The problem with “Mildew” – and by that I mean attitude.
Years ago, I almost called a client Mildew. That’s not her name. That was a nickname. A nickname I’d been calling her by for about 6 months around the office. It was not an affectionate nickname. Was it funny? Yes. Had she completely earned it? 100%, in my opinion. Was it smart to walk around chanting it like a mantra? Not even close.
You’re ALWAYS going to encounter uncooperative clients. Not because they’re bad people – often, they’ll simply not understand you, what you do, or what you’re trying to accomplish for them and for the agency. They may, in fact, be miserable people, yes. But that could be anyone, not just clients, of course. Whether it’s a lack of chemistry, an agency-side or client-side team (or both) just not on top of their part, or any number of possibilities, it’s really important to be cautious of the attitude towards your clients you’re cultivating, behind the scenes. It’s a habit that will affect your work, and your enjoyment of the creative process.
We all want to be appreciated and valued, and there are times, you’ll be perfectly within reasonable limits to have a poor opinion about a client. Like any person alive (including you), they can be unreasonable, selfish, misinformed, well-intentioned but bad-mannered – the list goes on. Just bear a few things in mind – assuming all your clients are going to be difficult is something many creatives tend to do, now and again. The fact is, sometimes they are. There are many cool ideas I’ve seen die on an office floor because the client played it too safe for fear of being accountable to their boss who might not agree with their decisions. Just remember, you’ve done that too. How many brainstorms have you been in when you didn’t speak up, or just said something pointless to feel like you contributed? In your role as a professional, appreciation will come back to you. It just might not come back to you every time.
The highlights will come with clients you have real chemistry with. I’ve worked on plenty of VERY satisfying projects because my client was along for the ride, and enjoyed the process as much as I did. The “after shoot dinners” are a cherished memory for me now. It would be awesome if every client I worked with was like this – but that’s just not the case. It’s a mixture. The ability to treat each client (the tough ones and the fun one’s alike) with a neutral respect is hard to develop, but it will serve you well. The tough clients will benefit from your attitude and creative compassion, and over time you may find they’ll soften to your positive attitude. The great clients will benefit from the discipline you gain working with the tough ones. Your skills are tight, your work is button-down and battle-tested. You’re a consummate, and solid pro. If you can find that place in the middle – that creative zen – you’ll be valuable to both your clients, and your agency. Don’t ignore a tough client, and if they’re unreasonable, you’re going to feel put off. That’s normal. Just don’t dig that hole so deep, you can’t see the light of day anymore.
Positive attitude = positive work. Its an equation you can count on.