Criticism is a fact of life when you work as a freelancer. Still, when you work hard on something, whether it’s a design, an article or a piece of art, you become attached to the work. You feel you have done your best, and it can be hard to accept criticism of that work. If you follow these steps, though, you should be able to accept criticism with the grace and good attitude that will lead to repeat business and recommendations.
To err is human
You must really keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes. You should not take criticism of your work personally. Instead, look at criticism as a chance to learn and to improve. Criticism is an opportunity to get better, and if you really think about it, you know your work does have room for improvement.
Try to see things from their point of view
Admitting that your work can be improved leads pretty easily into seeing things from your client’s point of view. Did you really follow the brief carefully? Were you listening to everything the client said when you discussed the project? Can you see why what you’ve submitted might not be right for them?
Focus on the positive takeaways
When you get criticism, it usually comes in negative forms. Clients might say the tone was wrong, the format wasn’t what they wanted, the colours are too aggressive or the wording is awkward and incomprehensible. In each of those cases, you can flip the sentence around to pull out the constructive part of the criticism. If the tone of your work was wrong, re-read the brief to see how you might have misinterpreted it. You already know one way of interpreting the brief was wrong, so you’ve got a better chance of getting it right the next time. If they say your colour scheme was too aggressive, you know to choose more soothing or more classic colour palettes.
Separate criticism from abuse
Unfortunately, freelancers can often come in line for abuse, especially when things get tense on a project and nothing seems to be going right. When you cannot actually take any constructive criticism away from what your client says, that is abuse, and you need to try to let it go. Focussing on abuse will make you angry and resentful, and that is the last thing you need when situations are emotional.
Remember that while holding onto the bad feelings that come from abuse will only make you feel worse, taking on board criticism will make you better.
Stand up for your work if you truly believe in it
You were hired to be the expert, whether you are designing a brochure, directing a video or writing an article. You were brought on to do the work because the client believed you could do it better than they could. Sometimes you do know best, and you should feel free to argue for your work if you know it is the right thing for the client. In those cases, make sure you explain why you did what you did and why it is necessary for you to do it that way.
When you do get back in touch with the client after receiving criticism, do it with a cool head, an open mind, and questions to demonstrate both. You are receiving criticism because there was something you missed, and that’s fair enough for your client to point out. By responding in a way that demonstrates you understand this and by asking questions to clarify any misunderstandings, you get to the heart of the criticism and you make a great impression on your clients.
Don’t let the fear of criticism keep you from trying.
Criticism can be hard to take, and the fear of criticism can keep people from trying. Every time you take on board some criticism, you get a bit better, so you can just think of each bit of criticism as a step towards becoming the best freelancer on the market.
Remember: Not everyone likes tomatoes.
Your freelance work can feel like an extension of yourself, especially when you’ve worked very hard on something. That can make it particularly painful when it is rejected out-of-hand by the client. But it could simply be a clash of personal taste. Think of it this way: just because one person doesn’t likes tomatoes, it doesn’t mean that tomatoes are terrible. It simply means that tomatoes don’t suit one person’s taste. The same can be said of your freelance work. It could be that your client’s tastes simply don’t match your work. It’s nothing personal – just a difference of taste. In that case, you can either try to find the place where your two tastes meet, or you can cut your losses with no hard feelings.
If you follow these steps, you should see improvements, both to your work and to your professional reputation. One of the best things a freelancer can have is a reputation for being great to work with.