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Taking criticism is key to client relationships -- but know how to push back

In a new Gamasutra feature, freelance audio designer Harry Mack (Braid, Spiral Knights) writes tips for maintaining great client relationships -- and taking criticism is a key part of the process.
In a new Gamasutra feature, freelance audio designer Harry Mack (Braid, Spiral Knights) writes tips for maintaining great client relationships -- and taking criticism is a key part of the process. "Freelance is a tough thing. Ask most people and they'll tell you that they put more time in finding work than actually doing work," writes Mack, who has been freelancing for over a decade. It only gets easier, he writes, when you build up a base of satisfied clients. "It's not just the final soundtrack and soundscape that matters, but the whole process leading to the release of the game that affects the freelancer-client relationship," he writes. One key piece of advice -- which can apply to a contractor in any discipline -- is to know how to take criticism, but also know when to push back. "I've been told that one of my best traits as an audio designer is that I take criticism in a friendly and professional manner. It took a while to get there, as I've always been defensive of things I put time and thought in. Who isn't?" Mack writes. "'The customer is always right' is a phrase everyone knows for a reason: it's true. They are funding and making the game, and likely have a vision for the end product including how it's going to sound." The question is when you should start pushing back. Mack writes that it's about listening much more than it is about confrontation. "Sometimes they just want to feel in charge and 'have a good handle on things.' While it's your audio work that's going in the game, and you want to make sure it's the best it can be, at the heart of it, you want to make sure your client feels confident that they did indeed ship a game with great audio. We can do that by receiving every criticism with attentive professionalism, and ask questions to refine what they are saying. Let them know you're listening," writes Mack. The full feature, in which he discusses a lot of practical considerations any freelancer might want to take into account, is live now on Gamasutra.

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