If you’ve stumbled upon this blog, you are most likely a creative entrepreneur or small-business owner. Between us creatives we can admit that we think differently than other people. That different way of thinking plays a huge part in the greatness we bring to our clients but sometimes we need to work with clients who are conservative and traditional and even non-creative.
If you are a business owner with a creative soul, you might have tattoos, brightly coloured hair and a funky wardrobe, or less noticeably, you might just approach life and business in a different way than most people. If this is you I want to let you know: You are awesome… and you should anticipate that people might act strangely around you at first!
You’ve probably heard people say things like: “She’s an artist, and artist types are so dramatic” or he is a creative person, they are different” and chances are you’ve rolled your eyes. But don’t dismiss these comments too quickly, rather look behind them and see what people are really trying to say: “I don’t understand your creative mind and that freaks me out!”. Take it as a compliment, whether it’s meant that way or not. Hang in there… and read on for advice on dealing with the more conservative type of clientele.
Here’s what I have learned in working with conservative and non-creative clients
Firstly you need to understand and accept that people don’t always see the world like you do. Expect questions and anticipate how people will react. I’ve always been irked by people who dress/ think/ act in a way that is out of the norm and then they act like people aren’t allowed to notice. I’m not saying you should allow people to be rude or act in a derogatory way but you need to keep in mind that people are often not prepared to handle the situation when facing someone who looks/ dresses or speaks differently than they do and their coping mechanism might be to stare, or act defensively.
Remember that comment about “artists” being dramatic? Never use your creative flair to excuse unprofessional conduct. Don’t play up to the stereotype of being a creative. Show up early, come prepared and always keep your business goals in mind.
Keep it professional (dress, makeup, hair, language). As creatures who function in a society, we have this uncanny ability to read social cues (If you don’t, it’s time to get out there and experience the world). You know there is a certain standard for a professional environment so keep yourself to that standard but don’t lose your uniqueness. If you wear dark clothes or funky hair, keep your essence alive, but dress it down, polish your look and adapt to the situation. If you need pointers, go find your style on Pinterest (there IS such a thing as Corporate Goth, and it is fantastic).
Prove that you are more than your looks by bringing your creative A-game. Come prepared with ideas and suggestions that are out of the box. Your creative nature might be leading you to innovate, so if you feel it, don’t deny it! If a client wanted someone different than you, they would’ve found them.
Make your clients feel comfortable to interact with you. You will probably be working with the client regularly as you go through your project so don’t make it hard for a client to pick up the phone or send you an email. Keep your attitude (and enthusiasm) in check. I have often realised that passion can be misconstrued for something totally different! Don’t get overly animated when explaining something as this might seem very intimidating to someone who is more level-tempered. Be yourself but help your client to find common ground with you so your interaction is natural and professional.
Work your ass off. First impressions count and coming into a conservative environment as a creative might be challenging, but if you work hard, meet deadlines and provide excellent service to your clients, your reputation will precede you in future interactions.
Ok, so you’re a guru in your field, that’s cool! But don’t elevate yourself above your client because of your knowledge. Don’t use too much jargon and explain jargon in simple terms where needed (don’t assume they know or don’t know what you’re talking about- ask the client in a friendly manner how familiar they are with your field, and then explain in plain English!). I have seen amazing potential collaborations breaking down in minutes because some creative entrepreneur was acting like the client was a total moron. Nobody likes being underestimated.
Don’t be a diva. I recently went to a huge industry conference and I sat in on a session where the technology went haywire. The overhead projector was stuck, and the speaker nearly flipped a lid. There was eye rolling, and fist shaking, and silent cussing involved, over a simple technical glitch. Sure, it shouldn’t have happened, but this is life, and in life, sh*t happens. I immediately questioned this person, not because of their talents or presentation but purely because of their attitude when things when slightly off-plan. It grossed me out. Don’t gross people out- that is not the way to earn business!
Ultimately, I am not advising you to stick around when the milk turns sour. If things don’t work out- walk away. It is always important to be you, keep your authenticity and not compromise who you are. If a client cannot see past your exterior, or if they don’t realise the value of your creative quirkiness, run, don’t walk! You should never let anyone bully you, even if they have your next pay-cheque in their hands. You can always find another client, but you can never buy your uniqueness, no matter how large that cheque might be.
Have you ever been in a weird situation with clients who were non-creatives? Let me know in the comments
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