Trusted by No One: The Cycle of Proving Yourself

 
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What does it mean to be trusted by a client? What does it take to get a new client on board with your creative vision? If you’ve ever tried to get paid real money (not the Monopoly kind) for a creative project, you’ve come across this barrier. Gaps appear between what’s in your head, and what’s in your portfolio.

As creatives we have to grow and stretch in our art, but how do you get paid to create something new that you haven’t done yet? You have a vision in your head, and can try to communicate that to the client, but the bigger the budget the rarer it is that you’ll be given the clients full trust to pull it off.

There are definitely ways to close these gaps, ie, proposals, mood boards, shot lists, etc, but the greener you are, the less you have on your reel that looks exactly like what the client is asking for the less likely it is that you’ll book the project. In my experience, still now but especially when starting out, if I didn’t have something close to what I was pitching in my portfolio, it was a very heavy lift to convince a client to put their trust in me and my team.

 
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I say embrace the gaps. Know you won’t be trusted by your clients at first. Get good at communicating your vision with storyboards and shot lists, but also think about how you can make the thing you want to make anyway. Make stuff for free or cheap that looks as close as you can get to what you want to make for your clients. Then when you book your next project because of that work, make that project even better.

I think creative professionals can get caught up in a dream of being so sought after by clients that they will just have full creative freedom with all their projects. But aside from that goal being extremely improbable, it might actually be limiting to personal progress. If you are always growing and learning to problem solve — exploring new forms of expression — you will be pushing yourself well past your old work. Your portfolio is not the goal, it’s the lines on the door frame marking your progress. To me, being trusted by no one means pushing yourself beyond what you’ve done in the past. It means keep growing and moving forward out of your comfort zone and into the new.

Talk to me — what are your favorite techniques for selling a creative vision to a client? What tools, tricks of the trade do you use?

-Graham