There’s a lot of data and statistics out there on how happy employees equal happy customers. But for most designers, there’s no manager or overall company to keep you happy. To treat you well. To take you out for lunch, or throw you an Employee Appreciation Party, or bring you every grocery store dessert ever made for your birthday. You’re on your own. Or, you’re the manager and you’re responsible for your employees’ happiness. So, what does that mean for yours? That there’s no hope for it? That you’re destined for career sadness and loneliness? Thankfully, no. You actually have a lot of control over the joy you take in your work. People with managers have very little. It would mean they’d need to walk up to their managers and say, “you know, I really think you need to work on making me happier.” I can’t imagine how well that would go over. Even if it was a true statement.
Qualify Your Clients
Since your clients are your managers, it’s paramount that you make sure that you actually want to work for them. Projects can be long, are almost always challenging, and rarely go as planned. So you have to make sure you’re working with someone that you actually want to put the time in with. That will actually respect you.Desperate times shouldn’t always call for desperate measures. If you’re meeting for the first time and right off the bat you don’t like them, trust your gut. Or, you see them bossing their husband and children around constantly and worry that one day you’ll be the target, it’s ok to say no. You have the right to tell a client that you’re just not the right fit. Because chances are, you won’t do your best work when someone is breathing down your neck, criticizing every design decision you make. Your job is already hard enough.
I once had a sales manager who literally did that. He would stand behind me while I made calls, and actually breathe down my neck. Guess how those sales went? Yeah, not well. So, do yourself a favor and work with clients who respect your professional opinion. Now of course you won’t love every client equally, but just make sure you at least find them to be pleasant enough. Pleasant enough you can work with. Straight up punk, you can’t. You can’t confidently do your best work. And they won’t even let you. So just let that opportunity pass you by. Because really, it isn’t an opportunity.
Let Great Clients Take Care of You
But great clients, they’ll be there for you. They’ll fill in for that manager that would be, or should be, giving you some recognition, special treatment, and good feelings along the way. They’ll write you thank you notes, brag to their friends about your beautiful designs, and even send you gifts on holidays and your birthday. They’ll take you out for a job well done.
And, make sure to let your clients celebrate you. Let them send a little care your way if they’re wanting to. Don’t turn down their invitations to a lunch, or as their guest to a party, or say you can’t accept their gift. You deserve it. They want you to have it. So take it. They want to extend your relationship into the “friend zone.” Let them. To turn it down would be hurtful. If you genuinely can’t go, let them know how upset you are that you can’t make it. And if they offer again, do whatever you can to accept. Unless you really think a certain client getting too close is bad for your business relationship, let your clients care for you as much as you care for them.
Celebrate Your Own Achievements
Now what to do when you’re not getting enough appreciation from clients? Appreciate yourself. Take a day off. Invite your spouse to a dinner out celebrating your hard work. Read through thank you notes you’ve received from previous clients. Give yourself the work flexibility that you need. If you want to pick your children up from school, make it happen. Maybe it won’t be everyday, but maybe every Friday? Or even just twice a month? Take a vacation. Decide to not work 2 Fridays out of the month, every month. Take a full hour for lunch every day. Whatever it takes.
Because remember, as a business owner, most likely you’re working far more than the regular 40 hour work week. And you’re doing it with far more pressure than if you worked for someone else. So try and take an objective look at all that you do, and appreciate it. Appreciate how hard you work, how long you work, and how many different types of work you do, every day. Give yourself the rest, recognition, and special treatment that a manager or company would. Cause if you don’t, your clients will notice. Happy designers make for happy clients. POed designers make for pain in the arse clients. And you definitely don’t need any more of those.