Dealing with Client Tension

November 11, 2016

Today’s minisode is all about how to have difficult conversations with your clients and dealing with client tension.

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"Set the tone for how you want things to continue by setting very clear expectations."
- Emily Thompson


More from Kathleen

Braid Creative

More from Emily

Almanac Supply Co.


Emily Thompson 0:02
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Caitlin Brehm 1:27
All right, Kathleen and Emily, let's talk about having difficult conversations with your clients. You've already talked about having these difficult conversations and kind of the business partner sense. But this is something that I've been noticing coming up in the being boss clubhouse lately. You know, we have a lot of really great conversation going on in there. So many amazing bosses supporting each other bouncing ideas off of each other asking questions. And one of the types of questions that I keep seeing coming up in the clubhouse are from bosses who are working with a client. And you know, they have everything set up, right, they have the contract that covers their bases. But something goes wrong, inevitably something goes wrong. And they have to have a difficult conversation with that client. So something like they have to stop working together or they have to give that client some tough love about sending payments and on time, or, you know, kind of having a reality check when it comes to expectations if a project scope hasn't gone expected, you know, things like that. So how do you have these difficult conversations with our clients, when neither of you has done anything especially wrong, but there's still some emotionally charged energy there. And you need to approach the situation delicately.

Kathleen Shannon 2:53
Oh, man, having difficult conversations with clients or even collaborators can be so tricky. And I totally get what Caitlin is saying here whenever no one's done anything wrong, but the in the situation feels emotionally charged. One thing that stood out here is how do you approach the situation delicately. I think that maybe you don't approach the situation delicately. You just really start to say what you mean. And you just get really honest and transparent. You might even say hey, I'm feeling a little emotionally charged here. What? Here's what I'm seeing happening. Here's what I want to happen. What do you recommend? That's like kind of my standard template for tricky conversations. What about you, Emily?

Emily Thompson 3:41
Yeah, as a web designer, developer, which are big, huge projects that are huge milestones and your clients life and business. I've become very familiar with this. We even came up with a name with a name for it. We call this time the moment of reckoning.

Kathleen Shannon 4:03
I like to call it the come to Jesus,

Emily Thompson 4:05
right or come to Jesus. And it always just is an email. And it's not always a delicate email, you go at it as delicately as you can, but I wouldn't ever really call the emails very delicate. Because you do have to get very say what you mean here. And what you have to do is really set the tone for what you want things to or how you want things to continue. And you do that by setting clear expectations. Whenever expectations start to unravel, or deadlines start being missed, or whatever it may be. This is the point where you put it back on track by letting people know like here's what I expect from you here is what I expect for myself going forward in here is what the end goal will be but only if we do these things. It's a big, huge, scary thing that you have to do. But if you're going to work with clients Especially in the capacity of being a coach or being some sort of big service service provider, these are life milestones for their business you are you are pushing them up the hill, and you have to help them get over the peak of it. And sometimes that conversation is really hard. So get used to it, come on, come up with a cute name for it like we did, template that email out, because that will absolutely make it easier. But otherwise get things back on track with some clear expectations and recognizing what that end goal is.

Kathleen Shannon 5:34
I think that that's such a good point that your client is going through a big milestone in their life or in their business or in both. And a lot of times their general stress, you might be taking it personal, but it might not have anything to do with you. So more recently, in the being boss clubhouse, one of the clubhouse members was talking about, she's a web designer and developer and she finished the branding portion of a project and it was time to go on to the website and her client just kind of dropped off the face of the earth. And I think that it's really easy for her to go to a place where she's wondering, did I do something wrong? Does she not like me anymore? Is she okay? Did she die, like what happened. And I think that it's really important here to not take it personal, too, if you're gonna make any assumptions just make the best assumptions possible. So it could be that the client is getting super stressed out about their own business, maybe they don't actually have all of their ducks in systems and processes in a row before launching a website. And, you know, I think that a lot of times, whenever you're working with a client, it's a rubber meets the road situation where they're having to make really big decisions moving forward, and they might not be ready to make some of those decisions. So I think that being a really great guide, and leading them through the decisions that they have to make as smoothly as possible is part of your job.

Emily Thompson 7:02

Kathleen Shannon 7:03
One thing I want to mention here also is, it's so important to humanize your client and to make sure that they see you as a human being as well. So at any point, whenever things get tricky, sometimes I will offer up a phone call or a Skype call, just to remember that we're really on each other's sides, it's really easy to start to feel that kind of tension that pits you against the person that you're working with. But you have to remember that you guys are working toward a common goal. So if you can just get on the phone or get on Skype, it can be really easy to kind of work through the emotional muck that has been charged up in the situation, and then figure out more tactically how you're going to put steps in place to move forward. And follow up with an email like kind of outlining those steps that then you do have a paper trail as well, but you want to get on the phone or on Skype, so that you can remember that you're human beings that have each other's back.

Emily Thompson 8:01
Hey there bosses, I've been around the block with email marketing platforms, I've used them for myself to set my clients up on them. And I've tested most of the systems out there. And what I learned is that it's not about a long list of features and a gazillion options. It's about a simple, easy to use interface that puts the most important content and metrics right at your fingertips. For my email marketing, I use ConvertKit it's easy to use from sending out a blast to my list to having quick access to the metrics that allow me to make smart decisions for my business on the fly. One of the things I love most about ConvertKit as a boss who knows websites and hungers for good metrics is how easy it is for me to see how effective a form is on my website. Right on the dashboard, I get a bird's eye view of every form I have across my online presence. I can see what forms are performing best and see if it's because of where it's placed on my site. Or maybe from a new opt in incentive that I'm trying out. Easy metrics like that are what allow me to keep my business fresh and ConvertKit makes that possible. Try ConvertKit for free for 30 days go to to learn more. Did you like this minisode Be sure to check us out on our website at There you can find more from being boss including our full episodes minisodes and blog posts. And while you're there, be sure to sign up for our mailing list so that you can get access to behind the scenes and exclusive content from Kathleen and myself to help you be more boss in your work and life. Do the work be boss