Saturday, 3 March 2018

It's Good to Cut Down on 'No' and 'If', up to a Point

First off, if you know me at all, you'll know I'm not one of the folks drinking the kool aid of client this client that. Where I stand is yes, we provide a service, but we don't need to make a circus of it, and there's no need for getting hysterical about it. We provide a specific service, according to our specific talents and skills and professional training, to the best of our ability and with the client's best interest in mind, but that's it. For example just because lawyers are service providers doesn't mean they should be ready to provide the service of cooking lasagna al forno or grooming a cat just because the client demands it. That's plain silly, and we should quit wasting our time listening to that nonsense. We should also consider the source where that nonsense comes from, especially whether it isn't a large buyer or intermediary.

That said, as practitioners we're there to solve or mitigate problems — specific problems within the scope of our profession, not general problems, but solve problems still — and not to create or exacerbate them. And most of our clients genuinely need some help and are genuinely somewhat clueless about getting it, rather than having totally unreasonable ideas (which I'd link more with interest-driven industry/market influencers trying to effect a wide change — such as bringing an entire formerly proud profession to heel — than the average individual client in a specific, concrete situation).

For certain professions this gets trickier because they are less at liberty to deny their clients, but most of us are entitled to at least a certain comfort zone. Still, this doesn't mean we should totally never expand it or go out of it for a client — especially when what the client asks is something reasonable for a client to ask and the pay is reasonable.

I bet the client's life isn't easy either, more likely than not being the provider of some other goods or services, or employee thereof, who also has to put up with people. And with problems. And with complicated requests. So let's make everybody's life just a little easier by not making it any harder than it has to be, and especially if we adhere to a system of beliefs or values that places importance on being there for people and helping them (most religions and philosophies do, it's just that their practitioners don't always remember).

Another thing is clients react — and we can't expect them to rewire their brains to stop reacting to the disappointments that happen to them in our business relationship, not any more than it would be possible to do so in, say, a romantic relationship. It's only up to a certain point that excuses can substitute for actually being there for someone.

The clients' or prospects' 'systems' register the displeasure or inconvenience or stress associated with being denied or left without help, or helped only grudgingly. They may understand, of course, but the damage may still be done. All the more so, even a perfectly valid excuse doesn't count the same as actually being there for them, not any more than we'd be entitled to a fee we didn't earn.

Besides, sometimes you just lose a lot of time pointlessly arguing about something that isn't going to change or fighting battles you can't win. Sometimes, of course, you have to go on the record expressing your firm and repeated opposition to a bad strategy or self-destructive move, but most situations don't really belong in this category. So it's probably better to avoid doing or taking unnecessary damage and instead save the relationship or help it grow. Relationships are important. Even to lawyers. ;) And time is money. That goes for stress too, if you're going to need time to destress later.

Next, it's probably not worth it pointing out all the small things and demanding recognition or payment for them. Chances are they're already being noticed and appreciated and working toward a greater, immaterial deposit of goodwill that it would be a waste to cash in for relatively small monetary rewards, or — less consciously — enjoyed as a smooth, hassle-free client/user experience that it would be a shame to waste.

Thus, a lot of the time it's just better to grin and bear it — if there's no harm, just bother, and if ethics are not at stake, which is the titular 'point'.

And for the sake of clarity, being expected to turn into a generalist all-purpose personal assistant where in fact you have a specific job such as lawyer, translator, designer etc. reaches that point. Likewise, if your freelance job description actually is personal assistant, then being expected to fill in for specialists such as doctors, lawyers, translators, designers, copywriters etc. and deliver the same results without the benefit of full training.

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