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  • Tyler Sirman

Listening to Your Photo/Video Clients & Accepting Praise

I am writing this to benefit myself. Too often I criticize how a shoot could’ve gone, or how I could approach something differently in retrospect. What I minimize is that I delivered what the client asked, and I did it the way they asked. And they liked it. And it was a successful project.

I wanted to share with you the importance of listening to your client from the beginning of your interaction, right through till after it’s delivered. I also wanted to share my experience with just saying ‘thank you’ and shutting my giant yap.

I think most of us can agree there’s been a project, a piece of work, an assignment, or thing that we felt like we could’ve improved on by changing something. It’s not about being a perfectionist either, it’s about being human. We want to feel proud and we want others to be proud of us. It’s so deeply wired into us that the best work...the best effort is rewarded – even at a young age. You’ve been programmed that winning the soccer game gets orange slices and a shiny medal (or at least I was). And so when I think about how that affects my day-to-day work, I have to remember a couple of things: I work in a service industry (in a sense), and I work with other humans (and I’ll get to this point in a bit).

Listening and Adjusting

In an industry where it’s obvious if I did a bad job, there’s also a way to tell if I did an okay job vs an amazing one. It’s called my judgment. And it’s not always right. So when I say I work in a service industry – I mean it is my job to (ultimately) please my customer. And that means I need to listen to what they want. And that can create its own set of problems and challenges – but the customer is always right. The importance of listening to your customers in the photo and video industry is key. It will dictate your success, both on a small and large scale. Most of the time, my clients have a vision of what the end product looks like. If I miss that mark, I’ll hear about it. If I nail it, I hear about it. But because I listen…actually listen…I can place their satisfaction, and ultimately my satisfaction on a scale that tells me if I need to iron out some wrinkles or not.

But it is hard to listen when your client doesn’t say much. It’s hard to navigate feedback sometimes. In our age, lots of feedback comes digitally – which my mom has reassured me many times is the worst way to communicate. But it is realistic. All this means nothing if you aren’t listening, or if you aren’t asking the right questions, or guiding your client down the right path. Remember, they don’t know the trick to move that timeline clip or nested sequence to that spot, or that you need to key that thing frame by frame. It’s not until you explain kind of how it’s done that you can start to iron out their wrinkle – and that’s what I mean by ironing wrinkles out. I listen, shape, explain, question, explain, integrate, and send for feedback. So it’s no just listening…it’s actually listening….being engaged in the feedback process, and placing their satisfaction on a different spot on my scale.

Get The Orange Slices

Customers are humans too. They have their vision, and you have your skillset. Need meets talent. They are often not exactly the same, but the hope is you get close to bringing their ideas to reality. And that’s where the orange slices are. At the end of the soccer game, whether you won or lost, you get the orange slice….the good feeling, the success that comes with delivering a final file. So if you’ve been following what I’ve been laying down so far, it’ll be critical that you got the orange slice after a win – after actually listening, engaging, and caring about your customer.

Humans are not perfect. Nobody is perfect. Your project will never be perfect. Especially if you’re like me – you’ll always find a way to pick apart each shot or worse, every frame. What I hope I can take away from my own words (and you can take too), is that I listened to my customer…I did my due diligence, and not only will I get the orange slices…but I’ll have earned them. And the shiny medal may come when it gets a bunch of views or likes or shares or whatever. That’s secondary. What I think we’ve gotta start living for as creatives are the successful deliveries, the successful edits, the dirt on your sock from saving the ball going in your net. (I promise I’ll stop with the soccer game analogy soon).

This mindset doesn’t end with just feeling good. It will actually rub off on your client the next time you talk. It will rub off on the people you talk to about the previous project you worked on. If you can own that feeling, if you can harness it – it will start to drive your conversation and in how you talk about your business. Your language will change. You will go from “Yeah it was fun to work on” to “I was able to work closely with the client to achieve their vision, and meet the criteria they had set out from the beginning”. Your passion for projects may change (should change).

And Shut Your Mouth.

I still have this issue. And every opportunity I have a chance to work on it, I do. And it feels soooo good.

When a client is in love with their final project, or they shower you in praise – don’t try to explain your creative take on it, or how you loved working on it, or how great blah blah blah. Just say thank you. You’ll be surprised how pro it feels, how right it feels. Just say two words and shut your yap. Try it. Seriously. Your job is not to minimize their praise – it’s actually just to wear the medal.

Not only has this tiny little trick actually improved how I talk with clients, but it’s also actually deflated my ego when I need it most. And that’s where this trick shines. You don’t need to puff your chest with how tough that one shot was, or how you pulled off that transition, it is actually just you doing the job you were hired to do. It is fun to talk about how you did stuff technically sometimes, but that’s for industry people to hear OR your next client. And when your next client asks you about that effect or that type of shot, you can bust out that medal you earned.

Shutting your yap and just saying ‘thank you’ when receiving praise has to be the niftiest little hack I’ve discovered. Give it a go. You might just get a sense of what it’s like to have your orange slices and wear the medal when you need to. It may just make your next gig feel more successful, but for me, it all starts when I look Through My Lens.

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