As a professional creative you earn a living with your art. As an artist, you also have that desire deep inside for your art to be appreciated. Applauded. Awarded. So often it’s hard to balance the two. There are times in this business when you take gigs just for the money. There is no creative fulfillment. It’s just a paycheck. Then there are those times when the creative challenge is so intoxicating, you do it for free.
As a human being, you can’t survive on too much of any one of these situations. Unless you have some other form of income you can’t only do the latter. And if all your jobs were the former, you’d end up hating the craft you started out loving.
One way to achieve balance is to take on the right clients. Now, there are innumerable ways in finding and attracting the “right” clients. Social media. Networking. Word of Mouth. All of these play into your marketing. But once you find someone or some company willing to write you a check, how do you achieve balance and stay sane and happy in this biz?
One way I do it is what I call the Client Compatibility Matrix. It sounds more complicated than it really is. Simple put, I try to take on clients that have at least TWO of the following characteristics (i.e. have a CCM rating of 2 or 3).
- Appreciates my work
- Willing to pay me what I’m worth
- Gets out of my way (i.e. they let me be the artist and grants me a relatively large amount of creative freedom)
The absolute dream client is someone who has all three (a CCM rating of 3). Every time I’ve had one of those they’ve naturally yielded my best work and have been the most rewarding. I still have a few clients like that.
But realistically, most clients will have a CCM rating of 2. For instance:
- A client who appreciates your work and is willing to pay you what you’re worth but one who will also be intimately involved with the creative process could be a major agency or Fortune 500 company. They love your work, have the budget to pay you, but because of the nature of the brand, they can’t have you go all willy-nilly creative on them. In some cases, clients like those sit in the editing room with you. Or they come back with a gazillion changes. But hey, if they’re paying you for all that, it’s all good.
- A client who appreciates your work and is willing to get out of your way, but can’t pay you what you’re worth may be a worthy cause or charity you believe in. Or maybe it’s an opportunity to do work for a high-profile client and having that client on your client list is worth the investment of your time and talent.
- A client who pays you what you’re worth and who gets out of your way but who doesn’t necessarily appreciate your work is rarer, but they exist. It’s usually someone who hires you on behalf of or at the request of someone else. The best example I can think of is perhaps a Mother of the Bride who’s paying for the wedding video but HATES video. But her daughter loves it, loves you, and therefore the MOB hires you. Technically, the MOB is your client.
Having a nice combination of these three will keep you sane and surviving in this business.
There Can NOT Be only One
Heaven help you if you have a lot of clients who only exhibit one of these qualities. Sometimes just having ONE client that only has one of these characteristics is enough to make you throw in the hat. You can use your imagination as to the kind of clients that exhibit only one. I feel blessed that all of my current clients have at least two of these. But after nearly twelve years in this biz, I’ve had my share of clients with a CCM rating of only 1.
So, are most of your clients 2’s or 3’s?