thoughts on the value of feedback and a better way to treat others, even if it’s only on a professional level.