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How to Be Your Own Client (and Survive)

by Shane Mehling
art & design, featured

There are some truly nightmare clients. Some have no idea what they want, while others know exactly what they want and refuse to change their mind no matter what. It may be someone with unrealistic expectations or someone you can never pin down when you need crucial info.

But rarely do we get the client who is all of these, unless the client is ourselves. (And if you are about to be your very first client, you may want to brush up on some graphic design basics.)

Yes, all your foibles and idiosyncrasies can be in full bloom when you’re trying to work on a design project that you and you alone care about being finished. But you can’t just let off steam by badmouthing yourself, can you? So whether it’s redesigning your site, polishing up your portfolio or working on any other self-branding, how do you keep the nightmare client in the mirror from ruining your life? Keep telling them/yourself these things:

Not Everything is Possible

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A client’s dreams are often not completely rooted in reality. They may want things that aren’t possible due to time/budget/practicality. And delivering these sometimes uncomfortable truths can be uncomfortable, but they’re even worse when you have to convince yourself that sometimes the perfect could only happen in a perfect. You need to set reasonable expectations right away or else you’ll be working on pipe dreams until those pipes begin to rust. Write down what you want to accomplish and make sure you can explain to yourself how they can actually be done.

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This is For Other People

Clients sometimes need to be told that their brand is not going to exist in a bubble where only their family and friends are going to be looking at it. This is why it helps to have someone like you to bounce ideas off of. But if you are bouncing ideas off yourself it can’t hurt to get another voice in their to offer their opinion. It isn’t always easy to find an objective eye or two who can steer you in a better direction, but putting some effort into your search can reap huge rewards.

Not Everyone Will Like It

On the flipside, your work can’t be everything to everyone. If you’ve had clients with multiple voices chiming in on what works and what doesn’t, then you know what a dead-end that can lead to. Your own project can be the same, where even the slightest negative feedback can send you into a spiral of wondering if you should just start over. This is why so much creative work should be kept away from people until much of it is done. But at some point, just like how you need to weed out the good and bad with a client, this same threshold is required for the feedback on your own work.

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It Has to Get Done

The tweaking can go on forever if you let it. When there is someone on the other end who is unhappy, sooner or later you start to fight back. You start thinking about all the other projects you could be doing that would actually be making you money. And this is the same thing. Sure, you can maybe justify it by thinking that if it’s not perfect you won’t get all of those new clients or that job you so desperately want; but if you don’t actually finish then no one will see it. It’s possible you’ve had a discussion with clients before that hinges on the idea that the perfect is enemy of the good. Maybe it’s time to have that conversation with yourself.

 

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Shane Mehling

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.