In the last couple of weeks I have had several experiences that have made me think about what I value most in my clients. Focusing on the positives, here’s a quick checklist of things my clients do that make me want to keep working with them.
- Trust me. This could apply to a range of work situations. Some clients trust me with difficult work. All of them trust me to charge them fairly, and work hard for my fee. I might be trusted with sensitive information. I like to be trusted to understand my purpose in the context of a project, and to just get on with it, but to know when I need to ask for help or support. All of this helps me feel more valued, and will result in that client continuing to receive excellent service.
- Pay me on time, or even early. It’s so obvious, of course. But if I deliver on time (which I do), then I expect to be paid on time. All of my current clients honour this agreement. Yes, there are occasional glitches, but these are quickly rectified if so.
- Understand that, while we might not talk about them, I do have other things to do. I work for many different clients, I have a family, and I have other interests. There are lots of factors that mean I can’t devote myself entirely to a single client, and I am not going to drop everything for anyone when they click their fingers, no matter how well they pay, or how interesting the project. I keep my side of the bargain, though … I don’t bother clients with my workflow clashes, or the fact that I feel exhausted because I’ve been dashing around on domestic errands. I get their work done, to a high standard, by the agreed deadline.
- Communicate well. They don’t need to send me lots of terribly long emails, or whole forests of documentation, or chat to me for hours on the phone – in fact, it’s easier all round if they don’t as a rule, though clearly there are times when it’s necessary. But I do need to know where I stand before I commit to a project, and what is expected of me. Also, if the timing of a project changes, I am usually happy to accommodate that as long as I am given fair warning.
- Thank me for my hard work. I try to give every project as much as I can, I work hard, and I am good at my job. Nothing feels better than somebody taking the time to say, even if briefly, that they recognise this and they’re grateful for my effort. Put simply, a single thank you can make my day.
What it comes down to is that I like to be treated as an individual with particular skills and expertise, not merely a resource. I’m not a prima donna – I’m under no illusion about the fact that on every job I am but one link in a chain – but I am human. My favourite clients (I hope they know who they are!) genuinely appreciate that, and act accordingly.
Liz Jones has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008.