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Kids and clients have a lot in common. As a stay at home father of two who runs his own business, supporting small business clients, and having built a couple dozen websites over the last several years, I’ve learned a thing or two about people. But it took my son’s recent leap into preschool and the subsequent interactions for me to finally put one of those concepts into words. And here it is; clients, like children, are smarter than you can imagine and lazier than you’d hope.

Smarter Than You’d Imagine

Your children are probably smarter than you. I’m just playing the odds. My son has a memory like a steel trap. When you tell him when he’s going to bed that in the morning he can get up and watch Dora’s The Big Red Chicken Magic Show he will get up in 12 hours and immediately say “Daddy, I want to watch Dora’s The Big Red Chicken Magic Show. I often get up off the couch, walk into the kitchen and have NO idea why I’ve done so. He’s a problem solver. He’s a negotiator. He’s ruthless. He knows EVERYTHING that he wants to know. That’s the difference between kids and adults. Kids learn everything they need to know about anything they want to know about. My son knows the location of Wlado in every book seeking his location that we own. He knows how to navigate to youtube and find a frozen video on my phone and knows the lyrics to his favorite Ed Sheeran song, I See Fire. 

He doesn’t care in the LEAST about anything that doesn’t fit his agenda. This is pretty common amongst clients. In many cases, it’s not that they’re not smart. In fact, in most cases, it’s not that they’re not smart. It’s that they have an agenda and they’ve never taken the time to study things outside of their sphere of interest. When you are wondering why your client doesn’t understand what you’re talking about, you need to understand that when it comes down to it, they don’t care. I mean, they care. But much like my son, it’s my wheelhouse, not his. It doesn’t directly relate to his interests, so he’s never bothered to pay attention. I have clients who range in industry from socially responsible artisan handbag designers to witty and intelligent astrologer and every stop in between. They’re not dumb because they don’t know the things that I know. I couldn’t design a handbag or read planetary bodies if my life literally depended on it. Your clients, like your kids, are simply the masters of their own domain, not yours. They’re smarter than you could ever imagine. And if you can’t help them, than you’re not as smart as you imagine.

Lazier Than You’d Hope

Ok. So here’s the bad news. People, including your kids and clients, are inherently lazy. They’re not lazy as in “lay on the couch and not do anything” lazy but more “take the easiest possible path” lazy. Here’s the really bad news. If they don’t want to do something, it’s quite possibly your fault. My recent study has been in UX, user experience. I tend to think of UX in broader strokes than most. Most people think of it in terms of apps, websites, etc. But I think of user experience as any situation in which a user experiences something. Consider the following.

So, the fact is that people don’t like things that aren’t designed well. They like things that flow well. They like things that let them do what they want, how they want, when they want. So what does that mean? It means that if you want people to pay for your services, you need to make them easy to access and easy to use. Don’t make people jump through hoops to try to get to you physically. Have a clean, simple website. Offer simple calls to action. And when people do get to you, treat them with the respect that they deserve. Don’t talk as though you’re smarter than them. You’re probably not.

I worked as a manager and a trainer at a call center for a long time. One of the more common activities on the production floor was to complain about the customers. “They’re dumb. They’re idiots. They’re lazy. They’re a pain in the ass.” I used to like to remind them of the following things. On average, they make more money than you. And they’re the reason you have a job. Respect your clients. If you don’t want them to be your client, then don’t let them be your client. But respect their time, their intelligence and their focus.When I take on new clients, this is what I consider;

Do I like this work?
Can I do this job?
Would I rather be doing something else?

Assuming I answer yes, yes, no, I don’t care if they know what they’re talking about when it comes to what I’m talking about. It doesn’t matter. Their job is to do what they do. My job is to do what I do and make sure I bring them with me. And I do that by understanding that, more than likely, they’re smarter than I imagine and lazier than I’d hope.

Time to get to work.