What do you do when a project goes wrong?

By Justine Clay


If there’s one thing I’ve learned being a creative agent is that it’s not about getting the job, but about making the perfect match between client and creative.  Creative magic happens when the client’s vision and goals are perfectly aligned with the unique skill or services you offer and that shared vision is a key factor to the success of a project.  But life isn’t always perfect and sometimes we find ourselves working on a project where disconnect or miscommunication can de-rail the job, not to mention our confidence.

So what do you do if you find yourself in this situation? First of all, know that it happens to everyone.  Secondly, do everything that you can to ensure that both you and the client walk away feeling good (or as good as possible) about the collaboration.

Here are a few tips:

1) Don’t beat yourself up about it
Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s very easy to dwell on what you could have done differently and imagine all of the possible disastrous outcomes (the client bad mouthing you and you never working again etc. etc.)   Keep everything in perspective, which leads me to point 2.

2) Be objective
It’s very easy to become defensive and emotional in these situations, so make a conscious choice to take your ego and emotions out of it.  Look at the facts – what went wrong and what solutions you can offer to get things back on track.

3) Acknowledge the problem to your client
Just by acknowledging the fact that things have gone a bit pear shaped and hearing your client out can stop a potentially contentious situation from escalating. Listen to them and offer constructive ideas.

4) Be proactive
Don’t wait for the client to come up with a solution.  Have an action plan (or 2) of how you can remedy the situation.  Clients don’t want excuses, they want solutions.

5) Don’t take it personally if the project gets killed

Some situations can’t be fixed and it’s better that the project gets killed.  It’s a bummer, but try not to take it personally.  No one has a 100% success rate.

I know it’s hard to not let these set backs bother you, but remember what your mother used to say – ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.  Learn from the situation and move on knowing you’ll be a better creative because of it.