As an entrepreneur, it can be easy to become close to your clients. You may be tempted to share personal information, but it’s not always wise.
To help you stay professional with your clients, you should first establish your own personal/business work boundaries. You can then use those guidelines to establish a professional working relationship with your clients.
Here are my top three tips for keeping a warm and professional client relationship.
1. Don’t divulge that you work late nights and weekends.
This will raise the expectation level of your clients because they may begin to think that you are working for them 24/7. Suddenly, they will say, “I didn’t get any updates from you this weekend. What happened? I thought you worked over the weekend?” You shouldn’t have to explain your personal time.
Do: Keep your weekends and evenings for yourself, family and keeping your own business up-to-date.
2. Don’t divulge too much personal information.
It’s natural to have a conversation about weekend plans or current events with your clients, but keep your personal life and business life… private. I’m sure your clients are wonderful and would make great friends, but don’t cross the line.
If you are ever late on a deliverable to your client (and you should never be late), imagine them joking and saying that you were probably late because you went to a concert. Ouch! Suddenly, you are being scolded like an employee. I also don’t recommend personal connections on Facebook or Twitter because that can reveal your daily activity.
Do: Make a professional connection on LinkedIn and other business networks.
3. Don’t divulge your client list.
Giving a referral to a potential client is one thing, but outside of that referral, keep your clients private and separate.
Perhaps I am overly private, but I don’t display a list of clients on my website. I want my clients to know that I am focusing on them instead of them wondering what services I am providing for another client.
Be mindful when a client refers their friend to your business, too. Stay neutral, and don’t mix their friendship with your business.
Do: Find ways to give each client a unique experience that is catered to his/her business.
What are some of your tips for being warm, yet professional, with your clients?
Image credit: mediaphotos
“….I’m sure your clients are wonderful and would make great friends, but don’t cross the line….” I can completely relate! This was a hard lesson I learned many years ago, the tough way. Here’s what happened:
A client first started inviting me over for “dinner meetings” at her house. Next, it was every single event she was putting on. Before I knew it, I was getting calls from her administrative assistant asking me to attend birthday parties. Handshakes turned into hugs. Payments turned into gifts or gift certificates. In short, the relationship was transforming, but I didn’t see it until it as too late. By that time, I was not longer respected as a professional or consultant, but merely considered a “friend.” And of course, she didn’t think that consulting with a “friend” was something worthy of an invoice! When I tried to “re-professionalize” the relationship, she dumped me and took her business (friendship?) elsewhere.
I don’t necessarily think she meant to take advantage of me. But without a firm boundary, it happens nonetheless.
VERY sound advice and a great post –
Many times it is a very fine line professionals walk when dealing with clients. The same is true with clients dealing with professionals,— developed friendship SHOULD NEVER stand in the way of what you are engaged to do on a client’s behalf.
I ALWAYS state those rules from day 1 of any engagement – you are paying me to tell you what I think /recommend / believe, and not necessarily what you want to hear or what will make you happy. If you prefer otherwise let me leave now.
If you put that out there rom day 1 you will live a long life unafraid to voice what is necessary to get the job done and maintain credibility. Unfortunately, many times it needs reminding what you bear “Breaking news”. Carry yourself as a professional and people will understand the importance of what you bring to the table.
Kristine, thanks for sharing your experience. That is a great lesson. Know your worth!
Bill, I love your solid, no non-sense approach. Thanks for sharing your philosophy.
Good points Sabrina.
I’ve realized over the past few months that my “I’m an insomniac and am up at all hours of the night” stance might not be the best solution for the days I’m not at a computer and able to respond right away and do get the “where are you?” emails from clients.
Boundaries are something I never really used too often but I guess it’s better late than never, right? :)
Every entrepreneur works “above and beyond” but now is the time for us all to examine the cost of that work practice.
I believe when you truly come to the point where you embrace your skills and worth as a business, you will place a higher value on your business, and place a higher value on your time.
Slip a couple of late night dinners into the mix of your work!
Thanks for reading.