This one is for those of us who are freelancers, service providers, or who have ongoing relationships where we work with clients.
Gary Halbert – one of the greatest copywriters to ever work in the field – used to wear a hat that had two works embroidered on it: “Clients Suck”.
A lot of people say they do.
For a long time I bought into that idea. I had good reasons. Most of my clients seemed to be too demanding, too unwilling to follow my advice, and too determined to carry out some weird idea even though it was clearly not in their best interest. Some of my clients were even abusive, taking advantage of me in ways I don't want to go into here (it wouldn't help anybody to do so).
The one day I realized I was making a contribution to each of those relationships that helped create that situation. My contribution was three-fold, and it directly contributed to making those relationships miserable for me (though they were, in fact, great for my clients). One lesson for you: if the relationship is only great on one side… it's not great. It's dysfunctional, and somebody is getting hurt.
Here are the three things I was doing that made it seem as though “clients suck”:
- Not carefully selecting clients from the beginning, screening out those with whom I was not a good match.
- Not setting boundaries for the relationship so that both parties know what those boundaries are, and teh reasons tehy are in place.
- Not realizing that I was free to “fire” clients who were “problem children”.
Once I finally figured those three things out, and changed the way I selected clients, how I set boundaries with them, and how I communicated with them when those boundaries were crossed, I was completely freed from the notion that “clients suck”.
Because mine don't … now.
And that's the lesson: you too can quickly reach a place where you love and appreciate your clients, where they don't trample on your schedule or your value, and where you can easily resolve any conflicts that might arise.
All you have to do is:
- Develop criteria that describe your ideal client and use those criteria to screen out any clients who don't meet them.
- Carefully and respectfully set the boundaries in your relationship from the beginning – and stick to them.
- Communicate immediately with the client when those boundaries are crossed – and when you suspect that you need to “fire” a client, do it sooner rather than later. Trust me, you'll know when it is time.
If you will do those three things, then when someone says to you that “clients suck”, you'll be able to give them the same response I do: “Mine don't.”