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Animation Client Management: Setting Boundaries with Clients

ben marvazi 2020

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Working in the animation industry is a very rewarding job that can also be pretty stressful. That's why it’s important to always look for ways to make things easier for yourself and your clients! 

When you're working with clients, there are some decisions that you need to make about how much of yourself and your time they get access to. You have every right to protect your health and well-being while still making sure they get what they need from you as their animator. To help set these boundaries up front, here are some tips:

Setting Boundaries with Clients Upfront

smiling client burns designers idea with a lighter and the designer has a shocked look on his face

GIF by Finar Kurumsal via GIPHY

It's important to set your boundaries up front. If you don't, your clients will assume that they can ask for anything and everything without a problem. It's also important to be clear about what you will and won't do so that you don't feel like you have to bend over backward for them at all times.

You should also establish expectations for your clients - for example, if they want something done by a certain date, let them know how long it will take and if there are any additional fees involved (like rush charges).

Say No to Extra Work That Was Not Agreed Upon

Say no to extra work that was not agreed upon like this character saying no

GIF by Mashed via GIPHY

You may be tempted to say yes to a client's request for extra work. This is especially true if you've built up a good relationship with them, or if the project was more challenging than expected. But saying no can be one of the best ways for setting boundaries with clients, as it shows that you have control over your time and workload, which helps build trust in your professionalism.

When turning down requests for additional work, explain why: "I'm sorry but I won't be able to help out with this project because I am already working on another project at this time." Then, offer some options for how they might find another person who could assist with their request (e.g., "If there is anyone else on our team who could take care of this task, let me know"). 

Explain that while you are unable to assist in completing this task now, there may be opportunities later on where it would make sense.

Communication And Updates

Animation communication - communicating your value and ideas

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As you build your client relationship, it's important to set a schedule for communication and updates. This can be as simple as agreeing on a time each week that you'll both check in with each other. If you're not sure what the client's schedule is, ask them! A good way to do this is by saying something like "I'm going on vacation next week so I won't be checking my email every day."

You should also make sure that your client knows when they can expect updates from you and vice versa. You might say something like "I'll send another draft of this project tomorrow morning," or "I know we haven't talked much since we started working together but I'd love some feedback on what direction would best suit your needs."

You're Not Your Clients Therapist

client losing his temper and throwing his cell phone on the ground

GIF by Jake via GIPHY

As an animator, setting boundaries with clients on a personal level is essential. It can be tempting to want to help solve their problems and listen when they're having a hard time. 

However, this is not your job as an animator; you are not their therapist or friend for that matter. Your role is simply to animate what they tell you and make sure that everything looks good on-screen. Don't worry about whether or not the characters are happy or sad - just do what they ask!

Setting Boundaries with Clients: Overshooting

Setting boundaries with clients to avoid overshooting like this man working hard on his computer

GIF by Mavi Media via GIPHY

When you're working with a client, it's important to set clear expectations for what the project will entail and how much time it will take. If you don't do this upfront, then you risk overshooting which can lead to stress and burnout.

To avoid overshooting, establish a timeline before accepting the project. Make sure all parties are on the same page about what exactly is being delivered by when. This way, there won't be any surprises later down the road!

Be prepared for questions from clients who want things done faster than expected (or at all). You may need to explain why certain tasks cannot be completed in less time than originally agreed upon; however, if possible try not to compromise quality just because someone wants something done faster than agreed upon.

Create a Buffer Between You and Your Clients

Two people of different races shaking hand on agreement

GIF by letgo via GIPHY

As an animator, your clients are the lifeblood of your business. Without them, there would be no paycheck and no reason to keep working. But this also means that they have power over you - and that's not always a good thing.

Set clear boundaries around how much time and energy you're willing to devote to each client so that both parties can feel comfortable with their relationship from day one (or at least as soon as possible). 

This means talking about expectations up front: What does each party expect from the other? How long will it take for projects to get done? Will there be regular check-ins or updates along the way?

Setting Boundaries with Clients: Your Time is Valuable

How many hours does an animator work freelance?

Read our blog on How Many Hours an Animator Works Freelance!

As a professional animator, your time is valuable. You should be compensated for the hours that you spend working on a project. This can be done through various methods: payment per hour or flat rate, as well as upfront payments and advanced payments.

So make sure you are setting boundaries with clients about your time, and get ready to get paid for all the hard work you do! To make sure your pockets are full and your efforts are appreciated, it's crucial to have a contract with each client.

Protect Yourself From Guilt-Tripping Clients

Character with its hands over its head feeling guilty

GIF by Jason Clarke via GIPHY

To protect yourself from the negative effects of guilt-tripping clients, setting boundaries with clients and sticking to them is very important. It can be tempting to give in to clients who try to make you feel guilty for not working for free, but it's important to remember that your time and skills are valuable and should be fairly compensated. 

Additionally, you should avoid letting clients guilt you into working longer hours or doing tasks that are outside of your job description. By setting clear boundaries and standing firm, you can ensure that you are being treated with respect and that your work is being valued appropriately

Keep Your Health and Well-Being in Mind

Girl zooming across the room in her office chair waving with her computer screen reading TGIF

GIF by Slanted Studios via GIPHY

In order to maintain a healthy work environment, you must be aware of your own health and well-being.

Make sure you have enough time to take care of yourself. This means eating well, getting enough sleep, and taking time out of your day to do things that make you happy (like going for walks or seeing friends). 

If these things are hard for you because of how busy life is getting with the animation project(s) at hand - and especially if those projects involve clients who seem impossible, then consider hiring someone else to take over some (or all!) of those responsibilities so that it doesn't feel like such an overwhelming task anymore.

Setting Boundaries with Clients Up-Front Will Make Things Easier 

old man crossing off a list of setting boundaries with clients

GIF by Slanted Studios via GIPHY

If you set boundaries with clients upfront, it will make things easier for everyone later on. Your clients will respect you more, and they'll be able to focus on their own work without feeling bad about asking for things that are outside the scope of your contract. 

Setting boundaries with clients is important, and it can be a difficult thing to do. But setting boundaries with clients upfront will make things easier for everyone later on. You'll have more time to spend doing what you love and less stress in your life!

For more information about setting boundaries with clients, as well as answers to any other questions you might have, be sure to follow our blogs, check out our free masterclass, and our Animation Business Accelerator Program, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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