Do Your Clients Have 2 out of These 3 Characteristics?

Mike Brady's nightmare client Bibi Gallini definitely was a CCM-1.
Mike Brady’s nightmare client Bibi Gallini definitely had a CCM rating of 1.

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?

7 thoughts on “Do Your Clients Have 2 out of These 3 Characteristics?

  1. Great post Ron. Timing is amazing — I am literally struggling with this issue regarding a client right now. I might add to the list: Is easy and pleasant to work with. My client is way over deadline getting me assets, and they fight internally among themselves, making my job much more stressful. But on your index, they are willing to pay, and they do appreciate my work (when I am finally able to get it done!) But the pain of working with them is making me crazy already. Because they have majorly missed a deadline, I have an out. Just not sure if I should take it. In the end, this one is totally about the money.

    1. You make a good point Brian. It may be worth adding a factor related to “actual” compatibility. Although, ideally you’d only take on a client you felt compatible with in terms of like-ability, values, etc. In any case, this definitely isn’t “science.” Ha. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  2. Well I would add another point since I’m a proactive creative producer: Willing to develop with you a communication strategy that includes a regular video production (adapted to the company size and style, it could be twice a year or twice a month) and not call you the day before to work in an important event for the company that’s happening tomorrow.

  3. I think you can add another category of clients….Douchebags ones….
    I just had the worse experience of my work, I have my own production company here in France, we’re making docs, short movies, web series, corporate work.
    A few days ago, some clients came to us, they wanted to film a conference at a parisian hotel.
    They needed a lot of gear, four cameras, a lot of sound equipment for the video and for the conference etc etc. So I’ve made them a quote, then they asked me for only one camera and just the audio for the camera, so I’ve made a second quote, then they asked me for one camera and all the audio gear, so I’ve made a third quote, I’ve spend days of work just to make quotes.

    They told me that all the quotes I’ve send were cheaper than the others they receive and at the end ? They told me they’ve chosen the solution proposed by the hôtel were the conference will be, it was more expensive but more “simple” as they said…..

    So yes, add the douchebag category,they’ve made me lose my time and the time of the different rental houses I work with, I’ve fight to get the best quality at the best price and they’ve chosen the hotel which in France does not have the right to employ video technician (in france only production companies can do that).

    Anyway, i’m very sad today.


  4. Hi Ron, I can only agree. Also in my thing (music) you will find these 3 elements in different degrees.

    One point, nevertheless: if clients want to get involved in the creative process (i.e. “control you”), this might be also a blessing, provided
    – (a) they have a minimum of technical knowledge,
    – (b) they really know what they want (not always the ase with hyper-control personalities)
    – (c) they know where to stop (if they engaged you it is because they cannot do it themselves)

    And it can be a blessing since sometimes constraints can be inspiration, by setting a clear frame to work in.
    warm regards –
    Juan María / pianist & composer

    1. Dear Juan, I would like to congratulate you by your wisdom words. Most of the times comments aren’t so balanced and full with useful content. Nice man.

      I full agree with your top idea to benchmark the hotel estimate (imitate maybe is to strong) and try to check why it was good (at least for that one).

      And for the above 3 items you add, they are spot on. Specially the first. My worse fear to have a client with me is that they don’t know nothing about the technical side, so for them, sometimes, all things are easy and fast to achieve.

      For example I kept hearing (luckily only in meetings) “I don’t have all things neat to shot but you can fix it in post, so I’m not worried…” Well I say also trying to be funny: Oh yeah! don’t worry, I will raise my bill 10x more because of the category special fx, just because someone didn’t spend 10$ in cleaning papers”.

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