• Advice

Beware the overshare

All of us need to communicate and connect. Yes, even you, stoic freelance cowboy!

Everybody needs to feel like they can express their feelings, like they can unburden themselves, like they can articulate their thoughts. Everybody needs to feel heard – by colleagues, or loved ones, or especially attentive pets. If that need is not fulfilled, people tend to go a little bit (or a lot) bananas.

With that being said, there are some times when oversharing can hurt us – especially when it comes to clients. These tend to come in two forms:

Oversharing about clients

The most modern version of this oversharing, of course, is on social media.

I once watched in pure schadenfreude/horror as a distant freelancing acquaintance complained vociferously about her client on Facebook – and then got publicly busted by a friend of a friend who happened to be connected to the company’s owner.

She lost the gig. Worse, she looked like the bad guy.

You may indeed have legitimate complaints about your client. We’ve all been there. But watch what you say and who you say it to – especially in written form.

That doesn’t mean you can’t complain! It just means you should pick and choose your battles. Social media is usually an especially poor choice of battlefield.

Unless you’re looking to specifically shame a former client for a real transgression, it often makes you look a bit unhinged.

Social media oversharing is an obvious danger zone. But be wary of overindulging even in nasty office gossip; as a freelancer, it can come to haunt you.

You’re an outsider – and it may be just as easy to let you go as to resolve conflicts. When I was younger, I once got reamed out for complaining vociferously about a slacking co-worker on a project.

The co-worker also got reprimanded, but I looked bad for talking smack – and lost sympathy I might have gained by tackling the problem head-on and speaking directly to my supervisor.

Wanting to vent is sometimes COMPLETELY understandable and healthy. But try to confide in trustworthy friends, family, or colleagues.

All 1500 of your Facebook friends probably don’t qualify.

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Oversharing WITH clients

I have a freelance friend who had been working with a client for a couple of years. She had recently raised her overall rates, and wanted to negotiate a new deal. She went into the meeting confident, and came out… with far less than she had hoped for.

I asked what happened. She said:

“I asked for the new rate, and they just stared at me. It was so awkward! Then I couldn’t stop myself – I got so nervous, I kept talking. I started justifying it, and then I backed off. I literally talked myself down and offered a lower rate than I wanted.”

… this felt verrrry familiar.

Keep in mind that most clients don’t know you or the details of your life. They mostly know your services.

You can control how much information they have. It’s great to keep open, friendly lines of communication with them – but don’t overshare to your detriment.

The difference between sharing in a collegial, open way and oversharing lies both in your motivations and the manner in which it affects you. Oversharing out of a desire to please (“I guess I COULD take that lower rate because I guess I need the money because I have so few clients right now… oops.”), that’s probably detrimental.

If you find that your big mouth continually tastes of your foot (and I speak as a big-mouthed human myself), you may want to keep some cards closer to the vest.

Communication and connection is more than a pleasure – it’s a fundamental human need.

Make sure to create space for it in your life, early and often! But if you’re an inveterate oversharer, you may want to habitually keep that space away from your clients… and Twitter.

Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.

Kate Shea Kate Shea lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily.