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Money is a minefield

Posted by Ilise Benun on

In my latest Quick Tip, “Money is a minefield,” I talked about how many creatives don’t deal with money simply because they don’t know what to say.

We used scope creep as the perfect example. In a situation where the scope of the project is creeping outside of the budget you agreed on with your client, you may not be sure what to say, so you might not say anything at all. I asked what readers thought about speaking up, here are some of their responses:

Paul Chato of said:

NEVER tell the client that things have gone over budget or there has been scope creep as a prima facia comment. I always go into update meetings with choices. Make the client decide on the course of action that they themselves (unless it's your fault) put themselves in. I say, "Well, this is where we are. Do you want to stay within budget? Then I would suggest we do A. If you really want these things then I suggest we can do B. Alternatively, we can explore if this has changed the way you need the end product to work and we should try C. So, what do you think we should do?" This always works. It's respectful. The client likes choices and it shows you've put some effort into solving the problem.

Jamie Capozzi of Theory Associates said:

I love how Kit Hinrichs deals with scope creep in question form. It's very disarming and makes the client feel like they're more in control of their money. I will surely use that tip in the future.

Scope creep is such a major issue in the design business that I find that I have to really educate my clients through the process. I do this so they clearly understand when something they're requesting is outside of the agreed upon scope.

Before I started educating in my relationships I found that scope creep happened merely because our definitions for things were simply different. For example the term illustration can mean many different things to different people, and have many different costs depending of what's being requested. From the clients perspective something could be "no big deal" and from our stand point it's a very big deal that causes us to lose money, resent the client…, etc.

Now, I try and talk to my clients more that I did before. Face to face communication as much as possible where we have that  "how it all works" conversation. It's not that clients generally want something for nothing or look to take advantage of designers more than they just don't understand what it is we do. To a left brainer we're just making pretty pictures and getting paid way too much to do so. My goal is for them to see me as a highly effective marketer that uses design amongst many other tools to help them sell more and make more. Once I communicate that effectively money ceases to be a major issue.

And Ray told a little story about something relevant that happened just last week:

I was working on a photo set yesterday with a dog that would NOT cooperate. The producer made sure to put in a call to the booking agent during the middle of the shoot so she knew we were having problems at the time. We wound up getting a "usable" image, but it wasn't easy.

Now when we go to bill, negotiating a discount might be possible. After all, if we hadn't done our job, we wouldn't have gotten paid. But if we had not called at the time, the agent could have said, "nobody told me there was a problem.” 

Any other stories and ideas out there?

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