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How close is too close?

So here is a client relations issue that many of us small business-facing creatives have: Getting too close to your client. Generally, my small business clients are usually run by a single person. That person usually has the chops to run a business and sell him/herself to the general public. One of the reasons that I like the niche that I am in is because I have access to the decision-maker and the raison for the business. I’ve made no secret of how I LOVE my small business clients and I root for them every chance I get.

Buuuuut, sometimes I get too wrapped up in seeing the person succeed that I forget that it’s not MY business. It can be easy to lose sight of what the client wants and instead try to impose what you want for the client. It’s a tough space to find yourself in and then have to re-establish the professional distance between client and vendor. It’s good to push a client to look at possibilities outside of their comfort zone, but at the end of the day they are the client and it’s their final decision.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Do you find yourself helping the client to make internal business decisions that are not related to your role as a creative advisor?

Do you find that you are talking to your client as much about nothing as you do about projects?

Do you ever appeal to anything other than his/her business sense to sell a project?

Has your client ever hurt your feelings by saying no?

If more than one of these answers is yes, you may be too close to your client. You won’t be doing you or your client any favors by using emotional appeals, manipulation or trading on your buddy status to force projects through that may not meet business goals or limitations (budgets are key here).

Take a step back without jeopardizing your working relationship and ensure that what you are pitching is best for your client’s business as it is now, not as if YOU were running it. They will respect your professional distance and objectivity. That said, clients using personal relationships with their service providers to influence projects do themselves a disservice.

The client/service provider should be one of mutual respect and camaraderie. Just make sure that all the fun you’re having doesn’t interfere with the job at hand.

Please share your stories!

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