How to manage clients as a freelancer

Freelance illustrator and art director Steven Bonner shares his experiences of managing clients single-handedly.

Client relationship management is far from the preserve of agencies and studios - freelancers need to know how to find new business, and make the most of relationships. This is exactly what freelance illustrator Steven Bonner did with publisher Penguin Books.

"I contacted an art director at Penguin Books about four years ago, and though I didn't initially hear anything back I kept him in the loop with my work now and again, until eventually a project came up that he felt suited me," says Bonner. "Since then we've built a relationship where we are comfortable with each other and know how to work to each other's strengths."

It's a relationship that has since blossomed, with Bonner creating a dozen or so designs for Penguin's titles, ranging from Rachel Khoo's cookery books through to literary heavyweight titles such as Colm Tóibín's New Ways to Kill Your Mother. What's lasted throughout, however, is the strong communication, expertise, experience and creative understanding of the client-illustrator relationship.

"Now that we know each other's working methods and nuances, we can usually reach the desired outcome with a minimum of fuss, and speak frankly with each other without fear of the other taking things the wrong way," explains Bonner. The approach means everyone can focus on the job at hand. "They know when to push me to get more out of a piece," continues Bonner, "which often results in a much better end product."

Words: Tom Dennis

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 220.

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