As editors we understand the necessity of ensuring our edits both communicate and reinforce the message our producers want in a finished video. We are experts at manipulating the frame and giving it context through surrounding cuts, music and effects.
And yet our post communication process can be fraught with all sorts issues: missed deadlines, unmet expectations, rework and re-edits, and unresolved tensions. Us, the masters of communicating a thought to an audience have so many problems communicating with our client.
Does this strike you as an oxymoron or is it just me?
For the freelance editor or the small independent production team, bad client relationships can cripple you into closing shop. We can’t afford unhappy clients. But just like dating relationships, our client relationships thrive on good communication. Avoid the breakups and the heartaches with these seven steps to an enjoyable and successful client relationships!
1). Take time to “date” a client before you work together
It’s a shame there isn’t a Tinder for clients yet. Just as every person out there isn’t right for you romantically, not every potential client is right for you and your services. Many freelance and independent producers and editors jump into projects because the money looks good but don’t take the time to make sure that they like or even get along with the person calling the shots.
Post-production is a two-way street and is collaborative, yes, but it’s not an egalitarian relationship. The one paying for your services is the final decision maker. Make sure every client is one you get along with, respect, and can empathize with. Without this, you risk working with someone who you’ll constantly butt heads with and is a constant source of unnecessary stress.
2). Understand what your client wants--and get it in writing
I’ve written about this before in my other posts on this site, but it bears repeating: do whatever it takes to figure out what your client wants before working on their project. And get it in writing in your contract. Certainly, projects and their creative direction can change. But there’s nothing worse than having a conversation and one--or both--of you forgetting what was asked for. Avoid the “I said, you said,” arguments and get that project brief clarified!
3). Establish communication boundaries
Nobody likes being woken up at 3am for an “emergency” phone call to “solve a problem” on their project. And not every person communicates best through text messages. If you have a communication preference, or specific times you’re available to talk, tell your client before you sign that contract!
I know of one producer who will only communicate about project revisions through email. If you call him to talk, he’ll tell you to email and then hang up. I prefer emails or actual phone calls--no voicemails or audio messages please.
I also don’t answer my email at all hours of the day. My “away” message is actually an autoresponder that reminds my clients I’ll respond to their emails only at 11am and 3pm on a given day. Otherwise, I’m not available because I’m working on their project.
4). Use full sentences and good grammar
“Wat U think of UR vid?” is not an appropriate way to text or talk with your client. First off, it’s unprofessional. Second, if you can’t use good grammar and proper spelling, what makes your client think you understand the grammar and punctuation of video editing?
You don’t have to write a tome of an email or text, but grammar and spelling exist for a reason. They help us communicate ideas and thoughts from one mind to another without confusion. With online tools like Grammarly and the old standbys of dictionaries and grammar books, there’s no excuse for unprofessional and unclear communication.
5). Ask for what you want
In every relationship, both parties have needs. Neither person is a mind-reader. This is the same in romantic relationships as well as client relationships. If you need or want something from your client, ask!
If you want them to review a specific piece of music, ask. If you want their feedback on your font choice, ask. If you need them to review a video earlier than agreed because you have an emergency out of town, ask! Don’t expect your client to know what kind of feedback you’re looking for. Use that good grammar and those full sentences. Explain why it matters. And simply ask.
6). Track your conversations and take notes
Admittedly, making notes every time you talk with your significant other is borderline creepy and subconsciously communicates that you don’t trust the other person. However, when it comes to satisfying what your client wants for their video, notes are your lifesaver.
Whether you receive your notes through an email, a phone call, a text message, or carrier pigeon, keep them organized and written down. This helps you create your to-do lists for completing the project, helps you track project request changes, and keeps you focused on keeping your client satisfied.
7). Use online revision software for reviewing projects
Are you still sending your clients their videos to review using a password-protect link and asking for feedback through email? Stop. It’s not necessary. It’s an outdated method of client communication. We don’t use telegrams any more for a reason. Instead, I recommend you use online revision software for reviewing your projects with your clients.
Online revision software, such as Screenlight, allows you easily manage how your clients see your work, as well as guide them through the review process. No longer do they have to send an email back to you and track pesky timecode notes. Your clients can comment directly on the video exactly where their thoughts and suggestions are needed. And you can comment on the video too, showing them the exact places you need their input. It’s easy, mobile-friendly, and facilitates better communication.
Conclusion: Managing client relationships is all about communication.
As a partner in this relationship, it’s your responsibility to do everything you can to communicate clearly and effectively. Use these seven steps to build great and enjoyable client relationships.