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Realistic Expectations and Demanding Clients

A week ago, my company LunarStudio was contacted on a late Friday evening by a Los Angeles-based property firm. This company wanted to have realistic renderings created from multiple sketches. The owner informed me that she had “gone through three different people before finding a sketch artist that [they] could work with.” She complained about “missing deadlines” due to the artist’s “inability” to interpret what she wanted to see drawn out. After months of trials, they had finally nailed down their sketches then they proceeded to try to find a photorealistic rendering company or artist that could develop a 3D rendering based upon those sketches. The owner went through an additional person (person #4), stating that the renderings looked nothing like her originals.

Now, she presented the renderings to me and we spent over an hour on the phone. I’d be first to admit that there were a decent amount of differences from the sketch and things that could have been done better. But keep in mind, they did not have plans and elevations which tends to make the process much easier because there’s a lot less guessing when it comes to dimensions. Having those construction drawings can actually cut a project’s development time half. Secondly, she did not mention how much she offered to pay this artist. The problems with the artwork in her mind were numerous – from colors (the original sketches didn’t have any colors) to people being placed in slightly different locations, etc.

I could easily see this artist pulling out their hairs trying to perform both a bit of magical mind-reading and having to bend 3D software in directions that it’s not intended to be bent in. In a nutshell, this client was extremely demanding.

A week later, I tried contacting her to see what her status was on her project – if they came to any determinations as to who they would use for their renderings. Personally, I don’t really need the extra work although it might have been decent money – it was more for my own scheduling purposes as my schedule can be really hectic at times. She said that she wanted to take an entirely different approach and find someone that could work internally and that it had nothing to do with pricing as everyone was in-line with one another.

I told her at that point that I was no longer trying to sell myself, but actually trying to help her. I said quite honestly, “any artist that is really good is probably not going to work full-time with someone standing over their shoulders. Secondly, if you do find that person, it’s going to cost a lot of money.” I think she realized my point then mentioned “hiring a contractor instead.”  I stated that hiring a contractor was probably more of a realistic expectation but that it wasn’t going to be easy. I could tell that she didn’t like the fact that I was questioning her decisions, although I was merely trying to help solve her problem. She excused herself and our conversation ended.

The main issue that I see here is one of being picky, bordering on what I would think falls under the medical definition of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Everyone wants something for nothing – they want the impression that they are getting a good deal. There comes a point where obsessing over the smallest details can be counter-productive as it can add weeks or even months to a schedule and drive up costs. These types of clients that are hiring the artists often do not understand our process and how much work is involved in producing a sketch, let alone a 3D rendering. In other situations, a client may be absolutely in the right when it comes to the finer details, but are unwilling to pay a higher premium for quality. At that point, friction develops. I know personally that I’m willing to make just about any change as long as a client is willing to compensate for my time. The problem is that in many people’s minds, they might think something takes a few minutes when in reality it can take a few hours or even days.

I personally don’t think this person is going to obtain a good outcome in a timely fashion. Her main complaint and frustration involved timing and quality. She went through three sketch artists before finding one that she liked. She went through another 3D artist as well. Now, she is several months in the hole. How much do you think that cost her? She’s probably looking close to $15,000 wasted – possibly more. And that’s not factoring in their own time. The owner and their employees have to be spending their own time in meetings, emails, approvals, back-and-forth with their clients, etc. So at the end of the day, she just wasted $30 grand of her own client’s money and is STILL not any further ahead. By the time she is done, her company is going to have run up a $50,000 bill and clock.

And by some chance she does obtain a good outcome, whatever artist that she hires is probably not going to want to work for her in the future unless she learns the meaning of working together. Sometimes I see these types of overly-picky clients coming and no matter how much money they throw at me, I want to run in the other direction because I know they are going to make my life a living hell.

I suppose the moral of the story is that if you wanted it done right and you’re going to be picky in the first place, don’t be cheap. You have to pay for it. There’s really no shortcuts. Secondly, find someone that knows what they are doing – make sure that they have a good portfolio and a decent list of clients. She was much better off spending extra money in the beginning – $5,000-$10,0000, and would have had the illustrations done properly in a few weeks or less compared to several months down the road. Her employees would have been freed-up to work on other projects and generate income that way. Next, don’t expect any artist to be a mind-reader – that only happens over time with freak-accident bands like the Grateful Dead and The Beatles. You have no idea how many times someone says that they hired me because they liked my work or style, then they sit there and try to micromanage every aspect. They almost invariably get cra*p results because the artwork turns into half of what they wanted and half of the expectations I’m trying to meet. The art becomes muddied. You have no idea how many times I’ve wanted to tell someone, “hey you think it’s easy? Do it yourself.” Lastly, if you are going to be cheap or lack funds, at least try to understand the process better so that you’re not driving other people crazy.