The Golden Rule for Creatives

Here is a familiar scenario: A client reaches out to you for your creative services to work on a video project. After a few conversations and emails, they offer you the engagement. Two days on the project and they tell you they want to wear purple suspenders in the video. You not only despise purple suspenders, but you know that purple suspenders are all wrong for the look your new client should be going for. The client is adamant and so are you. What do you do? It’s a classic stalemate between what the client wants and what your creative self knows is best.

For some of us, this kind of situation is why we work a client only once and vow never again. And while you may feel justified in your opinion – you are a creative genius after all – here is some sage advice and wisdom from one creative to another: let it go and put the purple suspenders in the shot. Not because you’ve given in or given up. You do it because in serving them, you are called to honor their vision, creative tastes, and decisions, not yours.

Unless you’ve been asked to do something illegal, immoral, or unethical, the old saying, “the customer is always right” goes a long way in reminding us of the transactional nature creatives engage in when they take on a project in the first place. You agree to use your creativity to help the vision of others come to fruition. It is that creativity and your ability to put it to use for the benefit of others that your client is paying for.

If you find yourself stuck in the “whose vision is the right vision” scenario, here are two rules to have in place for yourself as you take on more clients with a variety of ideas, creative tastes, and needs.

It is their vision. If a client has given you free rein on their project the vision is yours and you can make it what you think best for your client. If, however, they come to with a vision already solidified, your role in serving them is to take your gifts and talents and use them to the best of your ability to make their vision a reality. Purple suspenders aside, most clients will have valid reasons for why they want they want. You might share your own thoughts and experience about why that might not be the best thing for their project; however, remember that serving others requires a level of mutual respect and a deep trust of the process. In this case you must let go of your own agenda and trust that their vision is valid.

You provide a service. Many creatives are hired by clients to do what they cannot do themselves: write, film, paint, create content, etc. In this way, creatives are seen as providing a service to a client – it is transactional in nature, not reciprocal. They hire you. You create what they need. The work becomes their property. Can you offer your expertise and advice while providing this service? Of course. That is part of being a professional; however, ultimately, you are being paid to create what they’ve asked you to create. When someone has paid you for your creative services, the product of that service is theirs; it was never yours to keep.

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