Friday, October 16, 2009

Navigating Client Personalities

Today I wrapped up working on a project with a client whose personality is pretty much the polar opposite of mine. He’s one of two people in his company that I work with. Last year we ran into a few problems while developing content for a web portal. I was used to working with his partner who has a communication style compatible to mine.

Unfortunately we had a difficult time working together initially. He tends to provide what I like to call “over communication.” He would send very long, drawn out emails about project details that really could have been delivered in a just few short sentences. I could understand if he were outlining specific points in his messages, but mostly he would end up repeating the same information over and over in different ways, and spinning off on confusing tangents in a desperate attempt to provide examples of what he was trying to say. And the long phone conversations were even worse.

I was often so confused by his instructions that I would have to send him an email outlining what I understood and request an approval reply. Like I said it was tough on both of us.

We finally settled things by going back to the old way of doing things; I communicate with his business partner on all projects. It’s working out beautifully, just like in the beginning.

One thing I’ve learned while freelancing is that you must learn how to deal with various client personalities. I’m happy to report that for the most part I have an easy time of it; but every now and then I get thrown a curve ball and have to figure out how to make it work so that it’s a win-win situation for everyone. Here are just a few client personalities I’ve encountered:

The Big Wig

The Big Wig is either someone in an executive level of the company or the owner of the business. He’s the decision maker. He is confident (verging on cocky), wealthy and brimming with big plans and ideas for his company.

If you're lucky enough to land one of these clients with a secure business who understands the importance of marketing and content development, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor as long as you deliver as promised.

Unfortunately, there are also so called Big Wigs out there who don’t have a clue about the value of good writing and will try to nickel and dime you at every turn with the promise of bigger and better projects down the road. Quantity and a fast turn around are more important that quality and experience. Don’t fall for it.

The know-it-all

Keep your eyes peeled because this client can either come across as hostile or the friendliest person you’ve ever met. The friendly know-it-alls just want to share their knowledge with you and believe that without their input the project will not turn out as well. Hostile know-it-alls will test your patience as they search for errors and mistakes to point out, and seem to take perverse pleasure in making others feel incompetent. They really believe that they are just being truthful with their scathing criticism.

One distinguishing characteristic all know-it-alls share is their need for your undivided attention and for you to acknowledge their wisdom. They need to control every aspect of the project, and their demands can suck up your time making it difficult to manage any other projects on your plate.

The dissector

The dissector easily gets caught up in the details of what goes in to a project so much so that he has a difficult time remaining focused on the goal. He wants to pick apart how you approach the project so that he can understand how everything will fit together. Dissectors have a strong need to be in the know. They can wind up monopolizing your time worrying about trivial matters and make it harder to get your job done.

Again, these are only a few client personality types I’ve managed to navigate in this business. If you’ve had experiences with any I may have missed, feel free to share.


Lori said...

These are hysterical! I've seen them all. :))

There's the Survivor. He's over-controlling and he panics a lot because he's so afraid any mistakes in his orbit will jeopardize his career. Panicked emails, even more panicked phone calls, and general "Oh my gawd!" are daily events. Usually, the mistakes he's seeing are merely his reading too quickly or not reading at all your detailed emails. He's controlling so he can show a superior he's useful. You get over-managed because it keeps him alive politically.

Kimberly Ben said...

LOL - How'd I ever forget about the Survivor?? ;-)

Designed by Lena