How do you work with a client set on bad ideas?

Every client has their own thoughts and ideas about how a video should look. Some of their ideas can be great, but unfortunately, some ideas can be the opposite. In fact, some ideas could be horrible with a chance to ruin the entire project. What do you do in this situation? It’s a dilemma all professional videographers have to face.

While your client might be the one paying for the project, they’re also paying for your expertise. You’re the expert on the project, and you owe it to the client to voice your opinion. Sometimes the client will listen to your recommendations and change their minds. However, there are clients that will stand by their vision. This can be a tough situation to be in as a professional, but there are ways you can convince clients to change their minds.

Build trust with the client

Oftentimes, you will work with returning clients that already know what you have to offer them. They’ve seen what you can do and trust you to make the best decisions for the project in question. However, trust can be difficult to establish with a new client. It’s important to start building your client’s trust in you the moment you’re in contact with them. Clients will more likely listen to your recommendations if they trust you. If you tell them one of their ideas isn’t going to work, the client needs to believe in what you’re saying.

To start building trust, use the initial communications with the client to demonstrate your ability and to build trust with them. You establish trust by showing confidence, professionalism, dedication and honesty. Listen to what they have to say and understand where they’re coming from. When your client feels like they’re ideas are understood, but you have a better way to approach it, they’re more likely to agree with you.

Voice your concerns early on

Laying out your concerns over bad ideas early on in the process will save everyone time and money. Nothing will set back a project more than a change of plans right in the middle of the production. Most bad ideas can be solved during the creative briefs you have with your client. These briefs are set up so both parties can decide on the details of a project and get on the same page.

Lay out your concerns at project briefs
Lay out your concerns at project briefs

Detail what you have in mind for the project so the client knows what they’re paying for and to see if they agree with your decisions. If the client does disagree and suggests something you believe won’t work, don’t argue with them. Confidently explain your ideas and really sell why they’re the best way to go. Also, it’s important to give your clients respect and humbly listen to their requests, building the trust foundation we talked about in the previous section.

Give yourself the time to craft a solid response to bad ideas

We’re all human. We can’t always think on the spot and respond effectively to every bad idea we hear. If you don’t have a good rebuttal to your client’s bad idea, defer the decision until later. Tell the client that the idea is something worth exploring, but you can’t make a decision on the idea until you have more time to see how it works with the whole project. Be open-minded and polite. Don’t shoot the idea down right away if you don’t have a solid answer as to why it won’t work.

Backup your decisions

While crafting your response to bad ideas, you have to educate your client on why your decisions will work better than theirs. Use design principles and marketing tactics to explain your position. When you lay out the facts, they’ll better understand why you are suggesting what you’re suggesting. No one likes being told their ideas won’t work, but when they can see why it won’t work rationally, they’ll more than likely come around.

Sell your ideas to clients with solid facts
Sell your ideas to clients with solid facts

If you can, you can show your client visual examples of your ideas and their ideas side by side. Then they might be able to see your concerns visually and come to a rational decision. An idea’s viability can drastically change when it’s seen visually.

Be open-minded

While you are the professional, sometimes it’s good to listen to the client and try it their way. They know their audience best, so an idea that might be horrible sounding to you might be something that the client’s audience will really respond to. Be open-minded and try to approach the project from a different angle. If you strongly believe the idea will hurt the final video, stand firmly by your choices. If you two still can’t get on the same page, it might be best to drop the client and look for a different job.

It is your job as the hired professional to do the best job possible. You can try your best to educate your client and steer them in the right direction. However, at the end of the day, they’re the ones paying and you tried your best to improve the project. Lay out your position in a professional way, speak with confidence, and give your client respect to have the best chance at changing your client’s mind.

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's Managing Editor.

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