clip-fiv-interactivevisualsThis one is for the up and coming Graphic Recorders. I coach Process Professionals on various Outer and Inner Work topics. I have “Graphic Recorders” in my coaching clientele, having been one myself in the early days of my process career (before I transitioned into lead Graphic Facilitation, pioneering the Visual Coaching niche, and mentoring/education). If you are interested in understanding more about the distinctions between Graphic Recording, Graphic Facilitation and other visual ways of working with groups and individuals, see 4 Ways of Working Visually.


I really LOVE coaching up and coming Graphic Recorders, the ‘Marker Mama’ in me comes out. I learned so much in the decade plus Graphic Recording chapter of my career, traveling the globe on various gigs. Those were exciting days! And for the most part, I’ve ‘been there and done that’ where the Graphic Recording lifestyle is concerned.

So its wonderful to pass along my hard earned wisdom and to live vicariously through talented folks coming up in the GR ranks now. And to also protect them from some of the traps so they don’t get taken advantage of (or at least keep it down to reasonable levels so they can quickly learn from their experiences).

Graphic Recording

Graphic Recording


While it can often be fun for us practitioners (when you get into the zone) Graphic Recording is also very HARD WORK … mentally and physically. It’s akin to language interpretation.

Graphic Recorders literally interpret presentations, discussions, dialogues, etc and translate them into condensed ‘knowledge nuggets’ … with accompanying visual imagery (color, shapes and little icons). It’s real-time, just like a language interpreter working at the U.N.   However, unlike language interpreters, Graphic Recorders do not have mandated teaming and carefully managed time segments(15 minutes on, 15 minutes off with team shift rotations). And, this is where some problems for newer (and even more seasoned) Graphic Recorders can happen.

interpreter quote

– excerpt from ‘A Guide to Buying Interpreter Services’.

Studio Work

Studio Work


True Graphic Recording is of the real-time, simultaneous nature that I write of above. Its done in the moment and what you get is what you get. There are no redos.   However, there is a trouble spot in the Graphic Recording arena at times (with client’s expectations and/or with their desires). And that is the dividing line between Graphic Recording and one of its close cousins, Studio or Chart Work.

Studio/Chart work, unlike recording, is much more organized and structured … its not done simultaneously with process work.   Instead it’s done after or before the crowd arrives. When the practitioner has time to read through pre-gathered content and design how to best visually present that information.


Now back to the Graphic Recorder and her contract learning curve. One of my clients is a super talented and super hard working Graphic Recorder however she also unfortunately has a super case of adrenal fatigue that she’s learning to manage (and hopefully undo). While this condition is a complicated one, brought on by many factors, I KNOW that one of the factors has been how she has been handling (or more accurately, not handling) some of her client interactions.

Take one of her clients … a super intelligent, driven, and connected consultant, with multi-member teams.   Who does excellent, high-end, impressive work. He loves Graphic Recorders and works with many of them (yah!). However he also, as is the nature of that kind of work at times, operates under rapidly changing circumstances. Hence is often guilty of ‘contract creep’, i.e. he asks for things outside of the scope of the original contract and sometimes what he asks for is a Herculean feat (i.e. pulling an all-nighter to translate raw facilitation data into a gorgeous custom studio piece to be used the next morning).


Stethoscope ClipartIn previous gigs with this client (and with some of her other clients too) this Graphic Recorder aimed to please, but unfortunately that pleasing landed her on her butt (literally).

I hooked her up with a wonderful Health Coach colleague of mine and together, with an Integrative MD, they are working on her condition from the health, nutrition and internal chemistry angle.

However my job, as her Business and Life Coach, was to get her to examine and improve her working practices. The ones that needed the most tweaking were her contracting and negotiation skills. In her first interactions with this client she made the mistake, which newer Graphic Recorders sometimes do, of not working with a written contract. She has been referred to this client by another Graphic Recorder and was thrilled to get the work. And was quickly swept into planning discussions for an event.

contractThe planning discussions kept happening but she never did take my recommended step of writing down how she perceived her role dovetailing with the proposed agenda and what services she would be providing (especially clarifying the level of finished product that was expected … as it Graphic Recording quality or was it actually more along the lines of Studio Work quality) – and running that written summary past her client for approval and signature.

Instead she made a verbal agreement about what she would get paid. Long story short, she worked 6 extra days, including some overnights, and did not get compensated (her choice, she didn’t want to be perceived as going back on her word, even though what she did versus what was verbally contracted for were quite different, at least from her perspective).

However, I’m happy to report that, through that experience, she deeply learned the necessity of written contracts. Nothing like working six extra days to drive that point home – ouch! We all sometimes learn through the school of hard knocks, I know I have learned some of my best visceral lessons that way.

Thankfully she used a written contract their next engagement, with MUCH better results.   Not that clients are something to be protected from, that isn’t my message. But even the best of clients often have seas change on them. Or are interpreting our work differently than we do.

When seas change on your client and they want something different than originally contracted for, my guidance is to quickly lay out which alternative approaches you are pleased to offer (and their associated times and price tags) so your client can make an informed decision about which option they want to go with. In essence, “I’d be happy to do that, and it will take xxxx amount of my time beyond our original contract, resulting in an xxxx fee. I could also do xxxx and xxxx. Or xxxx.   Which would you prefer?” Be helpful, but please, do not shoulder the costs of their sea change onto your own back … or you run the risk of hurting your health too.

Now, go out there and have fun with your markers … with a good contract!

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P.S. Graphic Recorder (or wanna be)? Need help navigating the territory of developing your skills and building/refining your practice?  Check out Private Coaching Sessions (distance options now available through web conferencing and tablet recording).

P.P.S. This topic of contracts and negotiations is covered in my upcoming new info product: Biz Essentials for Process Professionals. Stay tuned, next week we’re launching this Home Study Kit, plus there will be a one-time 20% off Launch Sale!

© 2014 Christina L. Merkley

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Christina Merkley, “The SHIFT-IT Coach” is a Visioning and Strategic Planning Expert specializing in Visual Thinking and Emotional Alignment techniques. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she works deeply with individuals, partners and conscious businesses to define and manifest what they truly want. And, trains other Process Professionals in her innovative ways of working. For more information visit: and


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