That new car smell, and why eventually it doesn’t matter.

Client relationships are a lot like buying a new car. For both parties.

When we first engage with a new client, things feel great. We’re excited to work with each other and looking forward to accomplishing great things together.

We sign contracts, clear a deposit check, and drive off the lot (err I mean get to work).

(Ie the new car smells great.)

Then after a while it starts...

We start noticing things. Little squeaks and imperfections.

We start making up these little dramas or battles in our heads.

Maybe we think they call us too much. Or maybe they call too little. Or they ask too many questions, or not enough.

Or maybe a client says something to us. Maybe they don’t like that we only answer emails once or twice a day... squeak! Or maybe they insist that we meet in person more often... rattle rattle ... when we know that tools such as Slack, or Zoom would solve 95% of the reasons needed for a meeting.

Anyway it can go on and on. And suddenly it seems like that new car doesn’t smell so good anymore and we start thinking about trading it in.

But is it really worth it to trade this relationship in?

How do we salvage it?

Simple. Stop caring. Yes, just get rid of all your baggage and STOP CARING about all the petty crap and just focus on the job you promised to do!

Change your oil. Clean out the head trash and get the car washed, waxed, and vacuumed.

Rewind back to the beginning of this whole thing. What is your purpose of working together? Did you set boundaries, or leave the door open? Are you accomplishing the objectives that the client and you agreed on in the scope of your contract? Are you being compensated for your deliverables?

As long as both parties are delivering on their promises, that is all that matters.

If they call too much, don’t answer the phone. Follow up with a calendar invitation to talk at a specific time. This shows that you value your time and that you respect theirs.

Too many emails and questions? It’s completely ok to batch reply, or better yet create an intake sheet so that you have a list of all requests that have come in. This helps you identify and prioritize what is really important, and what can wait.

Are you in this agreement to impress each other with your personalities and self imposed work habits? Or are you working together to get a specific job done?

Now, if either you or your client are not full-filling on your end of the agreement, or are really that frustrated with each other... then maybe it’s time to freeze work and have a good heart to heart conversation to regroup on your expectations with each other.

If you do stop caring about petty stuff, you often realize it’s not all that bad.

Doing work you love? Check.

Getting paid? Check.

Working location independent? Bonus check!

That's what I thought - just first-world problems.

Not so bad after all...

Now get back to it and make good things happen.

Always remember, there are never bad clients - only bad leads that you decide to accept as clients. It pays to take some time to establish an open line of communication early on.

Its kind of like taking a few test drives before you buy. And then following through on the maintenance plan and regular checkups. Your vehicles are going to last a lot longer.

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