Dating v Consulting
What do dating and consulting have in common? More than you’d think…
Dating is confusing, intriguing, and a downright emotional rollercoaster. Swiping right and left, abiding by the ‘Three Dates’ rule, introductions to friends and parents - there’s so much to think about, consider, and remember. Once I got into a relationship with my current partner, I thought I’d done my time, avoiding the dating game forevermore.
And then I decided to go into consulting!
Not everyone is going to be happy with your work, and not everyone is going work well with you. And whilst you aren’t going out with the intention to marry your clients, you are going to be working really, really closely with them. I can guarantee that if you are thinking about (or are already in) the consulting industry, you will have your own experiences with clients who just don’t mesh with you, which is fine!
But break ups (in both contexts), can be messy.
We all learn the hard way, but if I can give you some advice to lessen the number of times you get the ‘I don’t think this is working out’ speeches from clients, then here it is.
1. Expectations kill relationships
Both romantically and in business, having silent expectations and not discussing them with the other party is only going to lead to let down and disappointment.
With your initial meeting, explain your processes as clearly as you can. Explain how things work, what happens to get everything running, what they can expect from you on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis, and what they should expect come the end of the month. Ensure that before leaving that initial meeting, you are both on the same page. This is going to save so much unclarity, uncertainty, and misunderstandings.
Liken us to Sheldon, if you will, but contracts are life savers. If you haven’t got a contract, start writing one as SOON as you finish reading this article. If you do have a contract, only to find that clients are finding loopholes or are simply addressing things that you don’t state in your contract, maybe consider re-writing it. Contracts not only ensure that both parties are abiding by the same rules, but they also show that you’ve gone out of your way to make sure that all actions and intentions are explicitly stated in a binding agreement.
3. Be honest
Honesty leads to trust, and trust is at the core of any relationship. So why should it be any different to your relationships with your clients? Don’t promise your clients that you’ll increase their following by 10,000 or that you can help them sell thousands of their product if you just can’t. Be honest about your abilities and what you can offer before you start working with them. It’s one thing to try and impress them, but not being honest about what you offer can get you into a lot of trouble really quickly. They’ll appreciate the honesty, and you won’t be trying to find ways to get 10,000 followers unorganically!
4. Be yourself
The oldest trick in the book, the age-old advice passed down generations. Don’t be anyone but yourself at any point in the relationship. If you just don’t get along with someone after initially meeting them, there’s a good chance that that relationship isn’t going to get any better. It’s not worth trying to be someone else just to get business, because to be honest, it just isn’t worth it. Yes, they may need your business, but consultancy is a really hands on, interactive, and personable job that requires almost constant communication to be able to work to its full potential. If they don’t get along with you (or vica versa), it’s 100% okay to move on.
5. Communication is key
Keep communication channels open! Just like relationships need to have free-flowing communication, so does your relationship with your clients. Do not do things without discussing with the other party first. Yes, you might think that you have a brilliant idea, but remember that you are representing their brand, so make sure you run it by with them first. In your initial consultation (and reiterate in your contract) discuss how you will contact them (email, text, FB messenger) and how often (some clients will say they want to touch base every Monday, others may just say to contact them whenever), so that all communication lines are open and clear.
Working with clients is one of the best gigs you could have. Getting an insight into a bunch of different industries, and view situations through different lenses is such an exciting job, but as with all jobs, they come with challenges. You don’t have to take your clients out for expensive dinner dates and after work drinks, but what you should do is schedule regular catch-ups. This allows you to touch base and ensure that you’re still on the right track.
And remember, if you find you aren’t working well together, it’s okay to step away. To rephrase a cliche -- it’s just as much you as it is them. But the moment you realise that there are plenty of other fish in the sea, you will find it easier to build a client-base that you enjoy and love working with.