Dealing with client feedback

Jun 13, 2014

There’s no two ways about it: negative client feedback is the WORST.

Many of us pour a little bit of our heart and soul into projects with the hopes that in the end it will result in money. In between the soul pouring and the money though, is the period of critique and revision. That often awful, terrible, never-fun-in-any-way period.

The sweet spot lies in being able to care enough about a project to give it your all while still having an air of detachment about you. See the cucumber, be the cucumber.

Over time the callouses form, and we can find ourselves feeling less feels over having a less than satisfied client. However, until then, here are some steps you can take to protect your ego a bit, and come out a stronger person on the other side.

Be thoughtful in responding to feedback

In the end it’s important to realize that everyone is after the same thing: a good final product. Just because you and your client may have different opinions about what that final product looks like doesn’t mean that either of you should lose sight of the goal.

It is easy to become defensive and frustrated in the face of negative or vague feedback. Removing yourself from the actual thing that you have made and focusing on the feedback will make it easier to be level-headed. Take the time to process what the client is saying and respond thoughtfully and graciously. Use this as an opportunity to get more insight into their preferences and vision. Ask specific leading questions to get them to articulate exactly what they want, thank them for their feedback, and get back to it.

Keep your head down, and your chin up (metaphorically of course, because actually doing so is physically impossible)

In dealing with constructive criticism you might find yourself less excited about the project as a whole. Sometimes the feedback will put you right back at square one, which is a frustrating albeit real thing that happens all the time.

Keeping your eye on the prize while maintaining a positive take-whatever-comes attitude throughout the project will allow you to better focus your attention on what matters. In the end you want your client to be happy, so they give you money, thus making you happy (I majored in Obviousness, with a minor in Parentheticals).

Being SUPER organized from the start will allow you to potentially sidestep criticism. So consider taking these steps from the get go:

  • Try to hammer out your client’s vision from the beginning

Communication is key here. The more you and your client plan out what they are looking for, the better it will be. It may seem like having a client that is not as particular about what they want is better, however, sometimes it can lead to unrealistic expectations and ultimately disappointment (for both parties).

  • Give your client choices

Sometimes clients just like to feel like they are in control. Make a few different versions up front so that the client feels ownership over making the final choice. It will make them feel empowered over the situation and perhaps less likely to be nit picky.

  • Make sure you have a revision provision

With great empowerment, comes great frustration. Write in the proper contract provisions so that your client doesn’t get too carried away with revisions.

Freelancers, what are your tips for being the cucumber when dealing with client feedback?