Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Your First Client Project - 8 Rules to Ensure Success


OK, so you have got your first freelance job. You've pitched the idea, you've agreed a price for the job, the client is shiny-eyed with excitement about the amazing work you're going to do for them. Now all you have to do is deliver what you promised. What can possibly go wrong?  Plenty!

Below is our simple guide to getting it right and making sure that your first client is not only so happy that he or she comes back for more, but also tells everyone they know what a great job you did. Over the course of your media career, almost every job you get will come to you on the strength of a recommendation - it's how the business works.

Rule 1 - Agree a schedule, and stick to it.
Clients want to know what is going to happen, and when. Set out the main milestones in advance, such as Script, Storyboard & Design, Animatic, Animation and Final render. Explain to the client that meeting deadlines will depend on getting their timely approval at every stage, but that whatever happens you will do your level best to deliver on time.

Rule 2 - Get the script approved as early as possible. 
Your client may have a script already, or they may want you to write one. Often they will never have done this before and will need a lot of help to get the story right. What is the story they want to tell? Who is it for? Part of your job is to help guide them through this maze early, so you can get to work.

Rule 3 - Keep the client informed regularly about your progress.
Clients don't like to be kept in the dark. Don't make them chase you. Keep them informed, especially if there are delays. No-one likes nasty surprises.

Rule 4 - Don't make excuses for not delivering on time.
Clients don't care how busy you are with other things - they just want the work done on time, when you promised it. They don't care if other clients are keeping you busy, or your dog is ill, or your broadband went down, or your hard drive died. Make sure you back up your work, and if you run out of time, work through the night to get it done. Do what it takes to deliver on time and be reliable.

Rule 5 - Take client notes with good grace
On every job, clients will give you notes which you do not agree with. Try not to disagree openly with the client. The best response to a dumb idea is to say "that's a great idea, why don't we try this..." and try to steer them in a less silly direction. Sometimes though you just have to do what you are told and make the best of it. Make it look as good as you can. Contrary to popular belief, you can polish a turd.

Rule 6 - Be positive
Clients want to feel that you are as excited about the project as they are. Even if you've just done an all-nighter and you feel like screaming, be upbeat and optimistic. Make them feel good about working with you - remember that they are taking a risk using your services for the first time.


Rule 7 -  Ask not what your client can do for you, ask what you can do for your client.

Clients like problem-solvers. Be the person who says "yes, I can do that". If you don't know the answer to something, say "I'll get back to you on that". Try not to say "no", or "I don't know".

Rule 8 - Double check your invoices.
No-one likes being invoiced incorrectly, or for the wrong amount. Always double-check every invoice you send out. And don't chase up your invoices too early. Try not to chase up payment less than one month after you have issued an invoice, no matter what the payment terms are. Remember that your financial problems are not your client's concern.

(Editor's note: For more information on working as a freelancer, read out our post on Portfolio Careers.  Also, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business. Learn nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients.)

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