When you are earning a living from your skills in a competitive industry, such as ours, it can be all too easy to accept EVERY job that comes your way… especially if you are just starting out. Accepting every project is not an honest means of earning a living. It increases the chance of you making mistakes, letting clients down and providing below average services… which altogether can potentially damage your reputation.
It takes time to develop the disciplines, mindsets and confidence to not accept work that may not be right for you or the client. I want to share with you some guidelines I use when making such decisions to turn work away.
1. Potential client with a bad attitude
When meeting a potential client for the first time you need to be able to work out if you can work with them in a creative capacity and on a professional level. Some clients can be very difficult to work with. I have found that it is best not to start a business relationship with someone that shows signs early on of difficulties to collaborate with others. If I feel a potential client will bring me more grief than good then I don’t bother taking on their future projects. Check out - ‘Bad Clients – Bad For Business’ for a more in depth article about dealing with bad clients.
2. Project brief is non existent or unclear
I like to have a brief for every project. This gives me a chance to quote the project correctly, structure targets with time frames and most importantly aim towards a solid outcome that both the client and myself agree on. If a brief is non-existent, unclear or changes every time the wind blows I walk away. From my experience I generally find whatever I do in the course of these types of working relationships will be wrong. I’ll be to blame for things “that are wrong” as the client never knew or formally agreed with me, in the form of a brief, what they wanted in the first place.
3. You know your skills and services cannot offer value
If a client requires skills you do not have then you need to ask yourself “Can I add value to their project?” Put simply… adding value means will the client get the best from your services they are investing in and will you get value out of it as a professional by not wasting time fixing problems you could have avoided. I like to under promise and over deliver.
4. You are busy and cannot complete projects within deadlines
You must prioritise what work you already have. If you already have a lot of deadlines in your calendar they need to be considered before you take on any more projects that need your attention around the same time as the others. I never overload my deadlines list for fears I will let someone down or provide a project that I believe is below my best. If clients cannot amend their deadlines I recommend they get their requirements met at another studio.
5. You have set time aside for personal down time or holiday
Try not to be tempted to take last minute projects if you have already arranged time off work to spend with your family or friends. In my first year of business I constantly let people in my personal life down by rescheduling plans and taking a ‘quick hour session here’ and a ‘half-day there’. In the beginning of my business I was afraid that I needed to take every project and booking in order to survive. This belief became the norm for me and sadly I lost a few friendships along the way.
You have to work hard in life… you also have to play hard… or what’s the point.
Turning work away is a good thing; it should be embraced as a sign of your success and proof of your abilities. We all wear lots of hats these days in the sound production industry. From time to time we all need to remember that we cannot wear every single hat at once and expect success.