What is a Creative Service Professional?
Why is there a section about client relations in a course about visual media production? It is because business owners and organizations don’t always have the time or skills to produce their own visual media. So they hire a creative service professional to do it for them.
Creative service professionals can be called by a variety of titles:
- Multimedia author
- Video producer
- Graphic designer
- Production artist
- Marketing designer
- Broadcast designer
- Content developer
- Visual image developer
Your role as a creative service professional may vary according to the structure of your professional relationship with your clients, the organization that you work for, or your occupation as a freelancer. However, no matter what set of circumstances under which you are operating as a creative service professional for a client, you will always be working in a service relationship.
What is a Service Relationship?
If you are working according to an arrangement you have made with another person or organization–whether for compensation, as an intern, or as a volunteer–then you are working in service for a client. Your client has the ultimate decision-making power about what the deliverable will be and how it will be used. Your job is to fulfill their request according to clearly articulated specifications.
In contrast, if you are a business owner or department head creating content for yourself or your own business, you are your own boss. You do not report to anyone but yourself. This is not a service relationship.
If you are operating in a service position for a client, it does not mean that you are simply a servile “button pusher.” The reason why you have been hired in the first place is because you are perceived to be a communications professional in whatever manner of communication media you produce. Your responsibility as a professional is to help your client understand how communication works effectively under the conditions described in their needs and implementation plans. You are the communications expert and must provide your client with the kind of guidance and advice that serves their best interest, just like a financial advisor.
However, sometimes they will accept your guidance. Sometimes they won’t. That is the negotiative nature of a service position and you must come to accept its “bumps” as a natural part of the work.
What is a Client?
We will refer to the entity for whom you are working as the client, though there is more to the meaning of the word “client” than just the individual person with whom you communicate, day-to-day. The word “client” can also refer collectively to the person or group of people for whom you are working, and it can apply to people both within your organization or external to it. A client can be defined as any (or all) of the following (regardless of whether they are internal or external relationships):
- The one person that is your primary day-to-day contact within the organization that has hired you.
- The group of people to whom you are accountable within the organization that has hired you.
- The collective hierarchical arrangement of people at the organization that has hired you.
The third item in the list above needs further explanation. While you may be working with a primary client contact on a day-to-day basis, they may be reporting upwards to a supervisor or department group that you may never see. The interaction with your client in the creative process may reflect more than just that one person’s impressions or comments. It may reflect what your client believes will be the impressions of their supervisor or colleagues. Your understanding of this arrangement may explain why your client makes certain statements or revision requests, such as multiple versions for review presentation. That is why you should ascertain your client’s layers of accountability, if any, at the outset of the project.
Discussions About Client Relations
The study of Client Relations within a course about visual media production suggests that a successful creative service professional is measured by more than just the product of their work. It is, at least, measured by their ability to get work done in collaboration with others. Client Relations is fundamentally grounded in the discipline of interpersonal skills in a professional setting. The discussions in this course only scratch the surface of the larger realm of interpersonal communication skills, which all professionals should endeavor to improve.
In the study of client relations and in our discussions about specific situations, it is important for students to know that there are no perfect answers for resolving conflict or concerns.
As you will see, sometimes the best solution may be to do nothing rather than responding in a way that interferes with a larger goal or interest. Every situation must be addressed on its own terms. The purpose of engaging in conversation about these topics and situations is to bring about your awareness of them as an integral part if your work. In the future, you may study interpersonal communication, conflict resolution, and other courses related to business, sales, and client relations with specific strategies and techniques that go further than our class discussions.
So for the sake of each discussion, we will assume the following conditions
- You are a creative service professional.
- You have been hired by a client in a service position to produce and deliver a visual media product according to the specifications they have presented to you.
- You are a work-for-hire service provider, which means that once you deliver the final product, your work is done. You do not hold any copyright or royalty interest in the final product.