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Optimal client management for freelancers.

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The best way to strengthen client relationships (and grill steak)

Many people dismiss New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve had great success with them. The trick is to focus not on things you feel you “should” do, but on areas where you genuinely want to attract more into your life. One of my resolutions for this year is what I simply call: “Let. It. Marinate.”

People tend to have one of two responses when issues arise: deal with it right away or avoid it for as long as possible. I used to have the former approach – diving right in. The problem with this is that I was trying to deal with an issue while it was still causing me stress, anxiety or frustration. Not surprisingly, this is not a time when I come up with the best solutions or articulate things as eloquently as possible.

So I came up with the phrase “Let. It. Marinate.” to remind myself to take some time to consider an issue before tackling it. The real intention here was to ensure that I was always reacting to requests calmly and professionally. But I have noticed another, even better, result: this process has helped me set better boundaries, and to do it in a more productive way.

Steaks and communications are better with a little marinating.

During the last few months, I have forcefully kept myself away from responding to any issues or potential issues until I’ve had a chance to think through my position. This could take anywhere from 20-minutes to a few hours to a full day. During that time, I’ll do other things, but also let my mind ruminate on the issue at hand. What I’ve found is that taking this time has allowed me to come up with compromises that both parties can be happy with. That’s because I’m able to:

  • Think through what the other party is asking, and what it is that they really want (these two things can be different)
  • Consider how I feel about their request, and why I feel that way
  • Decide how I can best help them out in a manner that is good for them while also being true to me and my goals

Here’s an example to illustrate this approach. Recently, a client made an additional request on a project that was not part of our initial contract. It made me tense and frustrated thinking of the time that this would take and the fact that I would have to do additional work free of charge.

In taking some time to consider the request, I realized that if the work wasn’t part of the initial contract, I could ask for more time. With further consideration, I also figured out that their request would not meet their true objective. So instead of reluctantly agreeing, I came back to them with a new proposal (and timeline/budget) that would give them the outcome they wanted. Not only did they like my idea, they thanked me for helping them meet their needs in a way they hadn’t considered.

In taking a little time to consider the situation, I was able to come to a compromise that was mutually appreciated. While this is not a revolutionary concept, many of us are guilty of acting too hastily, and not considering what response might work better for both parties. I, for one, will be “Letting it marinate” from now on, no matter how challenging it is for me not to pounce right on the problem.


  • katherine chan says:

    I read this blog post last night and this morning I got an email from a potential job opportunity asking me two questions.

    my instinct was to respond IMMEDIATELY

    but because i read this post last night i remembered … NO, let it marinate.

    i don’t know what my response will be yet, but i am sure it will be better because of the time i left it to marinate.

    thanks Ellen, you were always a wise one

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