Communicating with clients – the need for trust

An interesting lesson I’ve lately learned stems from my experience with one particular client.

In the past four+ years since I started my business, almost all clients I’ve worked with have had something in common – too much detail overwhelms them.

It would be similar to a car mechanic telling me in detail about the transmission in my car and asking me if I would prefer he do [insert technique A here] or [insert technique B here]. Most of the time, my answer would be ‘do whatever you think is best.’

That’s how most of my clients are. They hire me to do something they don’t want to do themselves (or in some cases they’d like to do it themselves but don’t have the time/skills). They don’t place as much importance on how it’s done as on how it looks and works and how easy it makes everything for them; they generally leave it up to me to make it look good and work well. And that’s what I do.

Recently I’ve encountered a radically different kind of client. This client has very little knowledge of HTML or CSS, let alone the CMS I’m using for his project, yet only seems to be happy when I overload him with details about every technical thing I’m doing. I don’t understand this, since most of it doesn’t make a lot of sense to him and he admits this, but unless I do this I get emails from him complaining about how I never explain anything to him.

It’s very odd to me and seems like a waste of our time. Mostly it bothers me because it demonstrates a lack of trust, and that’s a strange situation for me to be in. People hire me because of referrals, and they rehire me because they trust me – when I work on any project I look out for both the client and the client’s website visitors.

I’m not one to keep quiet when a client asks for something that goes against the goals of the project or hampers the usability of the website, and most clients value that kind of feedback in our working relationship. We can discuss it like partners and come to an agreement when there’s a conflicting opinion.

…But if providing extra information to this one client helps get his project out the door, so be it. I’ve learned to provide extensive documentation about every new project element I’m working on, and for the most part the conversation has been easier since I’ve started doing that.

I’ll be really glad when this project is over. I’m much happier working with clients who trust my experience and expertise, and don’t question every small technical decision I make during the course of their project. They save the questions for the real issues.

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