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Mind Your Business: Where Artists Fail

Mark discusses how laziness and over-reliance on communication technology can lead to serious project failures.

You’re an artist. You care about your work. You treat your clients with more dignity than they probably deserve. You deliver your projects on time (you do deliver on time, don’t you?)

Is that enough? Nope. This is where most artists fail.

Actually, I’ll qualify that. This is where most young artists fail and far too many established artists haven’t learned, even after repeat problems.

This failure is from being lazy and taking modern technology for granted.

The failure I’m talking about is proper follow up when you deliver a project. Follow up, or in this case a simple phone call, at every stage is important.

Let’s say you finish a phase of a project. You attach it to an email and pop it off to your client. Sending a client an email with an attachment is just the first step. Unfortunately most people stop there, and that’s where they fail. And it will bite them in the ass over and over.

Don’t be lazy. As soon as you hit ‘send’, call your client. Tell them you emailed them the art for notes and/or approval. Don’t expect that:

  • Your client sits by their email waiting for the art from you
  • Your client checks their email as often as you do (when you should be working)
  • The email will ever arrive (or didn’t end up in SPAM)

Who gets blamed when the client doesn’t get that email you sent? You do.

When I put an artist on a project, that last thing I want is to get a call from the client wanting to know what is taking my artist so long. Most of the time when I get that call, I then call my artist only to find out they had delivered the art already, and sometimes early. The problem is they never called the client to tell them to expect and look for the email.

When your client knows to expect something, they know you have delivered. They know to look for it right away. They can track down the problem if they don’t get it. They can call you right away if there is a problem or they didn’t receive it.

It drives me CRAZY when people make assumptions like assuming the client got the file. NEVER assume. Communicate with your client. Tell them when you send a file. Hey, they may get back to you quicker too. Wouldn’t that be nice?

I know everyone relies on email and texting and messaging. Tough shit. Get on the phone and talk to your client. It will avoid and solve many, many potential problems before they become problems.

That said, some clients will still screw it up and try to blame you.

A  few weeks ago I was boarding a series of commercials for an agency. Each time I sent a part of the boards to the creative director I would call him and let him know to look for the email.

On a Wednesday they added two more spots. I told them I would get them done by midday on Friday. I delivered the first spot by lunch on Thursday. I called my client and he approved the boards. Then I was able to finish the second spot early and delivered it Thursday afternoon. I called my client again and told him he had the final boards in his email. He thanked me for getting it done so quickly.

Then on Friday afternoon I was working on another gig and I got an email from my previous client asking how I was doing on that last spot and when I could deliver it to him since they had been expecting it for hours.

I couldn’t believe it.

But I got on the phone with him and reminded him that he already had the final boards and we had spoken about it the day before. After a slight silence, he said, “Oh, yeah. That’s right. Sorry.”

I could have just replied to his email but:

  • It’s more professional to speak directly with someone
  • I didn’t know when he would see the email and I wanted it resolved immediately
  • I wanted to limit the time he thought I had screwed up
  • We could quickly deal with the problem if he never received the email (that was the problem, even though I called him to expect it, he never saw it and forgot about it)
  • It also felt great to hear him realize I delivered early, not late. whew

I know using a phone to actually call someone can be a real nuisance for some of you, but get over it. You know how to dial don’t you? Just stick your finger in the hole and make little circles…or tickle the pads with your finger…or touch their speed dial number…or ask Siri to make the call for you. Just do it.

It will only make your life easier and your art career more successful.


Mark Simon, is the co-founder of and the owner of Animatics & Storyboards, Inc. and the animation producer for Tooth Fairy 2. Get Mark’s free 7 Biggest TV Pitch Mistakes download at