• Advice

How NOT to overshare with your clients

"T.M.I." may be a dated cultural reference (that's right, I said it, and I'm sure those I've offended are no doubt imploring me to talk to the hand), but there really is such a thing as too much information, especially when it comes to your clients.

Let's face it: it's very easy (and can even be tempting) to “overshare”. There are all sorts of reasons for this. Treating the client like a confidante can breed trust, or at least the appearance of it. It can make us feel chummy with someone we might normally be intimidated by. Sometimes we get nervous and in the search for something to say we lose control of ourselves. There's even the noble (but not always helpful) belief that pure and utter honesty is always the best policy.

I could go on, but the point is this: no matter what you think, no matter how you feel, there are some things only you need to know!

"Last night was Cuh-razy"

Everyone needs to cut loose once in a while. After all, you work hard, you deserve it. The problem tends to arise the next day, when you feel like a truck hit you and fear that everyone you communicate with can see the tire tracks on your face.

Resist the impulse to overshare! Chalking up exhaustion to a late night of socializing is never a good idea. It may be the honest truth, but it certainly doesn’t sound very professional. It's natural to want to explain why you're not at your best, but most of the time, nobody can tell that's the case but you!

No need for your clients to know you're the life of the party unless they're AT one with you!

The Buck(s) Stop Here

It makes perfect sense that the circumstances of a given assignment would dictate your pay rate for that assignment. That doesn't mean, however, that everyone needs to be privy to your decision-making process.

By the same token, there's no reason any client ever needs to know what your arrangement with any other client is. Wanting to be transparent is admirable, but relatively unnecessary, and phrases like "I normally charge more, but..." or “Client X pays me less, because..." are really just attempts to justify your worth.

Free yourself of that kind of thinking. Your work will justify your worth.

To Thine Own Self Be... Nice

Self-deprecation can be a fun, charming little weapon in your social arsenal. It shows you don't take yourself too seriously and that you can laugh at yourself. But there's a fine line between having a good sense of humor and undercutting yourself to the point of damaging your brand and/or reputation.

A less-than-stellar professional experience from your past may make for a funny anecdote but could reflect badly on you if the people you share it with don’t know you well enough to realize that’s not the norm. Similarly, being too modest about your accomplishments or abilities can also backfire. Excessive humility could be seen as a red flag.

Go ahead and make a gentle joke at your own expense, but just make sure that everyone is laughing with you.

Don’t Kiss And Tell

You may have a great rapport with a particular client, and that chumminess may lead you to feel that you can be as frank with her as you would be with any other close friend. To some degree that may be possible, as long as you avoid making work a topic of conversation.

Discussing the flaws (or even the merits) of other clients and vendors may seem like a natural mode of bonding considering the circles you move in, but it’s simply too easy to step on toes, too tempting to betray confidences. And, whether it’s true or not, there’s an excellent chance your client/pal will conclude that if you talk this freely about others to them, you must be talking this freely about THEM to OTHERS.

Keep your professional friendships just that – friendly and professional.

It’s Not A Race (Unless It Is)

"You won't believe how quickly I work!" is a great line in an interview, but in general, you might want to be careful about touting the speed with which you can complete assignments. A deadline is a deadline, and meeting it with work of high quality is the most important thing. But what gives you the edge in an interview can come off as smug in practice, and – what’s worse – can set up unrealistic expectations.

If the client doesn’t need it until Thursday but you promise to have it done on Tuesday, then turning it in on Wednesday means you’ve just disappointed where you otherwise would have impressed. And being too speedy can backfire as well. You may be able to produce, in just a few hours, what would take most others a few days.

Logic would dictate that’s a big plus, but quantifying your output in that way could make clients feel that either the assignment is too easy or that your rates are too high: "You spent how long - and I'm paying you how much?"

It may seem silly, but this is a very real balancing act, and it’s easier to manage expectations when you play your cards closer to your chest.

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