8 Steps to Establishing Professional Boundaries with VIP Clients.Mar 30, 2022
Getting paid in excess of $500 a day to apply makeup, style hair, shop for clothes and paint nails on the set of a film, TV show, magazine shoot or print ad is considered pretty glamorous. Yet, some freelance artists get confused about their job description, and are challenged with setting boundaries when it comes to working with VIP’s.
Boundaries define the limits and responsibilities of the people with whom we interact. Without these guidelines for behavior––on both sides of the fence (client/artist), over time––artists can experience disrespectful behavior, bullying and threats. All of which can lead to depression, low morale and a loss of confidence. So how can we get out in front of this catastrophe?
Establishing and maintaining a proper business relationship with VIP clients is crucial to a long-term respectful working relationship. Working with celebrities, politicians and corporate executives can be a blast as long as you preserve your professional boundaries. No matter how many times a celebrity, well-known photographer, director or politician specifically requests you for a job, you must not confuse a good working relationship with a real friendship. Always remember, this is your client––not your friend.
Not to say that these business relationships never turn into friendships––sometimes they do, but it’s rare and artists often mistake invitations to hang out as––now we’re best buds. Be careful.
This business is fickle and competitive. Getting too relaxed with your VIP client and assuming that you are a shoe in for the next big gig is one of the quickest ways to get your feelings hurt. Entertainers and their handlers are being propositioned every day by other freelance artists who want to work with them.
Angelina Jolie, Hugh Grant, Cameron Diaz and the First Lady––Michelle Obama may very well have your home number, spend hours with you shopping, lunching, and talking fashion. However, the first time they get some bad press on social media about the color of lipstick you chose, the fact that their foundation color was different from their neck, some syndicated beauty columnist says that their slicked back pony tail is sooo 15 minutes ago, or the dress you picked out for them was being worn by some other celeb at the same event, you could be out with the next change of seasons.
So, what can you do to maintain that professional balance?
- “Don't take things too personally` because it will affect your work, and your vibe with the client,” says a New York agent. “Just because a VIP likes you, doesn’t mean you are promised the next job. They have a lot going on, and ‘looking out for you’ is not their priority. This is why it’s important to keep your professionalism and a positive attitude.”
- Don’t try to hang out with VIPs in a social setting unless you're invited. Just because you spent the last five days working with Rhianna on her latest music video, doesn't mean she wants you at her Moms house for their 4th of July barbeque. If, after an awesome day of styling Taylor Swift, she and her pal Selena Gomez are going to dinner, don't suggest that perhaps you could meet them to hang out.
- Don’t start acting like the VIP. An LA based fashion stylist, says, "Hearing all day long how wonderful you are and what a great job you're doing, doesn’t guarantee anything––accept the compliments. Don’t get caught up––you still have work to do. It’s GREAT work that guarantees your next gig.”
- Maintain your sexy. Don’t get too chummy with your celebrity clients. Dropping everything you’re doing and running over to Halle Berry’s house to do her hair for $150 when you’ve been getting booked for $2500/day sends the wrong signal and bypasses every boundary you or your agent set up. Furthermore, being busy, having other clients and working on other things is part of the allure of working with you. There’s no downside to being unavailable.
- Don’t gossip. One of the worst things that you can do is to blab about something you’ve seen, suspect, or been sworn to secrecy about.
- Put yourself out there in a professional way. "Artists must put themselves out there at parties and events in order to get noticed,” says an LA based agent, “However, it’s important to remember why you're doing it––to get work. Standing on a table at an industry event with a beer in your hand shouting f-bombs is not the kind of attention that gets you booked on a $1500 a day gig.” This business is small and judgmental. Negative news travels ten times faster than good news.
- Be a pro. Bring new ideas. Stay hungry and be about your business. If you don’t make time to do research, you won’t know what’s hot and what’s not. Even if the VIP or their publicist isn’t interested in taking advantage of your newest find, they’ll remember that you brought it to them first which can make the person trying to get your job obsolete.
- Understand the chain of command. Don’t think that if the publicist is the one who gifted you the relationship with the VIP, that you’re now such good friends with VIP that you can cut the publicist out of the mix. You need that publicist. They have more clients to give you, but you will have to keep them in the loop. Make them feel important and you could have a supporter for life.
There is a fine line you’ll need to walk with your celebrity clients, but the basic tenets remain the same. If you stay on top of your craft, work smart, and establish boundaries––you'll have longevity in this business, a lot of fun, and have more success than you ever dreamed of!
Stay connected to Crystal Wright for strategy and tips to help you build your freelance business.
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