I recently worked with a freelancer who was putting together a video for me.
The deadline was tight, the project was important, and I was relying heavily on him getting it right the first time.
But when the first draft came back a week or so later, I was pretty disappointed.
It wasn’t at all what I was looking for.
In fact, I started to worry if we would even get the project done on time because, in my mind, we practically had to start all over.
Not only was it frustrating for me, but he was really down about all the changes I needed done.
After all, he had spent a good amount of hours creating something he thought I could benefit from.
He thought he was doing what I needed.
He thought he nailed it.
But I hated it.
What went wrong?
As we talked about what could have gone wrong (how what he delivered was nothing near what I had imagined), he started saying things like this:
“Well, you never said you wanted this or that out of this project.”
“You never told me you needed it to be this or that.”
“You didn’t ever mention that goal or this goal.”
And for a minute, I really started to blame myself (the client) for not giving him all the information he needed to get the job done right the first time. And part of it was my fault.
But then I started to think about it…
He also didn’t ask me.
Should I have been more clear in what I needed to accomplish with this project?
But, as a creative professional striving to meet my needs as a client, should he have asked more questions? Should he have made sure he understood everything I needed out of the project?
Our job as creatives
See, our job as creatives is not to just sit at a computer and make pretty gradients or rounded corners.
It’s to learn the problems of our clients, ask them all the necessary questions to understand the problem or concern, and then we deliver a product that solves those problems. (A lesson I recently learned from Jonathan Wold during our video interview. Coming to the YouTube Channel soon!)
And if we haven’t taken the time to address every concern (even the ones the client doesn’t know they have), how can we possibly expect to get it right the first time?
First, listen more. We’ve already talked about that.
But understanding your clients’ needs is about more than just being a good listener. You also have to be a good detective.
Second, you’ve got to dig deep into the needs and concerns your clients face.
And the closer you get to uncovering the true needs of your client, the better freelancer you’ll be.
Questions to ask
So what kind of questions should you be asking your client?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
“What’s the end goal of this project? Do you want more customers, need a brand upgrade, etc? When we’re finished with this project together, how will we measure if it’s a success?”
“We’ve talked about the general idea of the project. Let’s talk now about a few details. What should [fill in detail] look like?”
“Imagine if we did it something like this…is that what you’re envisioning? What have I left out? Is there anything we’ve not talked about yet?”
And I’m sure you can come up with even better questions that are tailored more specifically to your clients.
Be a detective
The real point of all of this?
Be a detective.
Don’t stop asking questions until you’re sure you can get round one right the first time.
Will there be minor changes and a few corrections here or there once you submit what you think is the perfect first draft?
But will you have to start over from scratch?
Not if you did it right. Not if you asked the right questions. Not if you were a detective.
Did I get it right? Is this the best way to get it right the first time? What else do you do in order to get the first draft right the first time? Share your thoughts with me in the comments on this post.