Blend: The Revision Clause
FEATURING: SHIROBAKO (EPISODE 16)
"Hmmmmm....it's not bad, but I think I want it to have a bit more...energy to it, you know?"
I welcome you to the everlasting issue of creative disagreements, and the struggling path we creatives tread through as a result. It's a war we'll happily continue to wage for and against our clients, but with the topic so prudently amassed within Shirobako's 16th episode, I would like to bring some points to light nonetheless.
In its purest form, the contracted process between creator and client is flawed. One set vision is what sparks the project, but unfortunately the human mind is never that "A to B". Clients will be ultimately separated from their money, and in exchange they'll want exactly what they seek. So it's almost guaranteed during a contract, a first revision like this will come in, often vaguely stating how the current offering is not bad, but not exactly what they're looking for.
Let me be the first to state that revisions are not a bad thing. It would actually concern me more if a client was to take anything I created on its first run without any sort of suggestive recourse whatsoever. On the flip side, it's a strange truth that while clients will pour their heart and soul into composing their initial details of the project, revision notes suddenly become lazier than a hikikomori on a hot summer Sunday. I associate this to the fact that after waiting so long for their first draft, impatience sets in and they want their changes faster.
Shirobako so deliciously portrayed the harshest issue that we too often run across. Requesting constant revisions to the point of creating a brand new project entirely is one thing, but what devastates us the most is when all of those revisions are later tossed out for the very first draft. "I think the first one was best"may sound a ludicrously rare term to hear from the general mass of considerate clientele, but trust me when I say that it's easy for someone to tread down this path, no matter how nice they're trying to be. Very little lingers over us creators more than an unfinished, unsatisfying project, and when a client isn't fully content, we'll determinately clench our fist and make those changes without a second thought.
I humbly request that you don't take that previous phrase as an open invitation to take advantage of the fact that most considerate creatives will offer revisions free of charge. We're woefully unaware of how many other revisions will follow, and in our trek to reach the unanimously satisfying conclusion, we'll happily offer the service to keep current and future negotiations stress-free. When this little trust factor is severed, loss of sleep is only one of the things that will start to creep in. "Are my creations boring Why aren't I as good as I used to be? What can I do to make it better?" Thoughts like these subconsciously surface, and to avoid taking it out on clientele, many of us will take it out on the next available subject, ourselves. It's a dangerous cycle that ultimately harms the client's project in some way as well, no matter how minute.
It is with these prefaced paragraphs that I'd like to summarize my thoughts with. I myself am a graphic designer and a web developer, but creatives of all sorts are contracted for work in the same way. I ask both sides of the party to keep these considerations very close to your thoughts whenever engaging in a creative exchange:
- Give every client the benefit of the doubt. Don't charge for revisions unless you feel it start to get out of hand, but make it immediately clear of your intentions and parameters. Trust your gut in deciding just when this change is necessary. It's always fair to assume you won't get it right on the first try.
- Never think you're a terrible creator. Everyone is a critic and you need to join them instead of running from that truth. Staying in a comfort zone of compliments means you'll never change or improve your style; it's the polar opposite of what it means to be a creator.
- Don't be afraid to sit down and talk with your client. Many times, clients love seeing so many variations because it sparks new ideas within them, but you can't let yourself be pushed around in the exchange either. Ask the client exactly what they don't like, and exactly what they want added. It's not rude to state how multiple revisions are often met with retraction to the first draft, so make sure they take the time to consider if they really want the revision.
- Contracts go bad, this is an unavoidable eventuality. Don't let it swell up and sit in the worst parts of your body. Migraines, insomnia, stomachaches and other medical conditions only devastate your project further, and the client grows more impatient for the additional wait. Find what is relaxing to you, like a brisk walk in the fresh air, and indulge in said activity away from your work. An hour lost on the project is much better than days, weeks and months lost from worse conditions.
- Don't be greedy, but stand strong as well. On many occurrences you may find the client trying to lower costs due to unforeseen delays, dissatisfaction and other reasons. It's important to state in your initial contract that these parameters can occur, and in such states, both parties must come to agree on the matter. If you pull funds for each little complaint, not only does your evening meal suffer, but so does your ability to progress in becoming a creator in higher regard.
- Before contracting a creator to bring your vision to life, carefully consider just what it is you want. Remember that your input into the final product is merely a pile of text and reference imagery to a creator, not a fully painted canvas pulled from the deepest portions of your imagination. The more details you can bring up front, the less conflicts you'll face in the long run.
- Read contracts carefully, and only sign them if you fully agree to them. You have to understand that creators are people too. They get unexpectedly sick, their families have unforeseen emergencies, their mental wavelength is not a magical construct capable of matching yours. As such, most contracts will have proper detailing of what to expect during the creative process, and if you're in disagreement with anything, it's best to discuss a consensus or look for someone else.
- Always keep to heart that you're not the only client working with the creator. Creators will always juggle multiple projects so they can afford to feed themselves for the week. Demanding more from them without careful consideration means digging into time that can be spent conferring with other clients who have an equal right to that time as you do.
- Don't let the "I think the first one was best" words creep into your contracted vocabulary. In the end you'll receive what you wanted, but you'll really shatter your relationship with the creator. Cherish the creator's contribution in making revisions, and at every step carefully consider if you really do need another change. If you need to take a few days to look over the content, don't be afraid to ask for them. Making 10 revisions and going back to the first is nothing more than a loss of time and resources.
- Finally, don't be afraid to take your stance in the contract either. Creators aren't godly beings with the right to always think they're in the right. In the end, it's your project they're creating, and with enough consideration on both sides of the line, you can come out with what you want and keep a great relationship with the creator. Friendly grounds for the long run yields amazing results, without a doubt.
And so I conclude this article with Shirobako's first draft and finished version for their episode 16 project. Can you spot the differences? Can you determine which work came first? Even the most minute of changes can make a world of difference in the creative world.
"Here's to a great relationship between creators and clients!"