How far (and how often) in the process do you let a client see a work in progress?


Before you start typing on your keyboard, I know it's good practice to let a client know what you're doing by showing them WIP (Work In Progress) pictures of the artwork you're doing.

But sometimes this practice backfired on me and it nearly made me quit the commission once, because the continous small improvements from some self claimed art major aka client got very annoying. The ongoing requests for changes and follow up WIP pictures after you send them the first one, stack up so damn quick. Don't get me wrong, I really have no problem sending you WIP pictures, not at all. But please let me do my work, because I kinda know what I am doing.

From experience, my proposed suggestions that got turned down first, turned out great in the end when I did them against the customers will. Reactions often are

Oh wow. You were right. Sorry, that looks great!

So on one side, I understand that a client wants ongoing feedback so the project doesn't drift off in the wrong direction, I wouldn't want that either when I commission someone for good money. On the other hand, stop giving me your bs advices and don't tell me how to do my job, I am pretty sure I know how to do that myself thank you very much. /rant

And I am certain these come up because I show them WIP pictures, yeah well, WIP, doesn't mean finished. Why is that so hard to understand?

So to sum this up, what's a good rule of thumb of what to show your client and what not, and also - how much?

7/26/2016 4:14:00 PM

Accepted Answer

If you're an artist, I don't think you should show them a WIP at all. If it's not up for debate, do not show it to your client. Show them the final work and then maybe give them an option to suggest changes to their liking.

If you do not want comments on your WIP, don't show them the WIP. Because yes, for a client it's very hard to understand that they can't give you any feedback on what you're showing them. This is not only like that for designers, but it's like that in almost any career.

Make a very clear agreement of what you're delivering to the client before you start. Tell them you will show them the finished artwork and that they can give feedback AFTER you've finished. If you want or if they really want it you can discuss making some rough sketches to determine you're on the same page with the artwork.

This is how I do it with my web design work at least. I give the designer a moodboard and wireframes to look at, if that's what they want. But they won't get to see the work before I'm done, because before that it's simply not the finished product yet.

To give an example of how little understanding of your WIP a client really has, webdesigners often have problems with using Lorem Ipsum. When I just started out I have often gotten the comment 'Why are you making my webpage in Latin, I need it to be in English??1!!1'. Even the concept of dummy content is often too far fetched for them. They have a vision for your end product and are probably scared it won't turn out how they want it to be.

7/26/2016 2:55:00 PM

Everyone's process is a bit different. When I'm designing, I create three comps, or rough versions, for the client to choose from. I make it clear that these are ROUGH designs, not final, specifically and explicitly to get client feedback on direction.

The client can muck about with comps all s/he likes, mix and match, go in another direction entirely. Comps are deliberately not finished (FPO photos, Greek text) so it's not a ton of my time invested.

This allows your client to put as many thumbprints as s/he needs to feel involved, gives you feedback so the project isn't going too far off the rails, and lets you both focus on something you know the client actually wants.

If you as an artist feel threatened by client feedback on a commissioned WIP, then you're in the wrong job. If you want to create something which is purely your artistic vision, then create your artwork and offer it for sale as a finished piece. But "commission" means you're being paid to realize someone else's vision. You can do your best work on that vision, you can offer your hard-earned experience to advise the client in the best execution of his/her goal, but ultimately if the client wants blinking glitter, it's your job to provide blinking glitter, not bitch about it.