Client relationships are interesting. I of course begin every encounter in "professional" mode, ("Mr Smith? Dena Harris returning your call. Is this a good time for you?") but I'm often surprised--and pleased--how quickly pretensions are dropped. I don't try to be buddy-buddy or best friends with my clients. Indeed, I'm more likely to follow their lead on how friendly/business they want to keep the relationship. But I'm always thrilled to get a glimpse of the person behind the job.
For example, I wrote website copy for a London-based company and while writing the founder's bio we both agreed it would be appropriate to include some personal information on the site. That's when I found out his nickname was "Salsa King," for his love of the dance. Hel-lo! How could I not refer to him as Salsa King in our next correspondence? I soon learned what type dogs he had and that he runs half-marathons. Who knew?
Another client had to cut a phone call short because he had a tennis match with his wife. I e-mailed him information I'd been working on and concluded with "Hope your tennis game went well." His e-mail back contained feedback on my work and the ending sentence, "Tennis is a stupid game. I can't believe I ever liked it."
Cracked me up. I love the dry wit.
I find most people are happier dealing with a "real" person--someone who's not afraid to laugh or poke fun at themselves (or, as appropriate, at a project). I'm meticulous about meeting deadlines and honoring my word, so why not just be myself with clients? It makes working on projects more fun for me and, I hope, for them. I feel for my friends in the corporate world who tell me they so often feel they have to wear a mask and be someone they're not. No thanks.
Yet another reminder of why I'm so lucky to get to do what I love--and be myself while doing it.