By Alan Graner
You’re an art director and a client asks create an ad. Or you’re an architect given an assignment. Or an interior designer who’s just landed a new project.
So you sit down to gather the particulars to begin the work.
But instead of a definitive statement of work, you’re given a vague generality. Something like: “I want something that says I’m a success. Something masculine, with lots of wood and chrome.”
Or, “I want something frilly but not too frilly, contemporary but not too contemporary, with bright colors…but not too bright.”
Immediately the little bell in your head is going clang clang clang, and you smell disaster looming.
You tell the client that mindreading is not on your resume, that you need something more concrete.
They dismiss your concerns with a flutter and assure you they have every confidence you will come through for them.
You make a series of sketches. They’re not pleased.
You make more sketches. They’re not what they had in mind.
In exasperation you blurt out, “What DO you want?”
And then you hear those seven words: “I’ll know it when I see it.”
I will tell you right now you will never please these people for the simple reason that what they want doesn’t exist and will never exist…except in their imagination.
And if, by the grace of God, you should happen to meet their expectations, they’ll dismiss it as too expensive.
How do you handle such people?
I offer two suggestions, both based on the premise you understand the utter hell you’re about to get yourself into.
Accept there will be LOTS of sketches and revisions and do-overs and starting from scratch. You can approach this two ways:
- Charge them an enormous fee upfront (call it an annoyance fee)—one so large that you will happily make revisions forever. Or,
- After a reasonable number of revisions announce you’re starting over…and that includes a new fee for your work.
Either one of these stratagems will either make them go elsewhere or will make you slightly wealthy.
- Leave. Don’t look back. Don’t answer their phone calls, emails, voice mail or faxes.
You will thank me for this.
How do you deal with indecisive clients?
Image: Kelly Cookson via Flickr®
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. For a powerful PR campaign that makes you stand out from the crowd, email Jeffrey Swartz at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.dsprel.com.