Working with Clients, Large and Small - C.C. Chapman17:53 with Dan Gorgone
In this interview, author C.C. Chapman discusses his experience working with clients - including Coca-Cola, American Eagle Outfitters, and HBO - and how preparation and professionalism can improve your relationship with clients and lead to future work.
[? music playing ?] 0:00 Hey everyone! 0:05 Welcome back to Treehouse Friends. 0:06 I'm Dan Gorgone, the Marketing and Business teacher at Treehouse, 0:08 and we're joined today by author, C.C. Chapman. 0:11 C.C., thanks for coming, man. 0:14 Psyched to be here. 0:15 All right. C.C. is an author of a couple books, 0:15 "Content Rules" and "Amazing Things Will Happen." 0:18 He's worked with some huge clients around the world— 0:21 talking about HBO, Coca-Cola, 0:24 American Eagle, Country Music Television, right? 0:26 Yep. 0:29 In addition to a whole bunch more. 0:30 What we want to talk about today is your experience with your own companies— 0:34 Okay. 0:39 —and with these big companies, as well. 0:40 So can you tell us, how did you get started in this industry? 0:42 Well nobody told me I couldn't do it. 0:45 I was working at a college doing digital marketing and decided 0:48 that I wanted to move on to something else. 0:52 A friend of mine was starting and agency and said, "Well come work for me." 0:54 It was a small, 9-person shop. 0:57 This was at the height of social media, 0:59 and we did a lot of virtual world projects. 1:02 One of the biggest projects I ever did that I'm still very proud of is we brought 1:05 Coco-Cola into Second Life back in the day— 1:08 the Virtual Thirst project. 1:10 After a little while, I realized—you know what—I want to start my own agency. 1:12 So a friend of mine got together, and we started The Advance Guard 1:16 and just started doing it— 1:19 working with clients and doing projects that we believed in, 1:20 both from a creative standpoint but also a strategic standpoint, 1:24 and we just kept doing it. 1:28 It was one of those things where we were determined that we had the skills 1:29 and the knowledge to do it, so we started doing it. 1:33 No one—I have a computer background—a CIS degree. 1:36 I don't have a marketing degree, 1:40 but I knew enough about the industry. 1:41 I taught myself. 1:43 We had done years of indie filmmaking and Guerrilla stuff. 1:44 So I'd done it before. 1:48 No one said I couldn't. >>Right. 1:51 That's what I always answer with. 1:52 And is that something that you hear from other entrepreneurs out there— 1:53 that when they reach that point, 1:58 and certainly it's a tipping point for some people— 2:01 Uh-hunh (affirmative). 2:03 —where they're working for someone else 2:04 and then they decide that they're going to work for themselves. 2:06 >>Yeah. 2:08 What was it specifically that really pushed you where you said, 2:09 "I'm not gonna do this anymore. I'm gonna be my own boss." 2:15 What it really boiled down to—at least for me— 2:18 was I was working with great people, 2:20 we were doing great work, 2:23 but what it came down to me was 2:24 we got to a point where I had a different business take on things— 2:26 a different approach to whether it was getting clients 2:30 or the way we went after new hires— 2:32 everything—I just had a different approach to it. 2:35 The tipping point for me specifically was actually our agency was struggling. 2:36 We were to a point where we were tight on cash and everything, 2:42 and for me—I said, 2:45 "You know what, if I'm gonna starve, 2:46 I want to be the one responsible for the hunting." 2:47 Basically I want to starve on my own terms. 2:50 I didn't want to have to depend on anybody else. 2:51 That for me was the moment where I said, 2:53 "All right. I'm going to take the jump and do it." 2:55 It was scary. 2:57 I didn't know what was— 2:58 6 months from then I could have been in a really bad place. 2:59 But I was determined to hustle and work really hard to make it happen. 3:02 Uh-hunh (affirmative). 3:07 A lot of our members are designers— 3:08 Uh-hunh (affirmative). 3:10 —and developers. 3:10 They are out there freelancing— 3:12 >>Yes. 3:14 —consulting. 3:15 They're starting their own business or they're working with others— 3:15 >>Yeah. 3:19 —on their own—just like you're talking about. 3:19 One of those huge struggles is finding clients. 3:21 Yeah. 3:24 So what was the experience like when you broke out on your own 3:25 and had to get clients, 3:29 and what are some of the tips that you can give to our members? 3:31 It's my least favorite part of doing business. 3:35 It really is. 3:37 Uh-hunh (affirmative. 3:38 I am not a salesman. 3:38 I don't enjoy that part of it. 3:40 I really don't. 3:41 I enjoy doing the work. 3:42 Thankfully, I had partners who enjoyed that part. 3:43 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 3:46 What it really boils down to, especially in today's world as a freelancer, 3:46 is make sure your work is as good as possible because old-fashioned 3:51 word-of-mouth is still the best way to find clients. 3:55 When somebody says, "Hey, I'm looking—I need a designer." 3:58 "I'm looking for a developer." 4:02 You want to be the top of mind to as many people as possible. 4:03 Right. 4:06 So where that plays in—you can't work with everybody. 4:06 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 4:09 But you can—whether it's building a blog 4:10 or whether it's being out at events, 4:12 the more people you know, 4:15 the bigger your network who know your work— 4:15 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 4:17 —the easier it will be. 4:18 But then again, you have to get out there and hustle. 4:19 Put yourself out there. 4:22 Look for people talking about needing work or 4:23 if you see a site that you don't enjoy or you think could be made better, 4:26 go up to the people and approach them. 4:30 Say "Hey, have you ever thought about this?" 4:32 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 4:33 It's gonna be a lot of doors being slammed in your face sometimes. 4:33 Yep. 4:38 It's not knocking on doors anymore. 4:38 It's sending an email. 4:39 It's not that hard. 4:40 Don't be afraid. 4:41 Don't be nervous. 4:41 The only way you get better at it is doing it. 4:42 Like anything else—you have to keep doing it, keep doing it. 4:46 I'm still working on getting better at it. 4:48 Well you've worked with all kinds of different clients— 4:51 >>Yeah. 4:54 —big ones and small ones— 4:55 >>Yeah. 4:57 —and everyone in between. 4:57 From what I've heard from a lot of people, 4:59 and I've worked with clients, as well, 5:01 is that 2 of the things that really make a huge difference are professionalism 5:04 and preparation. 5:09 Yeah. 5:11 When we think about working with clients, 5:12 if we're not doing those things, 5:15 we're really delivering just kind of a lousy experience. 5:16 >>Yeah. 5:21 We're not doing the best that we can do. 5:22 What can you say about professionalism and preparation? 5:23 The thing I always talk about— 5:27 I borrow a phrase from this CEO—Jason of GORUG, 5:28 who always talks about under-promise and over-deliver. 5:32 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 5:34 If it goes the other way, you're in trouble. 5:35 But—yeah—being professional is critical. 5:37 That's not—it doesn't mean you have to be in 5:39 a 3-piece-suit all the time and carrying a briefcase. 5:41 It's just conducting yourself in a professional manner— 5:43 responding to inquiries in a rapid pace, 5:45 delivering a project plan that makes sense. 5:49 hitting your milestones, 5:52 doing things—simple things like that. 5:53 Even—I see it a lot with design and development 5:55 because I hire web designers 5:57 to do projects for me. 5:58 The real professional ones will say, 6:00 "Well here's the timeline." 6:01 "Here's things I'm going to need from you," so I know what's expected of me. 6:03 That's critical because it is hard, especially in today's world, 6:07 where there are a million freelancers out there right now doing what you do. 6:11 You might do it better, but how do I know? 6:15 Everybody's got a website. 6:18 Everybody says they do all this great stuff. 6:19 Everybody has that great client list— 6:21 >>Right. 6:22 —they say they've done great work for. 6:23 But how do you actually know? 6:23 It's really quickly—especially if it's just over email— 6:26 you've got to be—that's hard to— 6:29 Uh-hunh (affirmative). 6:31 —the professionalism. 6:32 If all the sudden they say, "Hey, can we get on Skype and talk," 6:33 which is what I usually do before I hire anybody. 6:35 You can instantly tell—the professionalism quickly— 6:38 if I'm talking to you and you're in a Starbucks yelling and screaming— 6:40 >>Yeah. 6:44 —there's nothing with that— 6:44 but be careful about it. 6:45 Yep. 6:47 You mentioned a few things that can really set some of these people apart. 6:48 Designers and developers know that— 6:52 they're all kind of fighting over those same SEO— 6:56 Yeah. 6:59 —keywords. 6:59 Yeah. 7:00 When people are searching for best designer in this town— 7:00 >>Yeah. 7:04 —or best developer or this particular type of project that clients are looking for. 7:05 It's kind of—you need something that is 7:08 going to set you apart from all the fish in the sea. 7:12 When it comes to pitching big clients— 7:16 Yeah. 7:21 —and approaching those. 7:21 We can do stuff for our friends and family 7:23 Right. Right. 7:25 —and the guy down the street. 7:26 But when it comes to Coca-Cola or HBO 7:27 Yeah. 7:31 —or those guys— 7:32 how do you even get close to those guys? 7:32 How do you pitch them? 7:35 How do you get involved with them? 7:36 My best advice, especially for your audience 7:37 is HBO or Coke are never going to go to a freelancer. 7:40 They're just not going to. 7:44 >>Right. 7:45 What they're going to do is they're going to have their— 7:45 their agency is going to come to freelancers. 7:46 What's tricky about that—because the bigger the company the more agencies 7:50 they probably have. 7:55 In today's world, even sometimes— 7:56 this is going to sound so crazy. 7:57 But they'll have a traditional media agency, a digital media agency, 7:59 sometimes a social agency. 8:02 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 8:04 I still don't get why they have all them, but it's true. 8:05 So getting to know the agencies in your community is critical because 8:07 they're the ones who are going to land the clients. 8:12 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 8:14 Whenever I do work today because now I'm a freelancer— 8:14 I do it through agencies. 8:18 Very rarely will a company bring me in directly. 8:20 So getting to know those agencies is a very important step because if they— 8:22 especially—at least I know from my agency days— 8:27 once you're in with an agency, 8:29 if you're delivering really good work, 8:31 >>Yeah. 8:32 they'll come back to you. 8:33 They'll be like, "Hey, so-and-so did that project for us." 8:33 "Let's go back to him or her and bring them in again"— 8:35 because it's easier than trying to find somebody new. 8:37 Uh-hunh (affirmative). 8:40 So if you get into those— 8:41 start going to those networking or look for agencies. 8:42 Every city in the world has agencies—even small towns now have agencies. 8:43 Find them and get to know them because it's a great way to get in— 8:47 because they'll deal with all the red tape. 8:51 They'll just hire you for—"I need your skill-set for this." >>Right. 8:52 "Go." 8:55 If you can get in, you're golden. 8:57 So working with big clients— 8:59 what are the expectations like when you're working with big clients because— 9:02 big clients/small clients—there's definitely an expectation from them for you 9:05 on what you should be delivering. 9:11 Right. 9:13 I can imagine with some of the big clients, 9:14 you're talking about timelines that could 9:16 be much longer or much more in 9:18 advance of whatever this particular project will launch. 9:21 Right. 9:24 What are the differences between the bigger and smaller projects and their 9:24 expectations of someone that's coming in. 9:28 It's an interesting question because it depends on the client, of course. 9:30 Obviously, it depends. 9:34 Uh-hunh (affirmative). 9:35 But when you're dealing with a half-million dollar budget on a project, 9:35 you can be sure they're paying close attention. 9:39 That timeline is critical. 9:41 A lot of my background was in entertainment projects. 9:43 So whether it was launching True Blood for HBO or doing a Shark Week project— 9:46 we had a very finite— 9:51 we're doing this 6 to 8 weeks. 9:52 This project—it's happening. 9:54 The show is premiering. 9:56 You don't have any—you know— 9:56 Yeah. 9:58 scope creep is going to happen, and you can't escape it. 9:58 How are going to deliver? 10:01 So it's very—the level—the bar is raised. 10:02 You've got to really step up your game. 10:07 The other thing, too, is realize that sometimes with bigger clients— 10:08 one of the downfalls or the troubles with it 10:12 is they've got more red tape. 10:15 They've got more lawyers. 10:16 There's more departments that have to approve. 10:18 If you're working with a smaller start-up— 10:19 Uh-hunh. 10:21 —or a non-profit or something, 10:21 they don't usually have that many hoops to jump through. 10:23 You know who to call to get the answer. 10:25 The biggest drawback, especially on things like design and development, 10:28 is there's usually more people that need to say, 10:32 "Yes, that looks right,"— 10:34 Right. 10:36 —with a bigger company. 10:36 So, thus, you've got to be ready for that timeline of that approval that you asked 10:36 to have done in 2 days ends up taking 5. 10:41 Of course, that pushes off—that's why having a good project manager 10:44 or having those good project management skills— 10:47 >>Yeah. 10:49 —is critical with working with a bigger client. 10:50 So in your personal experience— 10:52 >>Okay. 10:55 —do you have a preference? 10:56 Bigger clients? 10:58 Smaller clients? 10:58 I know—I mean bigger risk, bigger reward. 10:59 Ugh— 11:01 But I know there's a lot that you like about working with those smaller companies— 11:02 people just getting started— 11:08 Yeah. 11:09 —or kind of a more intimate relationship you can have with them. 11:10 Do you have a preference? 11:13 It goes back and forth. 11:14 Don't get me wrong. 11:15 We all love having those big clients on our resume. 11:15 It's hot to say big client X. 11:17 That feels good, plus it's good. 11:20 It's good for your business. 11:22 >>Yeah. 11:22 Plus—I'll answer it this way. 11:23 I prefer to work with a company who's willing to do the project right. 11:26 I don't care if they're big or little. 11:30 I've worked with them both where they say, 11:32 "I'm paying you to do this." 11:34 You say, "This is how it's done." 11:35 They actually listen. 11:36 Sometimes they don't. 11:37 Even though they pay you, they're like, 11:38 "No. No. We're going to do it this way." 11:39 That drives me nuts. 11:41 But I do love—you know, I've got a passion for the non-profit sector— 11:43 for the education— 11:47 for the little start-up that's trying to save the world. 11:48 Those hungry—if the company is hungry to do that project, 11:50 those are the ones I love doing it for. 11:53 There's less headaches, and they're willing to let you do that stuff. 11:55 Then on the flip-side, I remember working with Coke, 11:59 which is the biggest brand in the world. 12:01 We were, thankfully—the department we were working with was willing to 12:02 let us do what we wanted to and innovate. 12:06 It was really—I'm still friends years later with the manager, 12:07 who is no longer at Coke. 12:11 But we're still good friends because we built that friendship. 12:12 Anytime you can get to that level—that takes time. 12:16 But if you can work with a client who actually puts some trust in you, 12:18 and that takes a lot of back and forth, 12:21 and you've got to earn that trust, 12:24 especially when you're talking about big checks coming your way. 12:25 You've got to balance that out. 12:28 Yeah. 12:28 That was going to be my next question, too. 12:29 >>Oh. 12:31 How do you maintain that relationship? 12:31 Because I know if you hook a big fish, right— 12:33 >>Yeah. 12:37 And you successfully complete a project, 12:37 the idea is if we do one project well, 12:40 maybe we can do some more. 12:44 I mean—we can do some— 12:45 Yeah. 12:45 You know—go bigger budget, bigger project. 12:46 But is the relationship really the more important—kind of the more powerful? 12:48 >>It's crucial. 12:54 It's crucial. 12:55 Face it. 12:56 No matter who it is. 12:56 Nobody works for the same company forever. 12:57 >>Right. 12:59 Fifty years ago you worked—our parents worked at one company their whole life. 13:00 Today whoever you're working with is going to go some place else. 13:03 The other thing, too, is—related to this— 13:06 it's not just the person you're working directly with. 13:09 It's all those underlings, as well. 13:11 There's been people who have been interns on projects 13:12 who later go on to launch their own companies. 13:15 >>Oh, right. Yeah. 13:17 Stay in touch with everybody. 13:18 Send an email once in a while. 13:19 Say hello. 13:21 "Hey, just checking in." 13:22 You know—I go to events. 13:24 I see people— 13:25 "Hey, what are you working on?" 13:26 Stay in touch because you never know 13:27 when that person is going to come back and say, 13:28 "Oh, you're still doing that?" 13:30 "Oh, I didn't know that." 13:31 Plus, it still happens to this day, especially in the design and development field, 13:33 people are going to ask about— 13:37 "Hey, who do you use?" 13:39 "Who did your website?" 13:40 I do it all the time. 13:41 I don't—I have people I stay in touch with, but recently I was looking 13:41 for a new web design, and I actually asked my friends. 13:45 I put it out there. 13:48 I said, "Hey, who are you using?" 13:49 I had a bunch of —relationships are crucial. 13:51 Keep those up. 13:54 Don't just do the project and then run away. 13:55 Even if it goes bad, stay in touch. 13:58 It's a little different approach, but stay in touch with— 14:00 Yeah. 14:03 —everybody. 14:03 So for those people out there—whether they be designers or developers 14:04 or really anyone that has considered staring their own business. 14:08 >>Yeah. 14:12 You've been through this a few times. 14:13 >>Yeah. 14:15 What kind of words of advice do you have? 14:15 Is there like one thing that you wish you could have told yourself 14:19 the first time you started a business or 14:21 is there just one thing that if you don't do this you are just going to be— 14:23 Yeah. 14:27 >>—in for trouble. 14:28 I guess figure out what it is you like doing—actually, worse—better— 14:29 figure out what you don't like doing. 14:34 >>Okay. 14:36 Like me, I hate the numbers. 14:36 I hate them. 14:37 I hate Excel spreadsheets. 14:38 Thankfully, my—find a business partner. 14:40 Find someone to work with you who likes those things. 14:42 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 14:44 It's crucial because there's going to be things you just don't like doing. 14:45 Starting a business is hard. 14:48 It's long hours. 14:50 It's lots of hustling. 14:51 It's a lot of work. 14:52 So figure out what you don't like doing. 14:53 Then on the flip-side, too. 14:55 Be ready for growth and realize that growth is the scariest thing. 14:57 Because to grow you have to spend money. 15:01 You start hiring people. 15:03 Uh-hunh (affirmative). 15:04 You're like, "Whoa! We've got to protect our bank—." 15:05 It's—that's the scariest part. 15:07 The first time we did that was the scariest move ever. 15:08 I don't think people realize just how scary. 15:11 It sounds exciting. 15:13 "Ooh, we're hiring people." 15:14 Uh-hunh. 15:15 But that brings all kinds of new taxes. 15:16 Yeah. 15:19 Finally, make sure you have a good lawyer and a good accountant. 15:19 You cannot go wrong. 15:22 Make your lawyer and your accountant your best friends in the world. 15:23 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 15:26 Because they're the ones that are going to keep you out of jail. 15:27 It'll keep you out of trouble and headaches. 15:29 >>Yeah. 15:31 So make sure you have a good one of both of those. 15:31 You recently started a new company— 15:33 >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 15:36 —the end of last year—The Cleon Foundation. 15:36 >>Yeah. 15:39 I know that this is a much more personal 15:39 >>Yeah. 15:42 —sort of mission for you. 15:42 Can you tell us about the Cleon Foundation, why you started it, 15:44 and what your hopes are? 15:47 Yeah. 15:48 The Cleon Foundation is a company— 15:48 we're focused on making the world a better place through creativity. 15:51 It's a big goal. >>Uh-hunh (affirmative). 15:54 But what I want to do is—I realize that companies of all sizes 15:55 need to be socially responsible. 15:59 They need to give back to their communities and the world around them. 16:01 So The Cleon Foundation's goal is to go into companies and teach them, 16:03 motivate them, and figure out what works for them. 16:08 So going into big companies and developing a social responsibility 16:11 program for them—a social good program for them. 16:14 But then on the flip-side, working with those small non-profits who are— 16:17 whether it's a solar company, 16:20 or a BioLite stove— 16:22 people making the world a better place. 16:24 Going to—I went to Guyana last year with The ONE campaign. 16:26 I saw poverty to a level I'd never seen, 16:30 but I also saw amazing opportunities out there in the world where little changes, 16:33 whether it's getting sustainable energy, 16:37 whether it's getting better vaccines and global healthcare— 16:39 whatever it is— 16:42 there's all these things going on. 16:43 So I wanted to start a— 16:44 I debated— 16:45 do I call it—is a non-profit, is it a company? 16:46 Enough people said, "C.C., no, no, no." 16:48 "Make it a company so people can hire you to help them make the world a better place." 16:50 It's exciting. 16:55 It's only a couple months in, 16:56 and I'm just starting. 16:57 We'll see where it goes. 16:58 But I'm determined to make it work. 17:00 I named it after my grandfather. 17:02 My wife—when I started it—she said, 17:03 "Is this another 2-year project, 3-year project? What is this?"— 17:06 having been through this before. 17:08 I said, "No, no. no. This is the legacy." 17:10 So I have to make it work. 17:12 I'm excited about it. 17:13 Nice. 17:15 So how can we follow you? 17:15 How can we follow The Cleon Foundation— 17:17 Sure. 17:19 learn about what you're doing? 17:19 The easiest place is cc-chapman.com. 17:20 That's where I am online. 17:23 There's links to everything there. 17:25 It's cleonfoundation.com. 17:26 It's C-L-E-O-N—foundation.com. 17:28 But cc-chapman.com is the easy way or cc_chapman on Twitter. 17:30 All right. 17:33 Very cool. 17:34 Thanks for coming, man. 17:35 Thanks for having me. 17:35 Thank you. 17:36 Author C.C. Chapman, author of "Amazing Things Will Happen" 17:37 and founder of The Cleon Foundation. 17:40 Thanks for joining us once again here on Treehouse Friends. 17:42 See ya next time. 17:45 [? music playing ?] 17:46
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