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How to realistically react to client feedback

Yeah we know we’re supposed to grin and bare it, take it on the chin, “it’s constructive”…but we’re all still human at the end of the day. Here’s how to realistically take on client feedback…

Many would suggest that if someone offers you feedback, accept it graciously, no matter how uncomfortable the process. Other would argue that feedback should not be offered, but given only upon request. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, we can all agree that feedback can be both constructive and cutting. 

For newcomer creatives though, it can be tough to adjust to the way feedback works. I’ve received feedback on some of my songs and their production which can sometimes feel like a blow. I will say however, that when worded kindly and when written from an authentic point of view, it’s easy to get over the harsh stuff. Other critiques however which can often feel like waffle or as an attempt to assert superiority – those sting a little more. I recently had a critic send me a bunch of waffle which included the phrase “I am a fan of the vocal driven melody” – a fancy word for the actual singing part of the song. 

Mastering the humble receipt of feedback takes time and effort, not to mention a thick skin and the ability to keep calm under a barrage of criticism. But once you’ve got the hang of it, much of the stress of client relationships melts away and you can concentrate on the task at hand – making exceptional creative work.

No matter how harsh a critic, however, never challenge back. You can lose clients this way and here truly is the right time to grin and bare it – whether you take on the critic in your own time is up to you by means of actions not angrily worded emails. 

Another great tip when it comes to feedback is learning how best to avoid miscommunication which can lead to poor feedback. For example, be clear about how much creative control you and the client share before embarking on the project. If you’re a makeup artist for example, you should expect that doing a model’s makeup will be very different than doing a music artist or actor’s makeup as these figures will want to stick to a more signature look and therefore be less flexible. In the case of the model, the creative control is shared with the client – be it a brand or photographer – and a discussion on how much say you get in the direction is key. 

Clear communication is always a must. Establishing open and honest communication with your client is the best way to make sure they offer you the same courtesy. If you’re cagey and unresponsive to feedback, things can get really awkward really quickly. Some client relationships will inevitably be more difficult than others, but finding ways to overcome those difficulties will often be your responsibility.

It’s also more normal than you may think to illustrate to the client how exactly you like to receive feedback. You may feel like a prima-donna outlining your feedback process to a new client, but if it works for you then it will likely be better for your collaboration.

Picking your battles is also crucial in this industry – keep it cool and keep the sassy messages to yourself. I literally had a makeup artist respond to my kindly worded message with “huh” this morning, so naturally I am a bit triggered! 

Sometimes you’re going to disagree with a client but still have to make changes to your work that you really don’t want to make. Although I don’t necessarily agree with every bit of feedback, it’s important to understand the different points of views and find a middle ground. 

This doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover though. If a client is hiring you as a creative then they want your creative opinion as well. Don’t play it too safe, because if you’re bored making the work then the end result is usually boring.

Honestly when it comes to feedback it’s a case of karma. Give as you’d like to receive. At some point you’re going to be on the other side of the feedback fence and dishing it out yourself. When this happens, remember the humility you hoped for from your own clients. 

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