Signs of a great client relationship

Back when I first launched my business — and dealt with my first batch of “stinker” clients — I decided to get more particular and intentional about the types of clients I worked with.  I’m a big list maker so I created a list of must-haves that would help me recognize a great client relationship.

In speaking and writing articles over the years, I’ve shared this list with a number of my colleagues and coaching clients.  I was delighted to learn that many still keep The List handy when evaluating which clients to bring on — and which ones to let go. Thought I’d share them again today.  (Note how you might modify them to evaluate your full time job or even your networking relationships.)

Signs of a Good Client Relationship

  1. You look forward to the work you are asked to do.
  2. You enjoy and communicate well with the people; there’s good chemistry and a valuable exchange of ideas.
  3. You believe in (or at least can see the value of) the organization and its products/services.
  4. You were brought in because of your expertise and are appreciated, valued, and respected for your contribution to the project or organization.
  5. You are paid fairly and promptly in exchange for your good work.
  6. You are allowed (most of the time) to work at a pace that is reasonable and allows you to do your best work; panic projects are the exception, not the rule.
  7. The client can help bring you more opportunities, either in the form of additional work or in enthusiastic testimonials or referrals.

If two or more of these factors are missing in any of your client relationships, it may be time to let them go and look for other opportunities.

What would you add to this list?


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10 Responses to Signs of a great client relationship
  1. Amy H.
    October 20, 2011 | 5:30 pm

    I turn to this list often; it has always served me well in deciding what clients stay and which ones go…

  2. SueAnn Wade-Crouse
    October 21, 2011 | 6:51 am

    The irony is that it doesn’t matter what industry you are in – these signs ring true.

  3. Julie Wickert
    October 21, 2011 | 7:11 am

    Patti, thanks for sharing this gold nugget from your treasure box. I can’t think of a thing to add!

  4. Stefani Zellmer
    October 21, 2011 | 7:15 am

    A great list, #3 one of the most important, in my opinion.

  5. Lorie Marrero
    October 21, 2011 | 8:16 am

    I love this list! I would add this– that in both work and personal relationships, when people don’t respect my time, that is a huge red flag. What I mean is– beyond the time allotted for work projects to be completed– do they keep me waiting all the time, not show up for appointments, cancel at the last minute? Do they want my time for free inappropriately? Everyone’s 5-10 minutes late at times, including me, but I am talking about consistent disrespect… It’s a showstopper.

  6. pattid
    October 21, 2011 | 8:54 am

    Thanks for these excellent comments, everyone! I also recall that at the advertising /PR agency where I worked for several years, we thought it would be highly appropriate to add a “Nuisance Fee” to the handful of clients who drove us absolutely crazy. They wasted our time, couldn’t make decisions, weren’t prepared for meetings, were rude, flip-flopped on decisions, acted badly with the media, etc. (Wonder what percentage would have been enough?)

  7. pattid
    October 21, 2011 | 8:59 am

    Another reader comment I rec’d by email from a friend: “Hey Patti – I have an item to add to your list: Expectations should be reasonable and realistic. Consider a home remodel – there is nothing more destructive than a client expectation for perfection – delivered overnight. With every project there will be obstacles – can this client relationship collaborate to overcome or will it self destruct?… Thanks for all your sage advice….I read and even share every note you distribute.”

  8. Nancy Humphreys
    October 21, 2011 | 4:01 pm

    Patti, I call these clients “bottomfeeders”. If we hang out with them for too long, we too become bottomfeeders ourselves.

  9. Melanie Kissell
    October 22, 2011 | 3:12 am

    You’ve definitely nailed it, Patti!

    In any relationship, I feel it’s paramount to be treated with “dignity and respect” … period. And since relationships are a two-way street, that treatment needs to be reciprocated, as well.

    Specific to business relationships, I think you start traveling down a slippery slope if you get too “personal” with your clients (students, customers, joint venture partners)and allow them to begin thinking of you as their “friend”. A line in the sand must be drawn to keep business strictly business.

    At the first inkling — the slightest hint — of any kind of deceitfulness on the part of a client … run like hell!

  10. Susan Pomeroy
    October 23, 2011 | 12:02 pm

    Excellent list! You helped crystalize some of my recent unhappiness with a particular client… and now I see why… they slipped from having 6 out of 7 OK, to only 5 out of 7. And what a difference that makes in how I feel about them, which in turn makes working for them immeasurably more difficult. Thanks for distilling this list.

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