Working Wednesday – Client work

Clients. As freelancers, we need them. Some clients are great – they invigorate you. You leave meetings totally jazzed about upcoming work and challenges are exciting. I left a meeting with a client yesterday on top of the world. There’s a ton of work to do and it’s all stuff I love to do. When I got home, I immediately filled in El Hombre on what’s in the pipeline.

Other clients, well… Let’s just say that not all client relationships are a match made in heaven. There’s nothing worse than feeling like your client isn’t engaged – especially when you feel like there’s tons of potential. But like personal relationships, there’s not always a spark.

A few weeks ago, I talked about my clients being one of the things that keep me up at night. Specifically, whether I am happy with my clients and whether they are happy with me.  As someone who’s worked in the client world for almost a decade, you come to trust your instincts on these things, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder.

These are my top three warning signs that signal when clients may not be happy:

  • Are my clients less responsive than usual? If they are less responsive and they aren’t traveling or up against a deadline, this is usually a sign that they might be shopping around.
  • Are my clients enthusiastic about new ideas or do they propose new projects?
  • Is conversation stilted or awkward? Has familiarity been lost in email conversations?

So what do you do when clients aren’t happy?

  • Schedule an in-person meeting or go to coffee. I work remotely for the majority of the time, but there’s nothing like face time. It’s my number one way to reconnect – we tend to hide behind computers and phones, and so much gets lost in translation.
  • Provide extra data or analytics, if possible.
  • Let it go. Sometimes the best thing to do is part ways. If this is the case, I always recommend providing a wind-down period. Sometimes there’s changes in budgets or priorities with the client. By bowing out gracefully, you leave the door open for future work.

Working Wednesdays: Picking the right client (or job)

We’ve all been there or some form or another – after sitting down with someone to talk about potential work, the offer comes through. But is it the right offer? Should I take it?

In some cases you jive with your potential client (or boss) and there’s no hesitation.

But in many cases, there is that pause. Maybe it’s because the offer isn’t enticing enough – but often it’s because some nagging voice in the back of your head is whispering that it’s not the right fit. I’ve made that mistake – both in my freelance career and the corporate world – enough times to know that I should follow my instincts and decline the opportunity.

As you find your footing in a new venture, like freelancing, it’s tempting to take any work that comes your way. But there’s a danger in this – you might pick up something that becomes toxic, you may burn through a lot of time on projects that can’t be used in a portfolio, or you may end up generally unhappy with the work you agreed to.

So how do you avoid picking up the wrong clients or taking the wrong job offer?

These are the questions that I ask myself, and if the answers to any of these questions are no, then I decline:

  • Is this the right type of working environment for me? I know myself well enough to know that I like a fast-paced, start-up environment where I wear many hats. But if the organization isn’t operationally sound, I don’t do well.
  • Does my work philosophy align with the company’s?
  • Are there open communications across teams and with the person I report to?
  • Do I like the type of work that’s being offered?
  • Will this help me grow professionally and/or add to my portfolio?
  • Do I think the compensation is fair for the type of work I’d be doing?
  • Can I work remotely? If I have to be in an office for part of the time, can I handle the commute?

Because my husband and I are both building up our businesses as contractors/freelancers, we both occasionally get tempted by positions that have good pay. When either of us feels like there’s hesitation, we refocus on looking at both short-term and long-term goals to prevent ourselves from making that emotional decision.