Portfolio School Lies to You, Part 3

In the continuing series of lies that are somehow harbored before you’ve even begun interviewing, I offer yet another lie:

The client is stupid.

It’s easy to believe this one. We continually promulgate stories about boneheaded CMOs who killed a campaign because their spouses didn’t get like the color of the background. Or marketing managers who tested and tested and tested an idea into the ground until it was so devoid of soul it was the commercial equivalent of marshmallow fluff. Or clients who kill work with all the glee of those Muppet hecklers in the balcony. And you’ll all have your own stories within a month or two of your first job.

But the lie you need to uproot from your worldview right now is that the client is stupid.

They’re not. You’ll find that more often than not, they have more education than you. They have more business experience than you. They make more decisions and handle themselves better under pressure. That may be why they make four to ten times more money than you.

I’m not defending poor judgment or playing it safe. You’ll face clients who are inconsistent, timid, egomaniacal, and downright silly.

But the problem with believing the lie (other than it being false) is that it usually prohibits you from communicating with them. Why aruge with an idiot, right?

Dave Lubars has said that his talent is less in creative development (although he certainly has that in spades), and more in being able to listen to people and understand exactly what they need.

I’m sure Dave Lubars could tell more stories than me about clients giving schizophrenic feedback, or being gun-shy on a campaign that could make the company millions. But instead he listens. He knows there’s a reason for their actions. If he can understand their motives, their desires, their modus operandi, he can figure out what to do next.

Whatever his next steps are, I guarantee it’s not mope, complain, or talk about how stupid the client is.