How Creatives and Client Expectations Can Coexist

Creatives and Executives, Client Expectations

A Guest Post by Hunter Gardner

My name is Hunter Gardner, and I’m a creative.

There, I said it. Apologies to my former econ professors, but it is just how my mind works. While some may envision creatives as dreamers who would rather be filming their indie movies or painting butterflies—and well, maybe some of us are that way—most are also realists. Not only that, but we are also grateful. We make our living with our words, our images, our ideas, and while it may not always be the most creative work, we can still paint those butterflies on the weekends, right?

However there are moments when we want to run our fingers down our faces because we feel like we aren’t being listened to, shorthanded or snubbed. But, I think I may have found the solution in three (hopefully) easy steps.

 1. Put Client Expectations First.

Every client is different, each with its own set of expectations. As an executive, you may love them because they come with very little overheard, don’t schedule irrelevant meetings or simply pay the big bucks, but creatives tend to love the ones that leave the door open to design, branding and creative-bound campaigns.

Break through this wall by stating the facts: First, the clients and what they want is most important. Second, without them, there is no business. Which mean of course no paycheck, but also no chance to be creative at all.

Your creatives may want to treat every project like a little piece of art, or get excited by a small idea and then run with it. They may want to disregard market research and focus groups because he or she just wrote the wittiest pun joke of all-time for that banner ad—but as long as you explain that client wants and needs come first, there’s really no reason why this would not compute.

2. Let Your Creatives Be Creative.

Once you have set these important boundaries and expectations, then it is time to let go. Strategy and purpose will always come before design, but if your creative staff has room to play, then let them.

And know that you have a creative staff for a reason. Nothing will set a creative into a spiral of internal frustration, culminating in a ritual of sacrificing dirty Chai lattes and summoning the power of one thousand alt-electronica bands to blow your house down than stepping on a creative’s toes by telling him or her that your idea is better or completely shutting his or her idea down. Creatives like dialogue. Most are open to all ideas. But unless you are a former Creative Director or Ira Glass himself, I recommend never axing an idea just because you don’t get it. As long as it is “inbounds” remember, it is the client’s opinion that matters, not yours.

3. Evaluate, Praise, Repeat.

Just because we dream in color doesn’t mean we can’t understand the numbers in black and white. Creatives are willing to learn from constructive criticism and make needed changes—and this part is important, so don’t miss it—even if it means it hinders our creativity.


Because more than anything, creatives like to hear phrases like, “good work,” “great job,” “love what you did there.” It lights us up. It is like bacon to a dog (well, bacon to most non-dogs, too). We love it. And the fact is, if we don’t deliver what the client wants, even if it was our own little piece of art, we simply don’t like letting people down. Yes, even you Mr. Executive McExecuPants.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an indie screenplay I’m working on…

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