So, it turns out, clients are humans too.
A revelation, I know.
They have fears and failings and shortcomings just like the rest of us. And we have ALL been on the receiving end of an angry email from a disappointed client that makes us want to run and hide.
That said, they gave you money because they want you to lead them through rough waters that they don’t understand. They want you to have the power. And they want you to do great work for them. That position of leadership comes with responsibilities. Responsibilities that I see business owners ignoring completely all the time. The result? Angry clients. Crazy clients. Wrong clients. Facebook ranting.
When you fall short in this leadership role, you create a power vacuum. Which the client will grab a hold of [because it’s their money]. Which is essentially like you saying to them, “Here is this loaded weapon that I half-built for you. Please tell me all the ways you think I should finish it, even though you have no idea how to do so – which is why you hired me in the first place.”
When a client tries to lead, you both end up on your heels. And that imbalance and discomfort will lead to aaaaallll kinds of ick.
If you take their money, you owe them more than just the thing they are paying you for. You owe them a positive experience.
But here’s the revelation…
95% of negative client interactions can be avoided altogether if you just got your shit together 5% more.
Here’s how you avoid turning your clients into tantrum-throwing toddlers:
1. Put yourself in your clients shoes and stay there for the duration of all interactions. And I really mean that. Think about what it must feel like to be on the other end of your projects and act accordingly.
2. Apply the golden rule liberally in every aspect of your business.
3. Assume they are confused and intimidated by you, and/or harbor some kind of resistance to buying whatever your selling. Address it openly. Dancing around questions to avoid confrontation will only create it. Know what that resistance is and find a way to address it.
4. If you have something that comes up over and over in client interactions as a source of misunderstanding, or general ick, Lay it out right up front. For example: I have endometriosis. It causes a lot of pain. All of my clients know this by the second time we talk because I know with certainty that at some point in their project, it WILL affect their timeline in some way. Acknowledging weakness up front allows room for solution-oriented approaches. Which leads nicely into…
5. Always come to the table with solutions. No matter what the issue or problem, big or small, always wrap bad news in a proposed solution. Or, better yet, a few options – along with your recommended route. Offering up a problem with no recommended solutions hands all of the power over to the client. Something they don’t actually want. They hired you to lead them. So do that.
6. Never hide from a client.
7. Don’t use lame excuses. Clients smell fear. And cry wolf [“I got food poisoning/my kid has chicken pox/ I sprained my finger/ I had to take a surprise trip to the moon”] too many times and you will just become another asshole who makes excuses and misses deadlines. And when something DOES actually happen, they will assume you are full of crap. Be honest. Always. If things are just taking longer than anticipated, say that.
8. After every project comes to a close, evaluate the bumps you hit first and look for patterns. If you find yourself saying, “My client is fucking bonkers,” over and over about different clients, YOU are the problem. Not them.
9. If different clients ask for the same things over and over, create a system to solve said problem. For example, if everyone asks the same five questions before every project, create a resource sheet to send out BEFORE they ask for it. They will think you read their mind and their added confidence in you will pay dividends throughout the project.
10. Say no. If it’s outside the scope, or outside your expertise, or outside the boundaries of the basic laws of human decency, say no. You are not their slave. And the only way they will ever know what’s out of bounds is if you tell them.
And one more for the road…
11. If you are behind on a project, or everything is going wrong, or the sky is falling so you can’t deliver something on time, stay the fuck off of social media. No whining. No commiserating. No public sympathy seeking. Put on your big-girl-business-owner pants and act like a pro. Even if the client isn’t a Facebook friend or follower, they might know someone who is. And every single person reading about how stressed you are and how much you totally can’t handle your shit will never ever hire you or send anyone your way ever again.