After a couple of decades of working with clients, I’ve learned a lot about how I like to work with them. For example, I know that I like to have a video kickoff call where I can ask questions and read facial expressions as we discuss the project. It helps me to gauge their interest and pain points as we discuss features, deadlines, costs, etc. However, it was the moment that I encountered a potential client who worked differently than I that I realized I needed to stop being judgmental and just be grateful.
When somebody fills out the contact form on my site, they are typically looking for some sort of WordPress assistance. This can be anything from a quick change they need on a page, custom development, or even a brand new website idea they want me to build from scratch. As diverse as the requests are, the amount of information they provide in the contact form can vary as much, if not more.
After the first kickoff client call, I prefer to have the bulk of our communication conducted via email where I provide a recorded walk-through of elements I’ve been working on for the project. It’s amazing the number of follow-up questions it cuts out.
I absolutely do not like is phone calls. Okay, that’s not entirely fair. I don’t mind a quick phone call to answer a question from time to time, but, if we’re going to talk about the project, I prefer to use a screen share tool like Zoom so that we can view the site, see each other, and I can easily record the session so that both the client and I can review it easily later, if needed.
This is how I work. I’m adamant about it. So when a contact form came in recently with a short description on their contact form saying they prefer all contact be conducted by phone, I knew immediately I wasn’t a fit for this client and passed the lead to a colleague.
When I followed up to see if he landed the project, he said the client had a few other requirements that didn’t fit how he liked to work, so he passed on the project, as well. Turns out, the client’s additional requirements wouldn’t have worked for me either.
“How could anybody want to work that way?” I asked myself as I smugly patted myself on the back for dodging a bullet.
12 Hours Later…
As I was laying in bed that night, it dawned on me that we always make ourselves the hero in every story. In actuality, in this situation, I wasn’t the hero at all. I was being judgmental.
Is my way of working the best? Probably not, but it works for me.
Is my way of communicating the best? Unlikely, but it works for me.
Was the client’s way of communicating the best? I don’t know, but it’s what works for him.
This is one of those times where I could beat myself up about the way I acted. It’s something my brain likes to do. But for some reason, that’s not what happened. Instead, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
The next time a potential client tells me up front exactly how they want to communicate and exactly how they want to work together, I’m going to skip the part where I’m being a judgmental Judgy McJudgerson and jump right to being grateful.
While I appreciate trying to service the client in a way that they want to be serviced. I also know if the client wants to dictate how you will work, it really won’t work well. Accept that you are the website professional in the room and success is based on your process. You dodged a bullet and your friend confirmed it. Rest assured that you made the right decision.
But here’s the thing… He knows exactly what he wants and how he wants to work. Knowing that going in, if his way lined up with a way that I’m comfortable with, this would be a perfect match. By him being upfront about it, I was able to just say “nope, not for me” and move on. I don’t think that makes his way wrong… just wrong for me.