What kind of relationship are you in with your client?

by Leo Wiles
24 June 2016

Landing a new client is a lot like hooking up with a new partner.

The heady first rush of passion, the worry over whether they like you, the nervousness of filing your first load of copy… it’s all so stressful. And then there are the upcoming challenges of maintaining a long-term relationship (and juggling your other clients so they all feel similarly special).

Chances are you’re in one of these ‘relationships’ right now…

The crush You’ve fallen for a client completely out of your league who doesn’t know you exist and when they discover you do, doesn’t care. In my case, it was esteemed publication National Geographic, who felt my remote island adventures were eclipsed by my lack of scientific wonder and vernacular (sigh).

The keeper The client who offers a steady stream of work, shares your values and can be trusted to pay you. Hey, they even let you meet the parents (publisher) so that you end up working over a multitude of titles / digital brands.

The flirt The client keeps you hanging, requesting regular pitches but somehow never giving you a concrete offer.

The arranged marriage A friend hooked you up or you landed the gig through an agency – and you deliver what they want without drama. Voila: you now have a regular gig.

The one-night stand It was good while it lasted, but you’ve both realised that there’s nothing really there past that one perfect pitch to make you come back.

Marriage of convenience While there’s no real spark, you work well together and get commissioned enough to make up for the lacklustre nature of the actual work.

Training wheels Like losing your virginity, honing your skills can be best done with somebody you mutually love, respect, trust (and hopefully desire).

High maintenance You adore the platform and all it stands for, but the highs and lows of your commissioning editor (AKA drama queen/king) present too high a price tag.

The adulterer Last month you were being touted as their favourite, most valuable writer. Then the commissions dried up and you find yourself flicking through the pages to see who they’re in bed with now.

The bunny boiler Male or female, we’ve all had that client who has no boundaries and thinks that commissioning you is somehow synonymous with owning you and your time, 24/7.

The doormat You stick around for too long hoping that things will improve, i.e. better pay rate, less stress etc – until finally one day you wake up and realise it’s time to pull the pin.

Soulmates Everything you do is gold. The client laughs at all your jokes and doesn’t change a syllable of your work. You feel valued and there’s such a level of trust that even at your worst they respect you enough to stick around.

Did I miss one? What kind of relationship are you having with your clients right now? (And don’t forget to look out for next week’s post: “How to build better relationships with your clients + editors”)

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