Things have changed so much for the freelance writing world, even in the last five years or so. Advances in technology naturally led to advances in communication. This is especially apparent in how we deal with our clients. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t even consider talking to a client after regular “business hours.” Now, everyone is online all the time. Freelancers wouldn’t even think of contacting clients at home, now we have all sorts of avenues in which to contact clients during their off hours. What I find most interesting is how many relationships have crossed from freelancer/client to a sort of friendship.
The difference between “friend” and “friendly”
Friendly means pleasant and we should always be friendly with our clients. Even when we need to be firm or put our feet down, we can still do so while being friendly. A friendship implies more. A friendship is a bond. It means you and your client passed beyond that client/freelancer relationship and now want to take it to a new level of going out for drinks, talking about the kids, and sharing pumpkin pie recipes. Now, this isn’t a bad thing. Many wonderful relationships come out of client/freelance relationships, but it also presents many challenges.
Is this a good idea?
I always think it’s a good idea to have a pleasant, friendly relationship with clients, but when it crosses the line into full-fledged friendships it can cross the lines in other areas as well. For example:
- When we allow our clients access to social media profiles, such as our Facebook pages, they now know what we’re doing all weekend. They’re looking at pictures of our family and videos from karaoke night. Do you really want that? I once received a distressed message from a freelancer whose client keeps contacting her on weekends because he can see from her Facebook page that she’s not busy.
- Client friends may expect friendship type privileges. They may want discounts, freebies and rush jobs. Saying no might put a strain on the relationship.
- Clients who have your home phone number and cell phone may feel as if they can call anytime.
- Clients may take things personally rather than professionally. Problems with a friendship will eventually spill over into the professional relationship.
How to not cross that line
Whether you’re a friend or a friendly, you’ll have to establish boundaries so lines aren’t crossed.
- Establish business hours: Whether a client is a friend or someone with whom you’re friendly, it’s important to establish boundaries. Don’t allow calls after business hours or during weekends or family times. If a client is a friend, make sure he knows business stuff is out during certain times.
- Don’t release privileged information: Though a client may be a friend, he shouldn’t be privy to information regarding other clients. Never violate another client’s trust.
- Don’t allow a client/friend to come between other business relationships: You would never let your friends dictate how you do business and your client friends shouldn’t get in the way either. Don’t allow client friends to influence how your business decisions or which clients and projects you choose to take on.
- Set some ground rules: Let the client know if he’s going to be your friend, you have to establish boundaries such as those laid out above… and he can’t cross the line.
There’s a different between being friendly and having a genuine friendship with a client. If you’re going to be good friends, be prepared for all can come with it. Also, be prepared to possibly lose your client if the friendship ends.
Do you enter into friendships with certain clients? If so, how do you establish boundaries?