Clients Are Friends, Not Food
If you’re into children’s animated movies (like I am) you might have seen the movie Finding Nemo, which is about a little clownfish that gets lost and goes on a wild adventure.
In the movie, Nemo’s dad sets out into the huge ocean, away from the safety of their anemone, to find his son. Along the way he meets all types of other fish, including a group of sharks that have recently decided to go vegetarian.
Their slogan to keep each other from going off the rails? “Fish are friends, not food.”
While (spoiler alert), this doesn’t end well for the sharks, it’s something that I think we should remind ourselves as freelancers:
Clients are friends, not food.
Sometimes, clients make us want to slam our heads on our desks, or against the wall, or on any hard surface that will make us forget our jobs and their names.
I get it.
I mean, if we don’t set expectations, a client suddenly wants Tiffany advertising on a K-Mart budget, or if we suck at communicating they suddenly turn into a micro-manager overnight.
But I think we need to reconsider how we approach clients to keep them happy and us sane (and also paid).
How We Often Think of Clients
A badly managed client quickly becomes an obstacle that we’ve got to overcome, an objection we have to get around, and a general pain.
When that happens, it’s easy to start thinking of clients as the writers of our monthly rent check, the people who demand things without knowing how long things actually take, or the person who texts at 3 am with a “real emergency”.
Why That’s a Problem
The problem with this is that it immediately creates an “Us vs. Them” mentality. And that makes each of us harder to talk to.
As freelancers, we dread having to get on a meeting with clients because we know they’re going to ask us for things we don’t have time for.
And as a client, they get frustrated that the freelancer won’t explain what they need, or exactly what’s going on.
Then, at the end of the project, the freelancer thinks that they’ve got another “bad client,” and the client thinks that they hired another “lazy freelancer”. And guess who’s happy with this? Nobody. Everybody loses. You just lost a return client, and now they have to go through the awful process of finding someone else. Again.
So what if you could change all that?
How We Should View Clients
It’s actually pretty easy to do with a simple shift in your mindset. Instead of focusing on it as a me or them scenario, think of it as us.
Instead of looking at clients as obstacles, think of them as collaborators. You’re partners on the same team, looking for a solution to a problem.
That’s one of the reasons you like to freelance, right? Finding solutions to problems? And here you are, with fun challenges provided to you by clients, and they’re paying for your solutions!
A Teaching Opportunity
One of my favorite things to do is teach my clients what I know. It’s an opportunity to explain how I do my work, why I can be trusted with control over their copy, and help them grow.
How To Fix It
There are three easy things you can do to make this change on the next call you have with your client.
Be Excited to Talk With Them
My grandma always told me, “You can tell a person anything as long as you do it with a smile.” I’ve tested it out and it works.
There was a time in my life when I worked in customer service. That meant I spent the entire day getting yelled at by people who were mad about problems that I didn’t even create.
I wasn’t excited to pick up the phone and talk with people, but they couldn’t tell.
Every time the phone rang, I plastered a smile on my face and I swear it transferred straight over to my voice. People hung up the phone happier than when they’d picked it up, and I felt good because I solved a problem.
So even when you’ve got meetings with clients that may not be your favorite clients, put a smile on your face and be excited to talk with them.
Ask If They’ve Got Questions
After you’ve made your main points in that client meeting, ask your client if they’ve got any questions. It’s a great way to make people feel like they’re part of a team because it shows that you care what they think, and you’re interested in helping them out.
And when you ask for questions, it gives you the extra opportunity of being able to teach your client something new with your answer.
Ask for Feedback
A lot of freelancers don’t do this, but the best ones do. Freelancers spend a whole lot of time complaining about how their client did this, and their client said that, and I’d love to give my client an honest review!
But what about you?
When was the last time you asked for feedback on your work? How do you expect to grow and become a great freelancer, or hell, even a great person, if you don’t have anyone pointing out things that you’re awesome at and things that you could improve?
When you’re done with a project, ask your client for feedback. You can make it as simple as a four question survey, or work it into an end of project call for larger projects.
This shows that you not only care about the service you’re providing, but also that you care about becoming a better human. And great humans want to work with other great humans.
How This Helps You
These things are easy to set up, don’t take tons of time, and help you create a lasting relationship with your clients because you’re laying the foundation of a meaningful relationship.
Clients Work With People They Trust
Since everybody wants to work with people they trust, you’re making sure that you’ve got repeat clients. And these clients are people that you’ll be happy to work with in the future because you went to the trouble to get to know them, work through any issues, and be honest with one another.
Clients Are Excited to Refer You
And when you’re an easy person to work with, guess who gets all the referral calls? That’s right, you do. Clients will feel safe sending their friends and even their own customers over to you because they know that you’ll take great care of anyone you work with.
Client Calls Won’t Be Stressful
Once you’ve set the precedent for honest and collaborative conversations, you won’t be nervous about getting on meeting calls anymore. You don’t need to worry about what you can or can’t say, or try to remember what buttons you’re not supposed to push because it makes your client mad. An honest conversation is a stress-free conversation, and that’s way better for your peace of mind.
In Conclusion, Clients Are Fun. But Getting Them Is More Fun.
Clients can be fun, interesting, smart, and kind people that we get to know. You just have to remember that the both of you actually want similar things out of the relationship. So treat them like friends, not
food a rent check.
If you’re ready to XL your client pool, check out the Marketing For Honest Freelancers free email course. We teach you the A-Z of not-sleazy marketing that will land you dreamy clients.
Marisa is a copywriter who loves traveling, working on creative projects, and starting great conversations with new people.
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