The never ending question, are clients always right? This is a really hard question to answer, but then again, at the same time it is not.
The short answer is, yes, the client is always right. But is this really the correct answer? Are our clients always right? Is everything they say and expect of you always the correct way? Do their ideas trump yours? If they don't like the end result, is it really your fault? If they expect you to redo the whole song, or photo shoot, or design, or lyrics, do you just say yes I will?
At some point in our careers and throughout our life, we have all experienced this type of situation. You get hired to record a song, or do a photo shoot, or create a flyer, and after many pre-production meetings before hand, updates during the project, and adjustments, the client gets the end product and is not happy all of a sudden. They want you to redo it, it isn't good enough. Start over again, they say, and take it in a whole new direction. Or the direction was good, but you just missed the mark somehow. The client can't really say why it isn't working, only that it needs to be redone from the start. All you can think is, gee whiz, we had so many meetings and drafts and went over everything, how do they not like the end result? They approved every step of the way and were happy with each time they got an update, why all of a sudden is it not good? What went wrong?
The client isn't happy, and because you want to save them as a client, you give in and start over, even though you know you are correct and did everything they wanted. However, this is actually not the best thing to do in some cases, to just give in. Sometimes you have to stick to your guns. Sometimes the client is not right. Sometimes you are being tested. Sometimes the client has no clue what they want so they make you the bad contractor.
How do you come out ahead of a situation like this and save the client, but not double the workload to yourself?
The first thing we can do is make sure the client is correct in their assessment of our work. For instance, was it really smart to put a guitar in the bridge of the song on a piano ballad? It is after all a piano ballad. Perhaps those photos really didn't turn out so great, and you know you can do a better job. Maybe the design on the flyer really does have to much red in it. To be honest with yourself is really key here, you can't let your ego get in the way. Sometimes you have to recognize your mistakes and own them, fix them, and do what it is going to take to get the job done properly.
Sometimes the client is really just tripping; you did everything they wanted and they are still not happy. In this case, it is wise to not blow up and flash on them, argue intensely, or say anything you will regret. This is rule number one: keep calm. It does no one any good to cause a huge scene. Plus, there is no reason to get yourself all worked up and stressed out over it. Sure, your mad, but don't let them know that.
There is times when you could of avoided the whole thing from the start. Some of us over explain things to much to our clients from day one. This is rule number two: don't over explain. We have all done this I would venture to say. You are trying to land a client so you feel that you should give them all this detail on your process and things you do and don't do. Perhaps you give them to may options hoping they will never call you out on it; I can always re-record the guitar if your not happy. We say these kinds of things because typically we think that our process is so good that the client will never say, yes let's re-record the guitar. Don't get me wrong, it is always important to let the client know your process to a small degree and to offer the possibility to change this or that. You should be flexible in your work and be willing to make corrections. However, over explaining or sharing will get you into trouble.
Take for instance this scenario. You get a client who wants to hire you to shoot some photos for them of their store display they just created and set up. It sounds like an easy gig, and they are paying, so you take it. Everything at the shoot goes great. You get plenty of photos from all different angles, different lighting techniques, and different camera settings to ensure you will get a great shot or two. After you finish the shoot, the client cuts you a check and awaits your photos after you have done some editing on them. You get home and much to your amazement, the photos look great. You do your edits, pic the best 5 photos, and send them off to the client. In your e-mail to the client you thank them for their business, let them know you got really great shots, and tell them that you can always do a re-shoot if for any reason they are not happy. Then you sit back and count your money while the e-mail is being sent. Everything went great and you are now a paid photographer.
Of course what you didn't expect is what the client said in their e-mail back to you. The client praises you for the good photos, but they are not at home, so they will need to check them on the big screen. You think to yourself, super, they like them. Much to your surprise, the next day, the client contacts you and says they look good but wants you to re-shoot it. They are a little grainy, so they want you to come back and bring more lights this time.
Are you serious, you say to yourself. You check the photos that you sent them, yup you sent the right ones. You pull them up on your computer screen and sure enough, you see nothing even remotely grainy about them at all. Now you start getting mad, what are they even talking about, they are not grainy at all. Why is this happening?
The mistake you made in this story was so easily avoidable, you will kick yourself in the rump for having done it. You told them that you would do a re-shoot if needed. This is the mistake, you gave them to much info, you over explained. Had you said nothing about being able to do a re-shoot there is almost a 100% chance they would of loved them. Instead, you gave them an option before even hearing their input on the photos, which was the wrong option.
What happened in this scenario is this: by telling them that you could do a re-shoot, in the e-mail you sent them with the photos, you made them automatically think the photos could be better. You instantly gave the impression you could have done a better job. This is why you should never over explain.
To learn form this, and situations like it, is key to your success. What you should of done in this case is not say anything about a re-shoot. Let the client ask for a re-shoot. However, you want the client to know you are willing to do a re-shoot, if that is your added value, but it is all about timing. What you should of done was tell them about re-shoot opportunities when you are initially talking with them and selling your services. In this way, you express it is as option, and never have to bring it up again. It also allows you to set the boundaries of what it will take to do a re-shoot. Is an additional fee required to do a re-shoot? In what cases can you do a re-shoot for free versus having to charge again?
These types of guidelines are so much easier to set when you are initially landing the client before the gig, project, shoot, song, etc. It puts you in control, but more importantly, maintains the quality of your work. You have done such a great job of selling yourself to the client, why change their perception of your work all of a sudden.
By keeping calm you save the relationship and show you are a professional who can handle pressure. Knowing when to share information, and how much you should share, keeps you in control. Putting your own ego aside and knowing how to view your work from their eye will give you better insight into the work that was presented; maybe you did mess up.