How to have positive client relationships: 5 tips the experts swear by

Clients often ask how long I think a copywriting project will take, and though I do my best to estimate, the fact is that the estimation is like the wait for a table at a restaurant: It takes however long it takes.

Content writers know how widespread disregard for their expertise and skill is. That's why if there isn't mutual respect, the client relationship can go downhill. Fast.

I've had my share of unpleasant collaborations: clients who didn't pay. Clients who sent unhelpful feedback ("Can you do more here?"). Clients who said they needed "a quick read-through and edit" of their 150,000-word novel, which "should only take a couple hours." Rather than grumbling, I've tried to make it a learning opportunity to help attract well-meaning, knowledgeable clients moving forward.

That's why I reached out to five established writers and marketers to get their take on what makes for a positive client relationship.

While most of my clients are pinch-myself-fantastic, I've had my share of unpleasant collaborations. Rather than grumbling on sites where others share the dumb, rude, thoughtless sentences their know-nothing clients have uttered, I've tried to make it a learning opportunity to help attract well-meaning, knowledgeable clients moving forward. That's why I reached out to five established writers and marketers to get their take on what makes for a positive client relationship.

Choose honesty above all

"I have always found that honesty is the key to conveying opinions when talking to clients. No matter if I’m talking about budget, turnaround times or metrics, I am honest and genuine with clients. Of course, I’d love to always deliver wonderful news, but that’s not always the case. I’ve found that the majority of the time, they appreciate the honesty regardless of what I’m discussing."
-- Anne Mercer, copywriter at Reserve Direct

Respect the client's expertise

"I think the thing most clients bring to the campaign that a lot of people tend to forget is expertise. They know their brands and their products intimately, and no matter how integrated you are with the client, you're still never as close to those that work with it every day. So using the knowledge and insight can often provide unique or valuable angles that an agency or outside expert may not have considered."
-- Mike Wilton, SEO strategist at ymarketing

Be patient for the right fit

"Identify and seek out the clients that you work best with and that drive you to create your best work. This is really a case of being selective about whom you work with and not being afraid to say no to clients who aren’t a good fit for your business. That way you are only working with best-fit clients, workflows improve, clients businesses grow and new clients queue up to work with you as a result."
-- Colin Scotland, marketing consultant at Logical Fox Marketing

Set clear, mutually understood goals

"Some of the most frustrating conversations I've had with clients are where they have a different goal in mind than what I understand them to be shooting for, or are doing something completely different in a different marketing channel that doesn't mesh with what we're doing. Much of this can be avoided by setting clear expectations and goals at the outset of the campaign or project so we all know what we're working towards and how it will get there. If that is taken care of, then as long as clients are given a reasonable amount of time to respond to non-emergency requests, everything typically flows smoothly."
-- Matt LaCasse, social media marketing specialist at Inter-State Studio & Publishing Co.

Meet the client at his/her technical level

"For me, I try to frame everything around how it is helping their business. There has to be an easily digestible reason for why I am doing what I am doing. I try to stay away from technically heavy concepts or reasons for doing something. It's important to frame things in a way even the most technically inept client can understand. If I tell them that the most important metric is (just an example) their organic reach, I'll let them know what that metric measures, why it's important, and how an increase (or decrease, depending on the metric) can impact their marketing and their overall business goals."
-- Andrew Wasyluk, senior social media specialist at Page 1 Solutions

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