How To Deal With Negative Feedback In Your Creative Business

As amazing as we know you are, (and if you work in the creative industries, you really are) there will be times when your work is called into question. It’s part and parcel of putting your service out into the world and if you’re also producing a bespoke product, then at some point – it will happen.

So, how do you deal with ‘less than positive’ feedback without wanting to hide under the duvet?

Step Away

First of all, you MUST step away from your computer/phone/all devices and get some clarity. Responding to a disappointed client in the heat of the moment won’t end well and you’ll go back to the message later and wish you’d never sent it.

Always leave at least 24 hours before replying (unless it’s a dire emergency) so you have time to formulate a level-headed response.

And then maybe drink gin.

Get Clear

Read through the feedback again and look at what they’re really saying. It’s probably not as bad as you first imagined.

What is it specifically they don’t like?

Has there been a miscommunication?

Do they have realistic expectations?

Have you delivered something which is wildly different from what was expected?

If the feedback isn’t clear then respond first by asking them to get super specific and insist this is sent through email so you have a record of all communication.

Breathe (!)

As hard as it is, avoid sending email or text responses that are fuelled with emotion. Stay away from phrases like:

“This has made me feel”

“You said….”

“I don’t agree”

” I didn’t say that”

“You’re making me feel really….”

Instead, stick to the key facts.

What is the actual problem and how can it be resolved? Show understanding even if you don’t necessarily agree. It’s also worth ‘mirroring’ words that the client has used, for example if they’re telling you that they’re disappointed or frustrated then mirror these words in your response.


” I’m so sorry you are disappointed with…let’s see how we can get this sorted for you”

By acknowledging how they feel you’re showing a level of empathy – this then stops the situation from escalating as they feel reassured that you’re willing to take positive action.

Cool head, warm heart as my Grandpa used to say.

Keep It Light

In our opinion, picking up the phone is always better than bashing out confrontational emails so take the bull by the horns and chat it through. Once you’ve spoken, you’re likely to find the conversation is a little more light hearted.

It might be that you need to go back to the drawing board and look at other options.

It might be that expectations weren’t firmly established.

It might be that what they received just isn’t what they had expected.

Once you’ve had a discussion, make a plan and STICK TO IT. Send your client an email that outlines the path forward but don’t make any false promises. Simply explain how you can rectify the issue and make this as succinct and clear as possible.

It might be that you’re not the right fit and it’s time for the client to be guided elsewhere. It could be that your contract has been breached or their behaviour has become rude and aggressive. If you sense a red flag you’re usually right to go with your instinct and terminate any further action.

Take It On The Chin

It happens very rarely but when we have had to deal with disappointing feedback we can usually always take some sort of lesson from it. Perhaps our contract wasn’t clear enough. Maybe we hadn’t set firm enough boundaries. Had we been transparent enough about what we do and don’t offer?

If you’re creating a bespoke product or experience there will be times when things don’t go to plan. We’re only human but we do need to expect that in service-based industries we will all have to deal with criticism at some stage in our business.

It would be unrealistic to expect otherwise.

Always use the experience to look at what you do and how you do it.

Is there anything you could do differently and are you working with people who really understand what you do?

I hope that this article is helpful should you ever need to refer back (but hopefully you shouldn’t need to come back to it too often!!)

Oh and remember. There’s always alcohol.

Take care and remember you can check in on lots of our other blog posts right here

See you soon!

Hannah and Toby xx

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