Firing anyone isn’t fun, at least it isn’t for me. Yes, I do work for myself and no, I don’t have any employees other than me. This isn’t the start of a bad Abbott and Costello routine. I’m talking about firing clients.
Like most freelancers, I am very grateful for the clients who have been a part of my illustration business, both the current and the past ones. I work really hard at my craft. I’m always trying to improve both the quality of my illustration and my interaction skills with clients.
Sometimes it simply doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s a budget cut by a client who expects me to take less pay now for the same amount of work I did last year. More frequently it’s a communication issue.
After over 30 years of working as a freelance illustrator, I have a definite way of working that is streamlined and sequential. I get as much upfront input as I can from the art director, author, or publisher. I then produce pencil sketches. I expect any major changes to be made at this stage, the pencil stage. Changes beyond this stage tell me that the client isn’t really paying attention during the pencils stage.
Too many “cooks in the kitchen” is a real problem for us freelancers also. Art and illustration, by its very nature, is already quite subjective. Pleasing just a singular client is a challenge. When you have multiple people making decisions by committee, the odds of having a happy and productive working experience really diminish. I have been in the middle of a project when the number of people who needed to make decisions about the direction of my work went from 1 to 2 to 5 to 10. That's very difficult environment for anyone to work in.
I really loathe having to walk away from a client. It's an action of last resort for me. There are always things I need to learn and improve upon in these various client situations too. I play a part in some of the dysfunction and miscommunication. If I leave any of these situations without having learned anything then I’m not paying attention either.