kind of transparency allows for clearly defined negotiations and a fluid work relationship
rather than second-guessing the clients’ needs. This is not merely communicating but also
mutually coordinating their actions to allow for meetings, discussions, planning and other
activities that allow for the production of a creative product. Mutual coordination is a
participatory construct that “is not a matter of simply ‘decoding’ the meaning of others’
actions. Rather, it is a matter of coordinating actions with them” (Gergen, Schrader &
Gergen, 2009, p. 247) as illustrated, in the example above, by Steven and Gary in Ohio
Knitting Mills project.
In a short-lived work relationship, individuals do not have a lot of time to discover what
works best in terms of having a fully engaged participatory experience especially if the work
is done at a distance. When the freelancer is invited in to the culture, they enter as a visitor
with the potential to be invited back again. This requires more than just experience and
delivering the creative goods; the freelancer must have an antenna to quickly assess the
situation along with highly attuned relational feelers to flexibly respond as Carol, a
It’s learning to feel your clients out. This is a perfect example. I have a very large
client who shall remain nameless. All these other people who are on the job say
she’s the ‘dragon lady’ awful – such a bitch. She’s a brand marketing person. They
are notoriously persnickety because guess what – that’s their job to protect the
brand. They’re strategists and the brand police will come smack you if you do
something outside the guidelines. Well, I figured that out in no time at all that this
woman wanted was for people to not pull shit over on her. She wanted to be in
the information loop and know what was going on. At five o’clock every day, I would
send her a little email letting her know what went on for the day.
Carol figured out what the client needed and it was to be informed so she could do her job.
This is the “mutual coordination” required in any successful relationship. It is not being a
pleaser but truly understanding her role in providing a creative service as Carol notes, “A
lot of time creative directors don’t want people to know too much because they don’t want
them to change their idea. My attitude is that it’s their video – not my video.” There is a
suspension of judgment concerning right or wrong actions and more about coordinating
with what the client needs.
Bill Cavanaugh, an audio engineer, is quick to point out that sometimes mutual
coordination can be as simple as making sure you are speaking the same language: