Can creative-service businesses 'control' their clients?

When I talk with other creative-service business owners, we – of course – judge other companies’ work. We whisper things like, “They should have let that idea simmer more before running with it,” or “Do they realize their headline has a sexual undertone to it?” And I’m not so naïve as to think others don’t judge my work.

But I was surprised when my marketing friend criticized a company for having “no control over their clients.”

I asked what he meant by “client control” and he explained that he had worked with this particular company one time and a project dragged on for months when it should have taken a week. And in the end, he thought the final product looked amateur.

I started to think about “client control” related to my own creative-service business. There are times when my projects drag on because of an indecisive client, and sometimes when a project doesn’t make it into my portfolio but it does please the client. Does that mean I can’t control my clients? Not necessarily. There are things that I can control and things I can’t. Here are a few:

  • I do control how my clients perceive me and my abilities. If I present a project to my clients in a confident way, they will have confidence in me and trust my judgment, which leads to a quicker approval.
  • I don’t control what is happening in my clients’ businesses. Marketing projects often get shoved to the side when something more pressing comes up – even though I think marketing projects should always be a top priority. Sometimes approvals take time, and that’s the way it is.
  • I do control how people pay me. I can always set up my payment terms so that my payment is not contingent on my clients’ final approval of a project (such as a retainer).
  • I don’t control someone’s taste. I’m in the business of delivering a creative product. If I only did what I wanted, I wouldn’t have clients.
  • I do control whether I work with a particular client.
  • I do control my project delivery process and my turnaround time.

In the end, if my clients are happy with what I deliver then I’m happy. Nothing would make me feel worse than if I got paid for a project that my client didn’t like, whether it was my fault or not.

To all the creative-service business owners out there, how do you “control” your clients?

Bridget Ingebrigtsen

Bridget Ingebrigtsen owns Write On Command, a company that provides writing and editing services to businesses and not-for-profits. Bridget describes her six-year stint as Anchor Advisors' writer/editor as being "mutually beneficial" -- she helps Anchor Advisors keep their written projects on track and Anchor Advisors helps her keep her business on track. When she's not running her business, Bridget is running after her four children, two dogs and the latest in entertainment news. Connect with Bridget on Google+, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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