A Match Made in Tatooine
I remember going to see Episode II: Attack of the Clones at midnight on opening night. A few friends and I purchased our tickets well in advance and arrived at the theatre a few hours before showtime to wait with the other excited Star Wars fans. Despite the travesty that was Episode I, the fans in line were pumped for this next installment in the trilogy “prequels”. The energy level was high. The force was strong with this group.
There is one more small detail that I should mention to fully paint the picture of this evening. I went to the theatre that night fully dressed as a Tusken Raider.
Oh, and my wife was with me too. She was dressed as a Jawa.
The Perfect Match
Despite the fact that you may never look at me the same way again now that you know this story and have seen these pictures (yes, the pictures on this page are actually my wife and I from that evening), there is an applicable lesson to be found in this Tattooineian tale.
Finding a wonderful woman who would even admit that she knew me, never mind stay in a relationship with me, after learning that I intended to go to a movie dressed as a sandperson is impressive. Finding one that would put on a dusty robe, some bandoliers and a pair of glowing eyes and actually accompany me to the theatre is nothing short of amazing. And that is where the lesson lies. There is no substitute for finding the perfect match.
Finding a Fit
No matter what we you for a living, whether you are a web designer like me or some other profession that deals with clients, one thing we must remember is that do not have to work with ALL clients. We can, and often must, say “no” to certain jobs.
Some projects are just not a fit. Sometimes budgets are the deciding factor in whether a project is right or not. Other times it's due to technical reasons - such as the platform the client wishes to use, the existing code they must incorporate, or certain features they need to have.
There are plenty of reasons why a job may not be right, but one element we, as web professionals, often fail to consider when deciding whether or not to take a job is if we actually want to be in a relationship with that client in the first place.
Forcing a Fit
Make no mistake about it, when you take on a client, you are committing to a relationship together. Some of the worst projects I have worked on in my career were totally because the relationship was not right for me or for the client.
There have been clients that I can easily recall (but which shall remain nameless) where I should never have taken the job and part of me knew that going into the project. In most of these cases, the job itself was high profile and would look good in a portfolio or the budget was substantial and, from a financial standpoint, the work was something I simply could not turn down.
Regardless of the reason, prestige or profit, there have been times where I knew the client was not a fit for me or that I was not a fit for that client, but I decided to start the relationship anyway. And in almost every case, I ended up regretting it.
When a client calls you in to discuss a project, they are assessing you and your company. They are looking at more than just the price on the estimate you give for the work. They are making sure they trust you and your team with that project. They are interviewing you.
At the same time, you should be interviewing that potential client. You should be looking to see if the work they need done is something you can do for them and if they have the budget set aside to pay for that work, but you should also be assessing whether or not you and that client are a fit for each other. Sometimes you need to say “no” to a job and a client not because they can't afford to work with you, but because, on a personal level, you can't afford to work with them.
It would be great to proclaim that we will never begin a client relationship that we know is not a perfect fit, but that is not realistic. We live in the real world where bills need to be paid and where we must sometimes take projects we are not thrilled about. That is reality, but by ensuring that we are at least considering the relationship in our decision making process, we are doing what we can to minimize the bad relationships and aim for the great ones.
Speaking of great relationships...
Thankfully, in addition to those aforementioned bad client relationships/projects, I can also remember many wonderful engagements as well. Many of those wonderful projects had modest budgets and less pizzazz than some of those big jobs and, on paper at least, didn't seem like the perfect fit. Yet, when i think back to my favorite projects, I come back to those jobs again and again.
I remember those projects fondly not because they made me a ton of money or brought me recognition, but because the client relationship was a great one. Great clients make for great relationships and great relationships make for great projects, it is as simple as that.
Thanks to all the great clients I have had the privileged to work with. Thank you for trusting me with your projects and for deciding to enter into a relationship with me. You rock.
Thanks also to my wife. There is no else I'd want to dress up like a denizen of the deserts of Tattooine with. You rock too, in a super-geeky way that is the perfect match for me. Utinni!