If you’re a classical music snob, you might already know that conductors didn’t always use batons to conduct the orchestra.
In fact, they’d just kinda… wave around whatever stick-like object they could find.
And in the case of your friend and mine, Jean-Baptiste Lully, he used his very own walking cane to give direction to the orchestra.
He had his own personal style… by which I mean he would regularly slam his cane down on the ground in rage when the orchestra wasn’t playing his piece exactly right.
During a live debut of one of his pieces, he slammed his cane down in fury, but instead of landing on the stage, it slammed directly on his foot, causing an injury.
This injury was so bad that it caused him to contract gangrene and die soon after. Back then, you couldn’t simply go to your local necromancer to be revived, alas.
Ahhh what a gentler, simpler time the 1600s were.
Jean-Baptiste Lully clearly had some… issues with managing his anger. And we, as creatives, need to focus on management as well — not so much on our anger, but on ourselves as a whole to make sure we get the best clients possible.
So here’s what we’re going to chat about today:
Part 1: What is a good client?
Part 2: Managing yourself
Part 3: Why should a good client pick you
Whenever I ask freelancers
About what good clients are, they always come up with different responses. Still, there are quite a few answers that are in common for most of us:
“They pay fairly and on time”
“They treat me well”
“They don’t ask for last-second revisions”
“They give good and clear feedback”
“Won’t disappear off the face of the planet”
“Gives clear timelines”
In essence, a good client is someone who manages themselves well
They’re stable, reliable, and professional. They put the time into the work that matters, have the ability to focus on the task at hand, and don’t get too sideswiped by the ups and downs of making a game.
They’re also able to communicate clearly to their team, understand each team member’s value, and keep everyone on track.
That’s a huge list of skills right there, and almost none of them come naturally the most people. It takes an insane amount of work to develop these abilities, especially considering most are developed separately from their main craft of making games.
When I hear people complaining about having bad clients for years and years
I get very intrigued and lean in with my hands steepled, much like one Sherlock Holmes.
Actually, maybe more like a Moriarty.
Often, when I do a small bit of digging into how people carry themselves I learn that many freelancers:
Don’t put in extra time into their craft
Never learned to communicate better
Have spent no time upping their business skills
Have read maybe 0.5 books on relevant skills in the past 3 years
Don’t know how to give clear feedback
Can’t give clear timelines for their own work
Don’t know how to treat the client well
Do you see something odd here? We want clients who have all of these skills above but do little to learn them ourselves.
Why should a good client choose someone that can’t manage themselves?
Good clients will choose people who have their stuff together. The thing that will often make them more attractive is how well they manage themselves in their day to day lives.
If we just sit around watching Netflix while complaining about our awful clients, then that shows poor self-management. No one wants to be around that.
But if the client sees someone who puts in the extra effort to learn the 10000 skills necessary to succeed in more than just audio, then that will be far more attractive to them.
Now, bad clients do just happen sometimes…
Even when you’re taking care of yourself and pushing yourself constantly, sometimes they just pop up.
They may be well-meaning, though sometimes they’ll just disappear off the face of the planet. Or maybe sometimes they’ll just be plain awful. You can’t avoid them 100% of the time — especially when you’re first starting out.
But, if we learn the communication skills that are required of us to be a high-quality hire, that will make dealing with bad clients much easier.
You may have noticed up above
That those who manage themselves well aren’t focused 100% on just their core skillset. That means if you’re a sound designer, you have to learn a LOT more than just sound design to be able to be a stellar freelancer and attract the best clients.
Yes, keep getting better at what you do, but don’t stop there. Learn about communication, networking, business, relationships, necromancy, health, and everything else you can related to your field. Be a modern-day renaissance person.
So, to summarize:
The best clients manage themselves well
They’re also looking for people to work with who manage themselves well
We have to be careful to always be learning instead of wasting our time on the typical distractions
Necromancy is today’s hottest skill and you’d do very well to learn it
Unlike our very good friend, Jean-Baptiste Lully
We have to manage ourselves so that the best people will be attracted to us. Of course, this isn’t the only thing that brings good clients in, but it certainly helps.
If you’d like to read up more on how to improve yourself so that you keep getting the best clients possible, I’d recommend the book Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker.
Or if you want a 5-minute summary of the book, watch this very good video.
Bettering yourself can be tough
Especially when doing it completely on your own. That’s why I created two free courses for you to jumpstart your career in the game industry. Inside, you’ll learn what skills are truly important to your career, how to charge for your work, how to find gigs, and what you can do to build a super strong game industry network.