Be Free, Lance | Managing Feedback

When I first started freelancing, I let any negative comment ( no matter how big or small ) effect my day … and sometimes even my entire week. Constructive criticism is KEY for any good client relationship, so there’s really no reason to let it become a barrier. It’s bad for both parties involved and just isn’t healthy. Feedback doesn’t need to be thought of as a scary or bad thing. Instead, allow it to define forward movement and create positive collaboration between you and your client. Although I’ve seen a serious shift in the way I handle feedback, there is always room for learning and growth. Here are just a few tips I’ve found helpful for successfully managing feedback :

DISCONNECT PERSONAL ATTACHMENT As creatives, it’s easy to get attached to the work we create and share with clients. But just because we like something doesn’t mean that the client is going to as well. Or that it is even right for their end product. Do all that you can to be subjective and approach feedback in an open + honest way. Learn to let go when it’s important and that will make all the difference.

BECOME A PROBLEM SOLVER One of the worst things you can do is mull over negative feedback and let it eat you away. I know it’s hard … but as soon as you receive feedback, don’t even give your wandering mind the time of day. Instead, become a problem solver immediately. Outline any problem areas shared by your client and start brainstorming ways to solve them. By doing this, you’ll be too busy to even wallow in negativity. Just move forward.

BE RESPECTFUL & PROFESSIONAL In any feedback situation, it’s of course important that you listen and consider all that is being said on the other end. But it’s equally as important that you remain professional and informative as well. You are, after all, the experienced creative that was hired to carry out said project. So if you don’t agree with something that was said, it’s 100% okay to explain your own opinion and expertise in a respectful manner. Honesty is a two way street and the client nor the creative is “always” right. Both parties should bring conversation to the table so that compromise and positive results can be met!

I know some of this is easier said than done, but I promise you that simple mind shifts, like the examples above, will be game changers in the way you manage feedback. Don’t let it bring you down! Face it head on and let it propel good work and killer confidence. Seriously.

PS. Thank you so much for all of your kind words so far towards our Be Free, Lance workshop!! We have been blown away by your support + encouragement and are so pumped to share everything we have brewing up real soon. For updates and other goodies, make sure to follow us on twitter!

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  1. Mailinh says:

    Love this! I have to say that this column isn’t just great advice for freelancers, but it’s also great for any job. It’s just all about how you apply it. :) Happy Wednesday!

    • breanna says:

      Glad to hear that! At first I was worried that a column like this would feel too design centric, but quickly realized just what you said – it’s all in how you apply it to your own situation. :)

  2. This is great advice for all artists! It is really easy to become attached to a piece of work and not want to move on, but learning how to improve from it can be tricky. I definitely like the tip about being a problem solver; that is a great way to turn the negative into a positive! Thanks for sharing this!

    • breanna says:

      Exactly! I think it will always be hard to disconnect from work ( we all have our “favorite” pieces and what not ), but the problem solver mindset sure does help. Thanks for stopping by!!

  3. Diana says:

    These are some really great suggestions! As an artist, I’ve been working hard to make very clear what type of feedback I’m looking for at a given moment, which makes it a bit easier to swallow. Do you have any tips for getting clients who are also friends/family to share really honest feedback with you? I’ve felt like I’m having to coax the honesty out of them since they don’t want to hurt my feelings…

    • breanna says:

      Thank you. :)
      I actually have a whole PDF written up now on what I look for during the feedback phase with my clients. Often times, chances are that they’ve never had to give feedback like this, so I try to outline things they should look for, questions they should ask themselves, and how to relay that back to me. So far it’s been very helpful!

      As for the family bit, that’s rough. There’s not much you can do to force out honesty, other than to keep telling them that collaboration doesn’t work if one side isn’t being completely honest. Other than that, I don’t have too many tips in that realm. It’s just a delicate subject no matter what. :/

  4. Haley says:

    Great advice for dealing with negative feedback. I love your suggestion of approaching negative feedback as a problem solver. Within that context, there will ONLY be room for improvement. Thoughtful, helpful post as usual!

    • breanna says:

      Exactly! It’s such a simple mind shift and it’s super distracting, which makes for a good solution. ;)

  5. Lovely advice, accepting criticism has always been a problem for me.

    • breanna says:

      Same! I think it’s tough for a lot of creatives to receive feedback no matter what. Because at the end of the day, we put a lot of time + effort into what we create and sending it over for somebody elses judgement, while apart of the job, isn’t easy. You’re not alone! Promise.

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  7. Grace says:

    This is so true. Freelancing has made me mentally stronger and I have learned to not take criticism personally. I have had some amazing and some awful clients. When I get to a bad client I remember the good feedback I have had in the past and carry on. Because of this it has made me more confident in general and so much happier! I love your blog by the way, keep it up.

    • breanna says:

      That’s actually another great tip that I didn’t think to mention. Sometimes it’s truly helpful to remind yourself that most of the time, feedback is fine … and the negative stuff only comes around every so often. It’s easy to get hard on ourselves as creatives, so remembering all the GREAT feedback is so so important too. Thanks for sharing!!

  8. Sarah says:

    This is good advice. I remember early on in my career feeling so emotionally connected to each and every piece I designed, and also having a pretty hard time accepting criticism. Experience has made me a bit more flexible, and able to recognize that sometimes a client’s feedback actually does make your design better. Another lesson I’ve learned is to never show a client options you are lukewarm on. I’ve found that when I show an option that I think is just okay, it’s almost always the one the client goes with! I think it’s better to show fewer options that you love than to add additional options just to have more variety. In general, I think it’s important to not take criticism personally. You and your client ultimately have the same mission; to create design that furthers the priorities of your client’s business.

  9. Jessica says:

    You laid everything out very succinctly and honestly. Thank you.

    Criticism is always hard to swallow for me. I deal with it by doing as you said, not giving myself the time of day to dwell upon it–right away. I honestly do look back in an effort to try to learn from it–it can hurt but I feel like it helps me grow.


  10. Angel Y. says:

    This is all such good advice. Feedback is actually my favorite part of a project’s process. I love hearing my client’s ideas, as they are usually super respectful. When you get to those who can be challenging, I think your tips are wonderful, especially in reminding the client about your level of professionalism and expertise. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. I loved this AND needed it. Received some feedback from a client that definitely had me in an “off” space. This really helped me to follow the still small voice that kept whispering, “use it.” The feedback helped me find some areas that I need to fine tune in my design contracts and practices regarding emailing and documentation. I will shake it off and utilize this moment for the lessons. Thank you. Well done.

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