Handling criticism is challenging no matter the situation, but it can be especially difficult when coming from a client. Dealing with feedback and suggestions from clients can be viewed as a great opportunity to grow and improve.
Growing through Criticism
Criticism helps uncover blind spots. Habits become deeply ingrained over time and are often hard to change. An outside perspective shows where the weak areas are and where we need to improve our skills, whether that be writing, design, editing, or communication. When you receive feedback, especially if on the same topic from multiple clients, take it to heart and work on further developing that skill.
Criticism pushes you to challenge yourself. It can be easy to fall into the trap of reproducing something you know does well without working to be more creative, innovative, or aware of trends. Extending yourself to meet a clients needs encourages you to try new things and learn more skills, which will increase your chance at success in growing your business.
Criticism helps you develop communication skills. When conflict or problems arise, the issue must be dealt with using professional communication. Talking through problems and issues will benefit you with every new client if you learn from each discussion. If you find yourself having the same communication issues, make note and better prepare for the next client by addressing the issue sooner in the process.
Criticism provides outside motivation. When a client wants something out of your comfort zone or skillset, push yourself to learn about a new topic or develop a new skill. This is increase your value to clients and boost your reputation for being adaptable.
Criticism also provides a lesson on humility. You’re not always right and learning from others helps you grow and improve in many areas.
The Subjective Nature of Criticism
Remember that art, in all its forms, is subjective. Just because a client wants something different that you do doesn’t make them wrong. Accept that they come from a different viewpoint or life experience and are trying to communicate that through a story or design. Dismissing the client’s ideas is dismissing them as a person.
Taking criticism with a positive attitude can help you see the project from a new perspective. Critique of a project is exactly that. It’s not a critique of you personally. Not taking criticism personally is difficult, but practicing this perspective helps remove you from the criticism and keeps the focus on the success of the project.
It can be helpful to rewrite a client’s comments and replace any pronouns with the name of the book or “project.” This provides added distance and lessens the potential sting of feeling personally rejected.
Learning from Criticism
Take note of criticism from clients and analyze what it it really saying.
Do you need to update your skills or expand your knowledge base? Are you familiar enough with genre conventions or tropes? Are there too many similarities between projects? Does your wording or editing suggestions seem repetitive?
If you are getting the same feedback from multiple clients, it’s highly likely that you need to make an adjustment or work work on improvement in a specific area. Having this pointed out can be difficult, but it will ultimately make you a better writer, editor, or designer.
Focus on not making the same mistakes twice.