Now that you have your first client, it’s time to get going on your project.
This is a wonderful opportunity to create a conscious relationship with someone and think through what your goals are for the relationship and why. We will cover some basic how to work with clients tips but then I am hoping you will take a deeper look at what working with clients means and why it is important not just professionally, but personally.
If I were to say that working with clients depends on two things it would be these:
- Good organization and
If you nail these, you don’t need much else!
Here are the elements of great project management:
- Break it down. Break your project into small pieces.
- Make a schedule. Assign a time to complete each piece.
- Create accountability. Assign people to do each piece. Could be you, could be the client.
- Have milestones. It is good for morale during large or complex projects to have stopping points along the way to reassess and/or celebrate.
- Make a spreadsheet. Choose your favorite spreadsheet software (I used Numbers) and get going.
- Manage your time. Estimate how long each piece will take and then note, in your spreadsheet, how long it actually took. This will help you estimate projects for the future.
Honestly, if you do nothing else besides create a project tracker, you will be very, I mean very, ahead of the game.
Courtesy includes, but is not limited to:
- Being polite (get a refresher from Emily Post if you don’t remember what this means) and
- Being considerate
Again, if you nail being polite and being considerate, our time here is basically finished. You’ve almost got it!
A huge part of consideration, especially in the context of a business project, is dependability. This means, if you do what you say you will do when you said you would do it, you’re 99% of the way there.
The final frontier? Good friends, and good business associates, stay in touch after projects are finished. If you have built an excellent relationship, why wouldn’t you want to stay in contact? You may be able to come up with some of the dividends this could yield, such as referrals and testimonials, but it is also courteous (as in polite and considerate — see above).
Most important, you have created something with another human being or group of human beings. It is a meaningful part of your history and your development personally and professionally. Cherish it through maintained contact, even if that means, at most, an occasional tweet or email, with the intention of honoring the work you have done.
Important Questions To Ask Yourself #1
Okay, now that we have covered the practicalities about how to work with clients, we can get to the truly important stuff. This is the stuff that is going to inspire and sustain your business. So fasten your seat belts and let’s go on an adventure.
Not to get too philosophical, but think about it. We probably all should have asked ourselves, before doing anything so radical as getting married or having children:
- Why we wanted the relationship
- How we wanted the relationship to look
- What behavior we expected from the other person and
- What our response would be if, for any reason, they could not meet our our desires
So, when it comes to how to work with clients, I invite you to think about it in terms of why a particular client fits your business goals, how much time and energy you want to put into the relationship, what you expect the client to do (for instance, deliver blog content on time) and how you will handle it if the client has trouble following through.
Important Questions To Ask Yourself #2
Here is another, very important set of questions that people rarely, if ever, ask themselves and they are:
- How do I expect myself to behave? and
- What will I do if I don’t meet my own expectations?
It’s less obvious to ask yourself what kind of behavior you expect out of yourself. But, if you look under The Basics header, above, you will see that it boils down to a set of behaviors. Ask yourself if that set will work for you or if something else would work better.
Important Questions To Ask Yourself #3
Finally, the wise business person asks herself:
- What does the other person want out of the relationship?
- How do they want it to look?
- What do they expect for me? and
- What will we they do if I do not meet their desires and expectations
Hopefully, you took care of this before you signed a contract or made an agreement with your client. If you look at your contracts in light of the questions above and make it clear with your client, your project has a much better chance of success with minimal glitches and misunderstandings. Also, it is courteous (as in polite and considerate) to have an understanding of what the other person wants out of the relationship.
Who is your ideal client and why?
I am borrowing that question from a forum on Project Eve (so, thank you, Dana Theus). At first it didn’t sync in, but then, one day, I was reflecting on how much I love my clients and what a huge difference that makes. If you focus on finding and keeping your ideal clients your work will be very rich in every sense of the term. Be honest with yourself because chances are you will get what you ask for whether or not you make it conscious.
You may have already created a persona for your business, but a persona is for marketing purposes. Now that you have a client, it is a different game altogether. This question is very specific. It takes into consideration the nature of the project, how much time you want to spend on it and which of your skill sets will be called upon. If you figure these things out, you can work with your strengths.
Make These Questions An Exercise
Yes, it will take some time, but if you really ask yourself these questions, maybe with a cup of tea or glass of wine in hand sitting by a window or a nice fire, you will start your business with a lot of clarity. After all, clients and customers are your raison d’être, even if you are running an internet business. This is because, behind every email and tweet, there lies a human being. And our interactions with human beings are called relationship.
Or, you could think of it this way: measure twice, cut once.
As I was researching this post I found this very funny and relevant article called 12 Breeds of Client and How to Work With Them. It describes client types and their pros and cons. Not only was it funny, but works across industry and provides strategy as well as food for thought.
Please share with us some of your own reflections about how to work with clients.
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