Read Your Client’s Mind
Clients…can’t work with them, can’t work without them. Literally. What’s best for your client is what’s best for you. You want to provide the best quality service you can and end up with a killer project, and they want to have the best you can offer for their dollar.
Really shouldn’t be that difficult. And yet…Sometimes this is hard to remember when clients are seemingly speaking in tongues over a speakerphone.
When you started, your ideal client was all smiles, bubbling over with excitement. That person has been replaced by their doppelganger full of ridiculous requests and skepticism. Truth be told, you’re probably not the same person they signed a contract with, either. What went so wrong? When did the visions of skipping through fields of daisies holding hands dissolve into an embittered fight to the death?
If you’ve never met your client in person, the doppelganger thing is entirely possible. If that’s the case, cut your losses because they’ll have no memory of receiving any invoices or signing any contracts. You are now free. If, however, somewhere under the passive-aggressive emails is the original client who hired you, you need to figure out what happened and move forward without drawing blood. Maybe you can get the disappearing into the sunset finish you were hoping for next time.
Yes, their idea makes no sense. They’re trying to put the fire out with grease and you’re watching as their kitchen (the project) goes up in flames. You keep trying to tell them why spraying grease everywhere just makes the flames go higher but to no avail. What you missed was that all they have to put the fire out is grease. They don’t know there’s a hose at the house next door.
You knew, but you didn’t know where the disconnect in logic was. As professionals, we often get in our own way, especially if we’re used to having to defend our work. If communication with a client gets a little hairy, take a step back and try to see things from their perspective. They really just wanted something they saw somewhere else, without knowing it might not be the best solution for their problem. It’s our job to understand where they’re coming from and communicate in a way that helps them understand the options they have.
Vet Your Clients
No one knows who you like to work with better than you do. With a little experience, it can be easy to tell which potential clients are trying to get the most out of you for as little money as possible, and which ones are closer to your description of an ideal client. These are the clients who actually respect your work and what you have to bring to the table.
If you’re lucky, most of your clients look like the latter. And many fall somewhere in the middle. These folks you can win over in time. With the very first question, it is up to you to discern whether someone who doesn’t respect what you do is worth the hassle. Sometimes the bills need to be paid, but at least you know what you’re in for. And heaven forbid most of your clients are putting you through the ringer, consider why your business is attracting these kinds of clients in the first place.
If you haven’t been in business that long, ask the clients you like why they came to you. Hopefully, it’s for all good things like the quality of work and style of work or excellent customer service. Take notes and include that feedback in your marketing efforts. You’ll attract clients who want the things you’re great at providing, and you’ll both end up with a great working relationship.
Remember You’re Trying to Help Them
It can be tricky, but a shift in perspective can make a world of difference. At the end of the day, the client is paying you to do something they can’t do for themselves or don’t have time to do. You’re helping them out. Which may escape your mind when you’re reading an email IN ALL CAPS. But it’s true. They need you and don’t know how to effectively communicate what they want.
The funny thing about reading a client’s mind and having a good working relationship is it’s mostly in your hands. There’s an idea that there’s no such thing as a bad client, and I’ve come to believe that’s true. Sure there are some people with not great intentions, but as a professional, it’s up to you to weed those guys out. Beyond that, communicating effectively, stepping into their shoes, and remember you’re here to help can go a very long way.
Every business has clients they love, and clients they don’t. Want to find more clients who fall into the first bucket?