Monday, March 21, 2016

“Managing Up” as a Freelancer Part 1.... It’s Not Just for Staff

If you’re a member of the corporate world, you’ve frequently encountered the catch phrase “managing up.”  Books have been written on it, seminars have addressed it, and corporate training programs have empowered managers to apply its principles. But you don’t need a subscription to the Harvard Business Review to understand the techniques that have helped employees galvanize effective relationships with their bosses and supervisors. “Managing up” need not be obsequious or contrived. It utilizes clear communication, a dedication to partnership, and an interest in successful results.

To put it simply, “managing up” is a deliberate effort on the part of an employee to forge the best possible partnership between himself and his boss, with the ultimate intent of producing innovative and high performance results for the company.

But hold on, you don’t consider yourself an “employee” so to speak. You are an elite member of the freelance swashbuckling club, uninhibited by the oppressive doldrums of company politics and unconcerned with climbing the corporate ladder. Maybe you’re a Storyboard Artist or Illustrator, a contractor who dreams of being so prosperous that you call your own shots.

Perhaps you toil away in your home studio, office, or kitchen table creating what you love with the tools of your choice. You gladly work on-site in the client’s office to make them happy and confident in your skills. You say: “I draw pictures for a living! I work for myself, and as long as I get paid, who cares what happens after that? I don’t WANT to manage up, that’s why I FREELANCE!”

You may think that doing what you love and getting paid for it is in-and-of itself the realization of success. For many, it is. You get to work in your slippers sometimes, with your favorite mug, listening to your favorite music, satellite radio, or daily podcasts. Although rewarding, it’s only part of the picture. The reality is a lot less glamorous than it sounds, AND a lot more IMPORTANT than it sounds.

I’m sure there are superstars in our industry who are so popular, talented and in-demand that they may never even consider the client relationship that seriously. They command large sums of money and get so much work they turn assignments away. If you're one of those artists, I admire your talent and skills. If you're not one of those artists, listen up.

The reality is you can’t be successful unless you are helping your clients be successful. 

Because the freelancer has multiple clients over the course of his career, an attribute of success lies in satisfying the needs and solving the problems of each and every client. Being a “rock star” artist is great – but if a freelancer is inflexible or indifferent to the project, or does ONLY what he is told, cannot read between the lines, or anticipate problems before they arise, the results will be less than stellar. You may realize too late that your client had a different expectation, one he or she THOUGHT they communicated effectively, but didn't. Or maybe you thought a last-minute change in direction would naturally be followed by an extended deadline. However, if you have not clarified an extension with your client, they will be disappointed when you deliver later than originally agreed. Chances are that you will be viewed as the one who flubbed the presentation, not them. The client won’t rush to hire you again, and may even discourage others in their organization to contract you.

Remember you are carving your own legacy with each assignment. You’re enjoying work on your own terms, but if immediate satisfaction and comfortable work habits are what you ask from life, that is what you’ll get.

My guess is you want more. You want a prosperous business, professional achievements, artistic growth and financial gain. You want to be a bread-winner, and have the freedom to jfly to the Bahamas or hike the Appalachian Trail once in a while.

That's where managing up comes in. If you want your freelance storyboard or illustration business to flourish, make yourself an integral part of your client’s success by managing up.

Managing up is essential, even if your projects last one day, one week or one month. And it’s easier than you think. The techniques are easy, unobtrusive and effective at scoring home-runs with clients. I believe it's what keeps me first-in-line for future projects.
In part 2 of this article, I will explain some key managing up methods that have worked for me.

Continued in “Managing Up" as a Freelancer 
Part 2:Take the Bull by the Horns

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