For filmmakers who produce corporate and freelance content, there are two traits important to success: creativity and your relationship with the client. Oftentimes the second can get overlooked in pursuit of the first, but the two traits are equally important. In this post, I'll give you some tips on how to craft great working relationships with your clients that'll ensure they become repeat customers.
#1: Give Honest Feedback
Clients always crave honesty, but oftentimes it is easy to find yourself sugarcoating advice - particularly when clients are also serving as the talent. In these situations, it is important to be honest and forthright with the client, because this type of communication will lead to a better overall product. Now, this doesn't mean that you should be unnecessarily brash - even CEOs have feelings! Make sure to address any issues in a friendly and professional manner. Honest and respectful criticism helps the overall product and helps to build the trust required to weigh in on major production and business decisions.
#2: Make an Effort to Understand Their Industry
"A little effort can go a long way!" as the saying goes, and this can be very true when building client relationships. As filmmakers, we have the distinct opportunity to work with individuals representing all sorts of different industries: small to large businesses, law firms, technology startups, musicians and countless other industries require our services. It pays to learn a little bit about the industry or business you are serving, as it will help you build rapport with the client and allows you to make informed decisions about the video from a business perspective. Having a marriage of business and film information will lead you to be a better filmmaker and an essential part of any client's team.
#3: Remain Open to Their Ideas
Nobody likes being told "No" and immediately shooting down a client's ideas can be one of the quickest ways to tarnish a client relationship. Being unable to adapt or compromise leaves your clients with a negative view of your working relationship. Oftentimes, it's worth listening and considering their ideas. They may approach problems from a different perspective or their experience in their industry might be an essential factor in a decision-making process. As filmmakers, we often crave control of the creative process but letting clients become a part of that process will lead to better working relationships and more effective final products. Now, this advice doesn't mean you should say yes to every idea! You are the production/marketing expert, and your own opinion should be important - especially when you know that money and time are on the line for your client. By making an effort to listen to, incorporate or try their ideas, you give credence to your own decision-making and you give your affirmations or rejections more authority.
#4: Maintain Communication
Being left in the dark isn't a great feeling, and for this reason, maintaining open and honest communication with clients is essential to the success of your film career. Running late on a deadline? Production over-budget? Scheduling issues? Address these problems quickly and honestly with your clients and they will thank you for it. It is better to tackle issues head on than to mislead a client and deal with the consequences. Make sure to actively work towards finding solutions to any problems, and make it clear to the client that it is your top priority to rectify the situation. A good 50% of one's job in the film industry is creative problem solving; make sure you aren't putting those skills to waste!
#5: Take the Time to Get to Know Them
Any good business relationship shouldn't be focused purely on business, you should take the time to get to know your client as a person. Pay attention to what they talk about, what they like/dislike and what is happening in their life. Being able to converse about more than just business or film with your client will lead to a better relationship and a more enjoyable working experience. Particularly when dealing with clients who may be new to appearing on camera, this degree of familiarity can be a big help when trying to establish trust and allow someone to feel comfortable and confident on camera. In addition, this information may end up being invaluable to the work at hand. I always like to ask clients what some of their favorite movies and TV shows are, because not only do I learn something about them but I can also discern their visual style from the content they enjoy. This helps me craft a production that is already in-line with their - conscious or not - preferences in the arena of film.
Using these few simple tips, you can stand out from the crowd and build an effective professional rapport with your clients!
For more great film information, check out my blog series on micro-budget filmmaking.