The Other Half of Perception is Managing Expectations

After my post earlier this week about managing perceptions as a freelancer, I saw a comment from Keith Anderson about how essential it was to manage expectations.

I absolutely agree.

For me, this is a no-brainer that can be summed up in two words: good communication. When that communication breaks down? That’s when things go wrong. I’ve seen this time and time and time again in many businesses, both as an outsider or when I’m involved on a project. Miscommunication happens in cases when one hand is doing one thing and the other is possessed by another mindset. Management says one thing to one employee and something else to another. A lack of consistency is the other thing that can get very confusing, too, especially when you’re dealing with someone who has little to no experience managing professionals.

My technique is based on asking questions and setting goals. It is extremely rare for me to not fulfill the expectations that are required of me. I am always asking: Is this what you want? Sometimes, the company does not know the answer to that question. By exploring that answer up front you’d be shocked how much money, time and energy is saved.

Having said that, however, there are times when going that extra mile isn’t warranted. That’s where the contract, a style guide and submission guidelines all come into play. The project doesn’t require exploration, it demands production. How many bouts of revisions are required? What format does the work need to be submitted in? Expectations can be very technical, but they are also thematic, too. Research is an invisible cost. An artist needs reference material. A writer needs to find good sources for attribution, reference material on a subject, etc. Creativity is another “cost,” in the sense that bursts of inspiration don’t just happen on a nine-to-five job. They happen at any time, in any place, for any reason. Again, this goes back to why creatives don’t budget based off of hours.

This entire conversation circles back to something I’ve found to be extraordinarily true. There is a huge difference between being proactive and reactive, between providing a service or selling an asset, between building business relationships or focusing on the one-offs. There are so many different ways to manage a business it’s not even funny. The trick I’ve found is this: as an employee or a freelancer, you have to figure out what your core business principles are. Once you have that foundation in place, you can manage expectations with ease. Why? Because then you’re looking at those expectations as a two-way street. It’s not what you can do for someone else. It’s what you can do for each other.

Monica Valentinelli is an author, artist, and narrative designer who writes about magic, mystery, and mayhem. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.

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