When I send my video script to the producer, I always picture him reading it.

In my mind, I see him shake his head in awe. “Gee, this guy Kania is good,” he says. “A full-on master.”

But he isn’t thinking that at all. (Well, maybe for six seconds.)

He is, of course, far more interested in his own drama. He is nervous about his new customer. He’s wondering how well this script will fly. “How should I present this? Will they give me a hard time about that intro? Can I shoot this on budget? Where can I get footage to cover that middle section? How should I handle the narration? After last time, I have to make a big splash with this.”

He is reading everything through his own glasses.

He is concerned only with how the script affects him. For good or ill.

Which is a cast-iron truth about clients. It took me a while to learn that.

Even today, when I somehow forget it, things go crappy in a hurry.

But when I keep this in mind, the work goes well. I make good money, clients keep calling, and I enjoy myself.

It is stunningly simple. Almost too 0bvious to say:

Clients are utterly and completely self-absorbed.

Does that sound jaded and cynical? Is that a knock against clients? It’s not. It’s how we all are. (But especially  people who are paying us money.)

Don’t misunderstand. I like my clients. I have amiable relationships with them. They are all smart people who know their businesses and are good at their jobs. They are not uncaring boors or childish narcissists.

But when it comes to the work I do, they are so wrapped up in their own missions that my tender sensibilities are not on the radar.  It is entirely and always about them. 

Therein lies your fat and ripe opportunity.

While other freelancers bitch about it, you work with it.

Use the client’s all-consuming interest in himself to great advantage.

Then write to us from your new beach house.

Make them look good

Officially, the client says she needs a web site with a clean and minimalistic design, distinctive photo treatments and an integrated blog.

So the rookie designer sits down to create a sharp and minimalistic website. She wants her design to kick ass.

But the pro designer, who is a little smarter now, knows better.

He wants his client to kick ass.

He knows (from listening more than talking) that his client Marie will be showing the web design to the team as part of a larger project. The bigger mission, the real mission, is to help Marie look like a genius at that meeting.

So when he sits down to work, that’s how he instructs his muse. Does he design it any differently? Hard to say.

But the client feels the difference. She has an ally. She senses the designer is pulling for her, and has her back.

The designer knows if a good web design is worth X, a good design that wins Marie some bonus points is worth 5X, in more work, higher fees, referrals, more work, more referrals, more work.

Most of the time, if you keep your ears open, and get out of your own head for a few minutes at a time, you will notice that what clients actually want, is not what we’re selling, exactly.

They’re paying to get their feet out of the fire, to get a porcupine off their laps, to save face, to go home happy at 5 pm, to make the phone ring, to relieve chronic pain, and again, to look good to their co-workers/partners/boss/spouse.

All of which are entirely about them.

Pros learn to use that.

Unless, of course, what the client ‘really’ wants is for us to cut our fees, work for free, or otherwise give away the store.

We are perceptive and insightful and supportive.

But we are not dopes.