Over the years, I’ve learned many lessons about dealing with clients and running my business. However, it was one single client who taught me some of the most valuable lessons.
If I’m honest about my business at the time, I thought everything was fine. Other projects had, and were, coming together nicely. Stumbling blocks were few. That was before I started working with this particular client. Her little wake-up call showed me just how wrong or even complacent I had been about how I worked with clients. This single client experience brought me face-to-face with everything my business and I were lacking. Maybe you could say I had been flying by the seat of my pants—no way to run a business.
During my time working with this client, I felt increasingly frustrated. I felt like I was giving tons of value to her business, bending over backward, and being overly accommodating. Even so, she continued to challenge my work. She got opinions from others, invited her husband to one of our Zoom calls, and continually requested that I get the opinion of my colleague and ask him to join our meetings.
I had lost control of the project and was not “driving the bus.” It became clear that this client no longer trusted me. She wasn’t invested in our work together and did not see me as the authority, an expert in my field.
Where did it all go wrong?
I could blame her entirely. I could chalk this up to her just not being my ideal client. But when I truly examined what was going on, I could see so many reasons why it was in large part me and my process – or lack thereof – that took our work together down a troubled path.
Here’s what I learned, and I’m sharing these lessons with you, so you won’t have to learn them the hard way, as I did.
1. A friend who comes to you for business should be treated like every other client. Your work together should take the same detailed steps as other projects. Just because you have known her a long time and call her your friend does not mean you change how you work.
2. Having a set process in place that you follow to the letter for every project will ensure that you’re driving the bus, leading the process, and staying in charge. Without a set process, you’ll find how easy it is to let go of the reins.
3. You must have standards in place and expectations determined upfront. What are you willing to put up with? What are you not willing to put up with? For instance, the project should have a set timeline and milestones. There needs to be an understanding of what happens if deadlines are not met or scheduled meetings are changed. A process should also be in place for receiving feedback, and there should be a timeframe around when that feedback is due. Setting up this project architecture will ensure the client knows what to expect during each phase and what your own obligations are.
4. Never lower your price for a friend because you think you know her and her business so well. Never reduce your project fee because you consider working with her more manageable, more straightforward, and less time-consuming. It could very well be that you have no problem working with friends or family, but my experience proves how vital a set process is for every client you work with. It simply ensures that every part of the process goes as planned and eliminates the possibility of scope creep, which we all hate.
5. Most importantly, have a qualifying process that ensures who you work with is a good fit for you and her. What are her project expectations, and how invested is she in doing the necessary work?
At this point in my career, I know that you will attract your ideal clients when everything listed above aligns. Everyone involved in the project is comfortable, decision-making is easy, and timelines are adhered to. Projects are a joy. You show up confident in your ability to guide each project to success. And the experience your clients have with you is one they share with others.
Remember, too; there are lessons in every aspect of our lives. Consider these lessons small gifts from the universe. These gifts can move us forward and help us grow into who we’re meant to be and what we’re meant to be doing … becoming our true selves.