I know that this sounds more like a personal and emotional post, probably because it is.
If I lost you there, you are probably who I'm focusing on. Yeah, you!
If you are in a creative field, you often want to do things your way. Which "your way" may be unique but, what makes you stand out from your competition?
A few years ago I was in a leadership meeting with a few coworkers, and we were talking about employee evaluations. If you've ever been in an assessment or ever given an evaluation, you know they are uncomfortable. The thought of this made my coworker uncomfortable, she hesitantly laughed and said, "If James* (her boss) ever asked anything personal about my life I would probably quit". Granted, this coworker was a really hard person but, this story earns merit. Especially because through time I learned more and more about this coworker through passing conversations.
NOW, to the point of this, how are you getting to know your clients? Here are a few things that have helped me with getting to know my clients and their businesses.
1. Get to know your client and their business
You may find yourself in a meeting with clients that keep going back and forth about a "circuit board". You don't hear ANYTHING else in the conversation except this one thing. Don't ignore that fact, which leads me to #2.
2. Ask Questions.
ASK STUPID QUESTIONS because you are an outsider. It's hard to design, photograph, or create something for someone or something you don't fully understand. I'm not saying, that you will understand everything by the end of a project but, you will have a better understanding for your client and their business.
3. Be Yourself
Unless you are a really trashy person, be like Bob ;) ... this goes without saying but, people respect those that are real with them. Choose clients who you work well with!
4. Be consistent
Sometimes clients or even business owners will get emotional. I mean it's your clients brand on the line and it's your blood, sweat and tears. So be strong in your work ethic but, have boundaries for your conversations.
You have to start somewhere and those bad experiences grow you as a business owner and a person. Some of the most stressful and negative experiences in business have grown me more than the positive ones. For some reason I keep getting up every morning and doing this tough client business. As tough as it is, it's what I chose to get into and I take much pride in my work as a small business owner.
*Names were changed out of privacy of the people involved