How to manage your client's expectations

Happy clients from video brief to final delivery

Being a successful video producer doesn’t just mean having the creative and technical skills to execute your projects.There are a raft of other things you need to manage – from ensuring you understand your client and their company objectives, to agreeing on practical details and putting a timeline in place. These tips will help you execute a video that meets both your and your client’s expectations.

Discovery

To create a video that fits the brief and delivers results, it is critical to truly understand your client’s company, their mission, and their target market.

Joey Dello Russo, video producer at Asana, says you need start by “trying to understand the root” of whatever problem your client is aiming to solve with the video, “before just reacting and doing what you’re asked.”

Do some research beforehand and ask your client questions such as:

  • What are your business goals?
  • What are your marketing objectives for the video?
  • What specifically do you want to accomplish with the video? With this question in particular, the more details they can provide, the better.

Invest some time upfront in setting a clear vision together and figuring out what success means to you as a video producer and to them as a client. And make sure the discovery process goes both ways: tell them what is important to you when making a video, and share your knowledge about what makes a successful video. Listen to their ideas about what they want, and ensure all stakeholders have a singular vision for the video.

Joey says for a video to be successful, it is also crucial that your client gives you some freedom to be creative.

“There’s a reason that you’re the one holding the camera. So I think it’s critical to stand by whatever you think is right as far as a creative decision goes in the video process – but I think it always needs to be justified.”

And while it’s important that you bring your creativity and expertise to a project, remember that they’re the one footing the bill, and you still need to stick to the brief.

Managing the project

As soon as the project begins, you need to establish some guidelines and expectations to ensure things stay on track. Without these, you’ll be surprised at how quickly things can unravel.

  • Develop timelines and schedules, and decide when and how you will communicate about the project. Then, crucially, ensure all relevant parties have signed-off on them.
  • Agree on milestone reviews and deliverables so that the client can leave you to create, knowing they will be brought in at critical junctures.
  • Educate the client on specifics of your preferred revision and approval process. If you are using a specific platform, such as Wipster, show the client how it works.
  • Make sure the client knows how many script revisions and edit reviews to expect at each stage.
  • And know which people in the company have the authority to approve the final video (and have them standing by on deadline day to ensure a speedy sign-off).

Wipster CEO Rollo Wenlock says setting realistic goals will reduce the chances of a client changing direction, or complete project failure.

“Nine times out of ten, when a producer–client relationship is souring, it’s because they failed to set reasonable and realistic expectations, whether about the timeline, the budget, or the nature and schedule for the iterative process,” Rollo told PVC.

Rollo says if the client is expecting an almost-finished product and they get a rough cut, things could get awkward.

“The result? A freaked-out client whose feedback focuses on all the wrong things, and who has essentially lost confidence in their producer.”

Dave Collins of ANGRYchair says being open and transparent with your clients is the key to good relationships and outcomes.

“The more transparent you are, the happier your clients will be. We try to explain as many facets of the whole process to our clients as early as possible – things like timelines and rounds of changes, but then also things like what to expect on a shoot day and how the end product is delivered.”

Dave says if clients seem to have unreasonable expectations he will actually show them what the work involves.

“I will invite them to sit in on an edit or round of changes. That usually helps them see that you can't rotate the angle of a shot slightly, and shows the amount of work that goes into manually removing a skin blemish in post.”

Communicate well and often, and your project is sure to be a hit.

It’s all about delivery

Once you’ve set attainable deadlines, stick to them.

“Above all else, your client cares that the project is completed by their deadline, so don’t take your eyes off of it, and don’t presume that the client will manage the project’s timeline by way of chasing you,” freelance video editor Siân Fever says. “It’s quite the opposite in fact – expect to chase them.”

If you do get behind on your timeline, keep the client informed as early as possible, rather than just not delivering. If there are any unexpected costs, it’s always best to be upfront about it before the final bill gets submitted.

Depending on the complexity and size of your team or the project, consider utilizing tools to help you stay on track and meet milestones.

Google Drive – invaluable for team members and clients collaborating across a number of documents (presentations, spreadsheets, text documents). You can dictate if a file is private (only you see it), visible to a select group of team members, or made public for the world to see (everyone on the web, or only those with a link to the document).

Slack – a fantastic collaboration tool for the creative industry. Team members can chat privately or in topic-assigned chat rooms. You can easily share messages, files, comments, inline images, video, and rich link summaries.

Basecamp and Asana – two project management tools that make it easy for team members to communicate and work together. You can share files, have discussions, collaborate on documents, assign tasks, and check due dates, without using email.

Wipster – of course, we feel this is your best bet for managing the client review and approval process. Share iterations of a video from your first animatic or edit, all the way through to final files and get comments directly on the video. Siân Fever says using Wipster revolutionized how she communicates with clients: “It was like a breath of fresh air. It was like ‘finally this is wonderful’. Being able to narrow down within the frame what someone is talking about is super helpful.”

Dropbox – Likely the most popular file sharing platform, Dropbox allows you to store, sync, and share files in the cloud (including syncing files between laptops, phones, tablets and more). It has very secure encryption and privacy settings which ensures your files are only seen by people you choose. It is free to store up to 2GB of files.

Being organized and thorough will go a long way to ensuring a positive outcome for both the video project and your relationship with your client. You need to know the client’s needs and expectations, and the client needs to know how you work and your plan of execution. Use appropriate tools to help you keep on track, and communicate regularly and efficiently. Good luck!