Client Relations for Storyboard Artists

October 10, 2012  

Client relations for storyboard artists

As with any business relations, maintaining professionalism is always a good idea both in the quality of work and the manner in which you treat others. Below, you'll find guidelines you can refer back to when doing contract or freelance work.

Much of what it takes to make it as a freelancer is a great deal of hustle and maintaining good networking relationships. Keep in mind that you need to provide good value for your services. If clients feel like they get more in return than they pay out by hiring you, they will hire you again and they will refer you to their friends. Keep your clients hot and contact them with mailers or e-mail updates every quarter. Be sure to build a personal network and use it.

Finding Work

Now that you have an awesome portfolio and resume, you can venture out to find work. This actually might be one of the hardest parts of being a storyboard artist. Finding work is a difficult job in itself not to mention all the preparation it takes to become a storyboard artist. Do not fear competition. Just as writers are unique in their style and approach, so too are storyboard artists. Every artist has a unique approach to solving a visual problem. This is precisely what makes them valuable. The more well-trained story artists there are the better our lives will be from the rich stories they create. Learn from each other and be inspired not by your “competition”, but by your fellow brother in this artistic journey you've chosen to take. You may compete for the same jobs with other artists, but that’s no reason to be jealous or bitter. The goal of a “true” artist is growth. A job may offer this, but it’s up to us as individuals to continue our learning. A job may satisfy your bank account, but I have never had a job that satisfies my artistic soul. This is the reason why the brotherhood of artists should be one of support and nurturing. There is plenty of opportunity for us all if we continue to make the best stories possible.

Dealing with Clients

Always get a contract in writing.

Even a signed quote you provide the client can serve as a contract. Be wary of “spec” work. Jobs on “spec” are no-pay gigs that trade present work for the promise of a future payout. More often than not, you will never see any money from these types of jobs.

 Even a little bit of money is better than working for free, since you know the client is serious by paying something out. Don’t begin any work based on a phone call or in-person meeting. Get every detail in writing and ask the client to sign and confirm a printed document or a PDF document before you begin any work. 

Anything not specified in the quote or contract should be an overage charge, and authorized in writing by both parties before any work begins. At the end of the job immediately send an invoice to the client. It is standard practice for clients to pay within 30 days of the finished job called net 30. Keep this in mind and have money reserves on hand, knowing it could take a month before you see the payment arrive. Be professional with your billing and invoicing, as it will reflect on your work and overall customer experience you give the client.

If you find yourself in a situation where the client owes you money or you somehow feel shortchanged, keep your emotions in check.

Emotions are useless in the business world. You gain nothing but damage to your reputation by getting into shouting matches with your client or employer. Maintain your composure at all times and simply state your desires over the phone or by e-mail without the use of threats or harsh words. Contract disputes are what lawyers are for, and they are well worth the money they cost. If the amount of the job is significant, you can hire a lawyer and have them contact the company.

If the contract amount is not significant, assuming you have all the paperwork and you did everything right, you can open a claim in small-claims court. Sometimes though, being burned along the way is a learning experience that will teach you to do things correctly the next time.

For any job over $10,000 (including staff positions), we recommend you hire a lawyer who specializes in contracts and entertainment law to look over the paperwork for you. A qualified lawyer may cost $300-$400 an hour, but can usually look over contracts within a few hours and spare you much heartache down the road should you end up in a dispute. Lawyers working on your side are well worth the money, and in fact might even be able to negotiate higher rates for a particular job.

For more information on payments and invoicing see our guide here.

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