creative freelancer conference recap: clients

probably the main reason a lot of us came to the creative freelancer conference last week was to talk about clients! for solopreneurs, every client is different and a big part of our job is reading them and interacting with a variety of personalities. the sessions on presentations and client-wrangling had me taking lots of notes and laughing in acknowledgment.

effective presentations for creative solopreneurs with darryl salerno
above and beyond the givens about speaking clearly and making eye-contact [though those are no less important], salerno approached his talk from the position of knowing the personality types of your decision-makers and tailoring your presentations to work with how they best deal with information. he breaks them down thusly:
– the thinker: content-driven, logical, likes facts & data. give them organized information with references.
– the feeler: interactive, perceptive, experience-driven. talk about impact, context, build rapport with them.
– the intuitor: theoretical, conceptual, likes the big picture. focus on uniqueness, global & future impact.
– the sensor: perfectionist, impatient, likes actionable steps. start with conclusions first, be the problem-solver, keep it brief.

once you have your audience figured out, keep these things in mind when creating your presentations:
– your presentation is about them, their concerns, needs, company & situation.
– it’s not what you say, it’s what they hear: choose your words carefully.
– use storytelling that is relevant, authentic, and connective.
– use humor as a bonding agent between you and your audience.
– ask questions periodically to keep your audience engaged; offer Q&A to relate to individuals directly.
– order your topical progression: an inital situation > business objectives that address the situation > communications objectives that support the business objectives > and strategies of how these objectives will address the initial situation—bring it back around.
– follow the 3 P’s of presenting: prepare, practice, perform!

dealing with nightmare clients with michelle goodman
after taking time to collectively commiserate about some of our less-favored past clients, goodman took the anti-victim stance that working with difficult clients isn’t about them—it’s about you! people are who they are, but it’s up to us to know ourselves, clearly define our policies, and make conscious choices about working with the best clients for us. in the meantime, there are strategies for dealing with some of the more challenging personalities out there before anything truly unfortunate happens:
– add a “how i work” page to your web site [i have a process outline here]
– set up an in-depth discovery meeting before a project starts to explore good fit and identify specific goals.
– set limits on preliminary time and travel before projects start.
– set expectations by defining scope, naming a project manager, and checking in at regular milestones.
– separate the serious clients from those who are less committed by instituting a non-refundable deposit or a cancellation policy so you can concentrate on those who are ready to work.
– address your policy on revisions and provide info on how to keep them to a minimum before the project starts.
– research potential clients ahead of time, conduct a credit check if it’s a particularly big project with a new client.
– make friends with someone in accounting [this can get you a lot farther than you think!].

if you do find yourself at odds with a client that comes to a financial disconnect, and you know you’re in the right, use the resources available to you:
– stop & withhold unfinished work
– look into collections & small claims and decide which is best for the situation in question.
– report them to the better business bureau or industry-specific watchdog association.

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