Since most musicians, artists, bands, songwriters and people in the music business in general are independent contractors, we all get the occasional nightmare client. Here are some tips for dealing with them and mitigating the aggravation.
1. Set the ground rules at the outset of the project.
The best way to stop a nightmare before it starts is to establish what the client's expectations are before you even begin. If you're mixing, state up front that there's only 1 free revision (or whatever number you choose) and that you get paid for each additional. If you're getting hired to play a gig, state up front the number of free rehearsals that you're willing to do. If you're getting paid by the song, define exactly when the time spent begins and ends so you don't end up doing a dozen different versions. Most problems can be avoided by just establishing these kinds of ground rules first.
2. Really listen to the concerns and complaints.
Sometimes the problem comes from being defensive about your work rather than listening to the actual complaint that the client has. Many times a client just wants to vent, or is really asking for help, but we overlook the real source of the complaint by focusing in on the wrong thing. Listen before you speak and then really dig to find out what the major concern is. It may not be about you at all.
3. Help find a solution.
Once you get any tempers that have flared to cool down, look for a solution together. This might require some flexibility on your part, but a pro is more than willing to do that. After all, when it comes to music, the client (the one hiring you) and his/her project comes first. You're just there to facilitate their vision.
4. Be prepared to fire the client.
We've all run into people who become totally unreasonable about their expectations for you or their project. Once it goes beyond the point where you're comfortable working with the person, you have only two choices - grin and bear it until it's over, or fire the client. You can quit in a huff and burn a bridge, but the better way is to just say, "I'm not able to deliver what you want or need right now, so I'm very sorry, but I'm not the person for the job." The cooler you stay under an uncomfortable circumstance, the better you'll end up looking to everyone else in the project, which might eventually get you another gig down the line.
We all work for someone in this business, and you want to be ab;e to work for that person again in the future. Keeping any problems to a minimum is essential for that to happen.
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