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Mind Your Business: Opposites Attract

In this months Mind Your Business, Mark Simon helps bring opposites together by translating the difficult language of client.

Some clients are double-mouthed and will say the opposite of what theyre really thinking.

Its time once again to decipher client lingo when you travel through the treacherous land of business. Here at Mind Your Business, we pride ourselves on speaking fluent client. Its a difficult language to pick up at first. At times, its like listening to records backwards to hear what they really mean.

When you travel into the dangerous territory of Clientsville, you should take along your handy-dandy Mind Your Business: Client to English Translation Guide. You could end up in some bad areas of town if you simply listen to client directions and assume what they tell you is true.

In fact, after having gotten lost in the state of Perpetual Production a few times, I can tell you that what clients say and what they mean are often opposite of each other. Im not saying they do this intentionally, I just implying it strongly to protect my career.

So put your project car in gear, fold up your map, set the cruise control and follow us along the Highway of Understanding.

Here at the first exit you will be told, I have no ego. Weve discussed this one before, but its worth mentioning again as this is the most treacherous and pothole filled road you can drive down. Your destination on this exit definitely has a large ego. Drive carefully and keep your hazards on.

At the next exit we are likely to hear, I have no imagination. This is normally heard during the development phase and the client is trying to tell you that you will make all the creative choices. Make sure you ask directions at this exit. Your client has already imagined quite a few things regarding your project and either thinks you are a mindreader or wants to creatively run the project while making you think all the ideas are yours. As long as you understand the directions your trip should be an easy one.

At mile marker 9 is exit 6A, a treacherous road where you may think its good to hear I trust you to make the right decision. Dont let this apparently trusting statement fool you; trust has nothing to do with it. This comment always follows a disagreement between you and your client. What they really mean is, I dont believe you or trust your choice, but Ill let you try it to prove Im wrong. But I still think Im right. The good news is, at least, they are willing to take a look at your concept. Just drive carefully.

Exit 6B may seem to be very close to the previous turn, but the clients direction is a bit different. When you hear, Im going to leave this totally up to you, dont make the mistake of not discussing every aspect of the production and getting full approvals along the way with your client. They will normally guide your work with the concepts they already have, but they want you to feel good about your input. This is not really bad at all as long as you dont complete the project while leaving your client blind.

This is an easy job, can often be heard just outside of town at exit 20. When you take this exit, be sure to study all the road signs before you make your final turn. While the job may very well be easy, it may not be as well. Study the parameters and know whos involved before you base your rate on someones word that it will be easy. Even easy jobs can be difficult depending on who is giving approvals. There are some bumpy roads, however, when a client makes this statement simply to get an inexpensive bid, even though they know there is more to the project than they have let on. Experience and a good map of whats involved will help guide your way.

Make sure you pull over for gas, but be careful when the sign at the station says, Theres plenty of money in the backend. This is always heard as a part of negotiating when a client wants you to lower your rate. If there is a guarantee of money in the backend, they should offer proper money on the front-end. Theres nothing wrong with taking a chance on a project for little money when you enter the deal with all the accurate information. But be forewarned there is seldom a guarantee of backend payments on any deal.

Dont unpack too soon as you near the end of your trip. Let me take one last look at it but Im sure were done, does not mean youre done. Theres nothing like experience with a client to know when this means that they will have another change. Each client is different. With some you get final approvals quickly and others keep changing their mind every half-hour. For those that change their mind all the time, dont try to get ahead of yourself with wrapping their project until you have a signoff in writing. And they are likely to change their minds again anyway.


We all try to keep some sort of schedule on our trips. Unfortunately many clients have a case of short-term memory loss. As a responsible artist on a tight deadline, you always warn your clients that any delays in approvals from them will delay the delivery. (You do warn them, dont you? Oh well. It may not matter.) What you will always hear at the beginning of a job is, I understand. They only understand when its not really making their project late. Later on, when they take three days to get back to you on a four-day job and still expect the same delivery schedule, they seem to have no understanding or memory of your warning.

When your trip is complete and you bill your client, you may hear this if they are a large company. Were a multi-billion dollar company. We always pay our bills on time. Without fail, whenever there is a long, long, long delay in getting paid, its from a multi-billion dollar company. I guess thats why they have so much money.

The road to being a successful artist can be a long one. Hopefully our Translation Guide will make the trip go a little smoother. Keep on truckin.

Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer and lecturer who is also the author of Mark Simon is an award-winning animation producer and lecturer who is also the author of Facial Expressions, Producing Independent 2D Character Animation and Storyboards: Motion in Art. He can be found lurking around at and may be reached at Marks books may be found and purchased at