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This blog post about building creative partnerships is a bit different. I’m addressing both sides:

  • [A] Creatives offering their professional services but giving up their right to market their work.
  • [B] Clients who restrict their creative vendors, hindering their growth.

Creatives Caving In

To build a sustainable business, we all need to market your expertise and highlight your contributions to projects. If our work attracts attention, we should be able to promote it, bringing in new clients and generating profits to reinvest in your services. Being overly subservient to clients leads to unhealthy and toxic relationships. When possible, walk away to help maintain the creative community’s ability to negotiate fair and beneficial working relationships.

I’m already in a difficult relationship. How do I fix it?

It’s important to ensure you’re talking to the right people. Sometimes, your current point of contact might not be the best person for these discussions. Middle management might focus on their own goals, such as managing vendors tightly. Instead, seek out real decision-makers who value building strong business relationships and mutual growth. Respectfully ask your point of contact to speak to someone who may be interested in fostering a positive partnership for the long term. Open up about potential conflicts of interest. If the client still skirts around the subject, perhaps you should walk away in the interest of your studio’s sustainability.

At Masonry Studios, we don’t have a perfect solution either. It’s challenging to start these conversations with resistant clients. We have experienced varied levels of success with different companies we’ve worked with. When we sense that they are not ready to take the working relationship further, we choose to back away. If you have better ideas, please let us know. We’re grateful for all our supportive clients who understand and have no issues with us marketing the work we’ve done—they get priority when we have extra resources. It’s a reciprocal relationship, as business should be.

Clients Gatekeeping

Valid reasons (sort of?)

Clients might worry about distractions from vendors, fearing their page will get fewer views if posted simultaneously. This is easily fixed by staggering posts. Successful CGI collaborations, like MVSM with Cornetto, Magnum, MINI, and Apple, show that mutual posting can be beneficial. Gatekeeping CGI vendors makes little sense because the relationship is inherently mutually beneficial.

Blatantly Poor Reasons

Some clients might want to keep vendors to themselves, fearing they’ll help competitors. Trust that vendors won’t share confidential info. Furthermore, it’s in creative companies’ interest to create distinct visual languages for different brands. Ultimately, each brand’s uniqueness should naturally differentiate it. This is the approach we take at Masonry Studios.

Final thoughts

I suspect the reason for gatekeeping is an outdated mentality from the Industrial Ages—the belief that keeping sources secret allows one to maximize their utility. It’s similar to a traditional retailer gatekeeping its supplier. This might work temporarily, but it sours the relationship with the supplier. Or worse, if you snuff your supplier out by accident. This backward, toxic practice does not foster a win-win relationship. I hope this article helps both sides see the benefits of a creative partnership.

Bottomline

Creative professionals, don’t cave in to non-beneficial relationships. Clients, don’t gatekeep your vendors—they need to thrive. This backward, toxic practice does not foster a win-win relationship. I hope this article helps both sides see the benefits of a building a creative partnership.

If you’re a local or regional creative entrepreneur and want to discuss solutions, connect with me on Instagram @ronald_fong Have a great day!

Ronald Fong

Author Ronald Fong

A CGI animation director and educator who blends storytelling prowess with visual finesse, shaping his expertise in the creative realm. From technically-driven 3D animator to founder of Masonry Studios, he navigates challenges, shares insights, and empowers the next generation of creatives through tutorials, talks, and business wisdom.

More posts by Ronald Fong

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