How to manage client relationships as a VFX studio

Essential tips for young VFX studios starting out in the industry

Picture this: your studio gets the opportunity to work on the VFX for a major series. You whip up a winning bid, your studio is halfway through the work, and it’s looking like your team isn’t going to meet the original timeline you’ve agreed on. Now what?


 

One of the key processes involved in running your studio like a well-oiled machine is making sure the relationship held between you and your clients is a healthy one. As business picks up and clients start rolling in, you’ll want to make sure you know how to manage those lines of communication. Here are our take-aways from Pixomondo’s Executive Producer, Natasha Francis, on building lasting relationships with your clients.

Communication is key

Keeping a constant flow of information between client and vendor is essential. There should be a seamless exchange of scripts and key information, so that both sides are kept up to date and aware of any last-minute changes or requests.

To ensure this, get involved in processes and discussions as early on as possible. Planning and staffing for VFX projects of all sizes requires strong and effective communication with your client.

Manage expectations – and pad when necessary

As a studio, it’s important to understand your clients’ limits and expectations – and they should do the same for you. When discussing timelines, for example, consider the time required for planning between shots, uploading, downloading, reviewing, and wait times. Make sure the client understands the kind of work involved and knows what to expect from you, and when to expect it.

While padding is generally to be avoided, it can sometimes be necessary. Difficult clients might not put things into bids to keep the price low. You’ll want to leave a little padding room when appropriate, to make sure clients don’t build up an unrealistic expectation of deadlines, quality, cost, and more. 

As Pixomondo Executive Producer Natasha Francis put it, make your plans, availability and expectations of the client crystal clear, and hopefully they will do the same in return.

Build partnerships

Focus on creating a strong bond with your clients early on. Trust and loyalty will follow. Working together benefits both of you. Forming that bond means that you can provide earlier deliveries, give clients warnings about difficult or complicated shots, and make sure the exchange of information is open and honest.  

It’s important to consider future projects. As a studio, you want to make a good impression on clients, so they become returning clients, solid connections, and even brand ambassadors over time. As Francis mentioned during her Effects America session, treat $5,000 shows like $1,000,000 shows – it helps form a sense of relationship and camaraderie.

Be transparent

Don’t exaggerate timelines or take on unrealistic deadlines. Always avoid having to make reassessments and having to flip bids entirely because your team has run out of time or resources. Not only does this hurt your studio and its employees, but it also damages client relationships. Stacking teams and putting employees under extreme pressure to keep up with unrealistic commitments will only do your studio harm.

It’s essential to clearly communicate the worth of the job at hand, and the challenges that it potentially comes with. Don’t leave room for misinterpretation, and both your team and your client will thank you for this.

Be human!

Showing your cards and being real can prove to be an effective way of communicating with clients. Showing a bit of your emotional side can pay off if done correctly. Many of us fear the consequences of being too open and honest in the workplace – but this can also work in our favor, since everyone is human and we all want to help each other out at the end of the day.


 

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Tags
  • Film & VFX
  • Workflow
  • VFX
  • Television
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