You know when someone questions one of your decisions, and you smile and nod politely, but in your head you're all,
“I DON'T NEED TO JUSTIFY MY DECISIONS TO YOU! WHO ARE YOU? OF COURSE YOU WOULDN'T SUPPORT MY DECISION, PERSON WHO HAS NEVER DONE ANYTHING, EVER. WHAT WOULD YOU KNOW? YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE A BLOG.”
(Do you see me winking at all you people on the internet with blogs?)
While you don't necessarily need to justify your decisions to most people in this world—save mustachioed bill collectors and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat—there is one person you should always justify your decisions to:
Not because they don't trust you. Not because you're apologizing for anything. But for one reason, and one reason only:
Genius isn't always obvious.
Most creatives, when submitting their work to the client, assume the client will see the genius. And while you may have spent 2900 hours designing the world's most clever logo that oh-so-subtly changes colors in the sun, and, when slanted at a 89.9% angle reveals a secret code with the latitude and longitude coordinates of the ACTUAL Fountain of Youth (hint: it's a vineyard)—you know what your client sees?
Something they could have made in Word.
And this is why it's helpful to walk your client through the decision making process—whether it's something you designed, something you wrote, something you said, a photograph you edited, a suggestion you made, an assignment you gave, or something else.
Because you might have a very scientific, smarty pants explanation for why you deliberately chose the word “could” over “should”—but if you don't provide a creative brief outlining these types of very smart decisions:
1. The effort you've put into something won't be recognized.
2. Your client won't be as impressed as you hoped.
3. And you'll get lots of pushback you won't understand.
When I write copy, I'm literally (and very humbly) able to highlight any given word on the page and provide a strategic explanation for why that word is there. When I do corporate work, I actually do provide that level of detail in an explanation section labeled, “Line-by-line analysis.” And my clients trust me because of it. They understand the strategy behind the words. They start to look at each word as an independent tool that complements their business objectives and their brand, in just the right way—and not just “some copy.” And ultimately, they look to me to call the shots. In turn, I'm able to serve in a greater capacity, and have a greater impact on a project. Which is hella cool once you start getting some big brand names under your belt. (I was about to suggest we bring back the phrase hella cool, except I'm still cringing, so we should probably move on.)
Get in the practice of documenting your own thought processes as you work, so you can communicate those later, and you'll not only show the client you know what you're talking about—you'll gain a lot of useful insight into your own genius.
Your client, after all, is paying you to do something they can't.
And when you justify your decision-making process,
…they're reminded of why.