Creative Advice: On Not Taking Feedback Personally | Ballast Notes

When you're in a creative job field, it can often be difficult to hear feedback about your work. If you're a photographer, graphic designer, artist, or another type of creative, you often put your heart and soul into your work -- it's more than just a job, it's your way of life.

Here's a few tips I've taken into account when it comes to not taking feedback too personally, and using the opportunity to educate your clients on your creative process. 
 

  • View it as a learning opportunity…

When getting feedback on work, it’s easy to be defensive over what you’ve created. As a creative, you put your personal skills into work, and it’s easy to take it personally when someone says they don’t like the look of something you’ve created. But although feedback can be hard to hear at first, keep a cool head and be sure to explain your work and reasoning for different techniques, but don’t be defensive. It’s through feedback that you learn new skills, grow, and figure out how to design for certain audiences and clients.

  • ... and also as a teaching opportunity.

You will sometimes work with clients who are used to designing their own decks in PowerPoint, or have worked with designers who have created something in a different way. Or, they may have not explained the creative brief in the correct way. In any case, there are times when the client may have an initial reaction, and you should take the opportunity to explain or show to the client your reasoning for a creative choice. It’s a great way to go through the process of thinking through your own creative decisions and practice voicing them.

  • Take time to respond.

Don’t feel the need to respond right away if it’s not an urgent project. Take the time to take a walk, make a cup of coffee, or work on another project. Take your time to reread the email with a clear mind, and respond calmly and clearly with either questions or a new draft. There's a very good chance your client has a good point, and/or has a good point and isn't being clear about it. 

Also, if the client feedback isn’t clear or you feel like they are missing something in the draft you sent over, don’t be scared to get them on the phone. As much as we live in an email-oriented world, people are often more calm and concise over the phone.

  • Think about the bigger picture.

Also, it’s good to wait until the project is over, and then ask your supervisor or client for a brief phone call or an email with feedback about the project, what went well, and what you can improve on in the future. This way, you can get a clearer picture of how to best work with this individual or organization, and any likes or dislikes they may have. The client can have a longer time to evaluate your work, and won’t make a shortsighted or off-the-cuff remark.

You also don’t know all the information about what’s happening in that client’s life -- they could be dealing with a rough day for a variety of reasons.

And at the end of the day, realize that it’s not possible to please everyone. There’s a lot to learn from clients’ feedback, but if your visions aren’t aligning, it may not be the best partnership. If a client doesn’t like your style of work, it doesn’t mean the relationship has to continue. Prioritize working with clients that appreciate your work and you can do your best work with.

 

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