reflections on being a good client
14 November 2013
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be on the other side of the table when your profession is to be hired as a consultant?
Have you ever been a client?
In the past year I have worked with professionals in creative fields; this was a real challenge for me to “let go.” For instance, I work with a web site designer at an ad agency (a former client and one which I have a long running relationship) and I frequently work with my photographer. I also work with contractors for personal projects where I may be considered a customer more than a client, but it counts in my mind.
If you are a client (to an architect or designer or…) join the discussion and tell us if you are/were a good client and what you did to aid your consultant in the process. Believe me we all want to work for you.
This is my list of five traits I strove to do or be in order to be a good client to my consultants.
- Allow the consultant to take the lead – I knew it was important to allow them to feel comfortable in proceeding in a fashion familiar to them and in a manner which they know was best for the situation. How we proceed in architecture might not align with how others move forward in their field, so I had to get over that.
- Trust them to do their job – This is why I hired them after all. Why would I then tell them what to do or how to do it? If I can’t trust them, then perhaps I hired the wrong person.
- Ask critical questions/be engaged – Although I let them take the lead, I need to be engaged, ask questions when I don’t understand and follow the process. We have discussions, they ask me questions and I give them feedback on the work they do for me. I don’t sit back and simply accept what they present, but I acknowledge what I like first. Then I make suggestions or comment on what doesn’t fit my vision or desires. Typically that is done in the form of a question (i.e. “is there a reason this is like this…?”). Sometimes I need to understand why something is the way it is before I can suggest changing it. Offering feedback is good, but it is the manner in which it is delivered that makes the difference in how it is received.
- Be patient – Everyone wants their project done immediately. However, the cliché goes that “a problem on my part doesn’t constitute an emergency on their part.” I recognize they have other clients and other schedules. I try to plan ahead so that they have adequate time to fit me in their schedule and can complete their work at an acceptable time. Quick work does not equal good work. If I procrastinate in getting them on board for a project, then it is unreasonable for me to expect them to hurry to make up for my lack of planning. My initial questions include some type of inquiry to when they expect to fit me in to their schedule. At that point, I have to accept that timeframe if I want to work with them. After all, I chose them and I want to work with them more than I want to have work done quickly.
- Acknowledge their success – Everyone likes an ‘atta-boy’, but everyone knows when it isn’t sincere. Nevertheless, I find it important to share what I really like about their work, not only in the quality of the work but in the method in which they provided it. I also demonstrate my gratitude by paying them promptly and of course, hiring them again.
It is a well-known principle of wisdom, treat others in the manner in which you want to be treated. Yes it’s even Scripture said by Jesus himself. It’s a good reminder in how to treat a consultant, especially one in a creative field. It’s also a good reminder to me to how to select clients that will hopefully reciprocate.
Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is always revealing.
photos are from various stock photo galleries on Stock.Xchng (used under the Standard Restrictions)