By: Scott Michael
Client relationships can mean something different depending on who you ask. To one person, it could mean strictly discussing business in conversation. To someone else, it could mean more personal relationships outside the office. Early in my career, this is how I’m starting to develop my style.
To me, a healthy client relationship means being able to have a conversation with your client about things that aren’t work-related. This could include asking about their families, their plans for the weekend, or even discussing the big sporting event coming up. There is nothing wrong with having a personal relationship with your client, but I’ve learned that you need to know where to draw the line.
Finding the line is tricky because it is different for everyone. For example, there is nothing wrong with grabbing a beer, coffee, or even lunch with a client to discuss business and life. Sometimes getting into a more relaxed setting like a bar or a restaurant can make business easier. You and the client should not be best friends; however, it is okay to have a more personal relationship as long as you’re careful. This is where the line can become blurry.
For example, it is inappropriate if a client complains about their company or job to you. The line can also be blurred if the client gets too comfortable and makes inappropriate jokes or remarks that make you uneasy. If that does happen, you shouldn’t indulge. It is best for both parties involved that the conversation is steered in another direction.
The more you work and build relationships in your career, the more you will learn and feel comfortable interacting with clients. When I leave WordLab, I know that the insight and knowledge I have obtained will prepare me to navigate client management and relationships. Everyone will have their unique style, and the client may have their own preferences. Client relationships will be something you learn to navigate over time. Watch the leadership around you, see how they interact with a client, and incorporate that into developing your style.