Kickass Clients and Kicking Ass

kickass client relationships by redheadwritingI’m a lucky duck. A redhead sitting on a pot of gold with rainbows lighting up my sky and unicorns running around my yard. While I won’t even begin to explain the City of Denver code violations inherent in the above statement, I’ll keep shoveling unicorn shit so long as it means one thing:

that I keep getting kickass clients.

There’s a lot that goes into the “kickass client” qualifier. It’s not just a honkin’ retainer or consistent revenue. I wanted to share with you the things that, in my book, make my clients kickass. And keep in mind as well – MY kickass client isn’t necessarily YOURS, so take it all with a grain of salt and ask yourself: am I doing what it takes to attract kickass clients?

An open line of communication. Whether I think something’s great or it sucks, a kickass client for me is one that listens and keeps an open ear. I can bring ideas to the table, collaborate, share links and simply ask how their world is going. As a small business owner, my clients are a part of my family. I want to know if something is awesome or if it blows – and maybe I can make their world a bit brighter by doing awesome work for their business.

A sense of humor. If you haven’t noticed, RedheadWriting has an irreverent side. The most common question I’m asked is, “Umm, you use the f-word a lot. You’re not going to do that on OUR site, right?” No, I’m not. But my kickass clients have a sense of humor. I’m not above sending along industry-specific humor, helping them get a laugh out of their community and having a phone conference that lasts an extra 10 minutes because everyone on it is laughing so hard about something completely off-topic. A sense of humor is especially helpful when you email off product copy for a children’s clothing website where you spell check has auto-corrected ever instance of “shirt” to “shits.”

Permission to be myself. The above two qualities imply that my kickass clients give me permission to be myself. I’ve lost business because strategic partners feel they can’t refer my outspoken personality to a more conservative client. THAT’S AWESOME! I’ll lose business all day if it keeps kickass clients coming to my door. It might surprise you to know that I’ve worked with one of the largest domestic nonprofit organizations as well as an international luxury auto brand. It’s also likely that, the next time you’re in Las Vegas, you’ll be staying in a room or resort for which I wrote the guest services book, room descriptions or email newsletter you receive. The enthusiasm I bring to my work is contagious and my kickass clients want that shit in their brand. It’s like crack, without the plumber.

Sans bullshit. There is no bullshit between my kickass clients and moi. If you measured the number of “I don’t knows” that I share with my clients, it’d weigh out to a metric ass ton. But I get them answers. If I need help with a project, I call in a colleague. If I find myself needing to change a strategy, I lay it on the line with solid reasoning. If they have questions about what I’m doing and why, I justify. There’s no “because I said so” bullshit. There’s no question whether my clients will pay or if it’ll be on time. I don’t go off the map or close unannounced to fuck off and go ride my bike. Things get done, on both sides. This is a business and just because I run it out of my home doesn’t mean I act like trailer park trash and use their retainer for a box of Marlboros and buy-one-get-one Little Debbie Zebra Cakes.

Stop taking every ounce of business that comes to your door. You know the type of client you want (and frankly, your clients know they type of vendors they want as well). By being an open door, you’re more of an open toilet. Sometimes all is well, you’re hydrated and you pee clear. Others, it’s a big pile of shit waiting to happen. Close the bathroom door and open an office, will ya? Now share in the comments what makes YOUR client relationships kickass – and please continue to kick ass.

20 comments
The Redhead
The Redhead

Couldn't have said it better, Erroin :)

The Redhead
The Redhead

Well, I'll have to thank Miss Kramer for sending me another kickass reader :) Welcome!

Erroin Martin
Erroin Martin

It is interesting how an open line of communication needs to cut both ways for the client and those that serve the client. That means being honest in what you can and cannot do for them. It is hard sometimes, especially when the rent is due and you need the money, but all that value, trust, and relationship you have built up over a period of time becomes nothing. You crash and burn because you cannot deliver. You can do yourself and your client a service by helping them get the right person for the job.Kick-ass clients will let you know when they need your help outside your expertise. Kick-ass clients are invested in your success as much as you are invested in theirs!@Erroin

karimacatherine
karimacatherine

OMG, Kickass client may require a kickass attitude...hum.Love all your points and respect your attitude. (I said attitude 3 times in 2 sentences - so it does come down to it - ATTITUDE )Your last paragraph there sums it up for me. When I started as a consultant/freelancer,I wanted to be safe and kickass was burried deep inside of me, I was living a double life. With time, I am learning to respect myself and my boundaries. SO, kickass, here I am :)Loved your post I discovered thanks to @ShellyKramer

The Redhead
The Redhead

Hah! Else you'll set The Redhead loose on 'em :) You go get 'em, Rebecca!

RebeccaOsberg
RebeccaOsberg

Great post! I loved reading it as a small business owner, but when reading it again from the point of view of the client, it was even more enlightening. Why hire someone if you're going to give them a hard time and not let them be who they are and do what they do? Perhaps when I run into a real tough person to work with I can send them this and suggest they behave.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Susan, if all you folks keep complimenting me today, I'm gonna get a big head :) Thank you and I'm delighted you keep coming back!

The Redhead
The Redhead

Awww - thanks, Leon! Best compliment ever :)

Leon Noone
Leon Noone

G'Day Erika,About 30+ years ago I was Training Manager in what was then one of Australia.s highest-tech companies. I had a mate who was the equivalent in 3M Aust.One day he played me an audiotape--very modern then--of a speech by a bloke called Bill Gove. he'd been a hotshot 3M salesperson who had joined the speaker circuit in the US.Gove's talk was a discussion with his son called If I remember, 'Billy, don't grow up to be a salesmam." He explained how hard a saleman's--there were no salespersons then--life was but went on to list some things that Billy should do should he ignore his father's advice. I remember only two * Serve 'em to death Billy" and "Billy , be yourself!"I dunno how well you do the first one Erika, but you sure as hell honour the secondMake sure you have funRegardsLeon

The Redhead
The Redhead

GREAT point, Jamie - I always ask people "Why do you want to blog?" And 9 times out of 10, they say, "Because someone told me I should." Total poop. Work it out before you get in knee-deep!

Jamie Kelley
Jamie Kelley

Great post as usual. As a web developer I love clients who give me an open book to design what I think works best for them. Conversely, I get perverse joy from firing clients with whom I'm not a good fit. It's more a question of honoring myself and not eating plates of shit that I gorged on when I was younger. It's also about getting paid for who I am, not just what I do. Usually my first question to a client wanting a website is, "Why do you want a website?" And we start from there. Blows their mind.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Great ideas, Ike. Look for some of these over the next couple weeks!

Ike Pigott
Ike Pigott

Perhaps some anecdotes about clients you had that DIDN'T kick ass, and how you kicked them to the curb?Maybe a follow up post with Signs Your Clients Don't Kick Ass?Might you grace us with some ways to get from Hell to a Suburban Heaven with Double-Rainbows All-the-Way and Unicorn Dung?I'm jealous -- so please share with us how you found Nerdvana!

The Redhead
The Redhead

When you make room, it's amazing how much room you actually find for the Kickass :)

Ashley
Ashley

LOVE the comment about not being an open door for every business to come through. Sometimes in the haste of being a new business owner you can't get out of the "yes" stage where you want to please everyone even though you know what you are signing up for might be a nightmare. It took me a long time to get out of that for the wrong people and start yessing the right people.It's amazing what happens when you surround yourself with the right people in life and the same goes for clients, too.

P.S. Jones
P.S. Jones

So true. I'd rather be left for what I am than loved for what I am not. Anybody that unfollows me or doesn't want to hire me because of my personality is doing me a favor. Because they are making room for the kickass people who do want to interact with me. And fortunately, there are still enough of them to make it worthwhile.

The Redhead
The Redhead

Meh - the people who leave can stay gone :) I'm interested in people who WANT to be here!

Susan Platt
Susan Platt

Couldn't agree more with all of this. Especially about being an open toilet. I want to add that the first post I read on this blog a while back was "you're a business and not a free clinic" which hit home hard and forced me to look at my own small web design business and re-think some of my strategies. Because of having been bitch slapped by the Redhead I am regrouping, re-branding and re-energizing. Kudos to this and all of your other upfront, personal, in-depth, insightful, inspiring and non-bullshit articles!!