It’s helpful to remember sometimes that it’s equally as important to have a good client as to be a good contractor. There are certain skills and dispositions that make the client you’re working for enjoyable and efficient and that help you, the contractor, to do a better job for them in delivering the media that they want.
Some of these skills include:
- Clear direction and purpose
- Openness to means of getting results
- Respect for your expertise
- Willingness to talk and communicate about their product
- Responsiveness to requests for feedback
- Willingness to give honest feedback
As specialists, our ideal client is one who has a clear goal that matches our expertise, is open to the means of getting there, and is eager to communicate and give genuine feedback when we submit work to them. There’s nothing worse than a client that doesn’t communicate with us. It’s infinitely more difficult to do the job right when we don’t know what the client wants.
Honestly, that’s why, for many projects, I spend so much time upfront getting to know clients and trying to get to the bottom of their needs and desires. As a contractor, there’s nothing I want more than to give my clients what they want. I thrive off of my clients getting what they want and having a good experience while doing it. And the quickest way a client can help me to help them with their media services it to be upfront and communicative about, well, everything, even when it’s things that they don’t like.
Meet Shannon Morgan. She’s the owner of Apex Canines Training in Woodinville, Washington. She is the ideal client. She’s clear, communicative, responsive, and eager to express her needs and desires about what, exactly, she’s wanting from her media, in this case, her website.
Project Scope: Take the Site From Start to Finish
Shannon’s company is a board and train operation that does month-long intensives with dogs who have a particularly difficult time with training. Shannon approached Matt Sheeks with White Hat Matt in September 2019 about building out her website. She charges around $4000 for a single board and train session, so the idea of dropping several thousand dollars on a quality website wasn’t one that was too difficult to wrap her head around. If the website attracted a single client that wouldn’t have existed without it, it’s already paid for itself and more.
White Hat Matt delegates some of their start-to-finish web design projects that are one-off deals to me. And Apex Canines was one such project. It was my responsibility to take the project from the keyword research stage all the way to design. The only aspects of the project Matt would handle would be the client ingress and the integration at the end. Everything in the middle was my responsibility.
Shannon wanted a single-page site that made an argument for her services, communicated who she was and how she worked, plus made it easy for a client to connect with her if they wanted to learn more or book with her. In the future, she also wanted the option to build out service pages for each of her particular services.
Problem 1: Lack of Knowledge
The first and only serious problem with this project was a lack of knowledge on my part. I have been trained in SEO research and keyword placement. But of all the web design skills, these were the ones I was the weakest in. Personally I tend to be strongest in the design and copywriting aspects of the process, and keyword placement was just an area I hadn’t had a lot of practice in before this project.
Matt with White Hat Matt is one of the most generous people I know, especially with his knowledge. Matt is a wealth of information and wisdom when it comes to web design and SEO, and he’s always eager to share it with the people who he’s invested in. So when it became apparent that I was having difficulty transitioning from the SEO research phase to keyword placement on the site, he was quick and eager to schedule a time to sit down with me and review the essentials of how to do so. I was able to (re)learn how to take the raw keyword data that is collected from the research phase, pick out the most ideal keywords to optimize for, and then to form those into a document which outlines where, exactly, each keyword will be optimized for on the page in the copy and in the meta tags. Within an hour or two, the job was done, and I was skilled in the part of the process I’d never done before.
Problem 2: Voice of the Copy
When communicating with dogs it’s best to be direct. They respond well to simple, firm commands imbued with lots of emotional tones to communicate how you’re feeling. They don’t do well with long sentences, repeated commands, or subtle, ironic attempts to communicate. Like a contractor, they want to be told what you want so they can do it, period.
And as a trainer, this is how Shannon communicates, which makes her a great client to work with! However, we also wanted the copy of the site to have a warm feeling to it, and sometimes warmness and directness are two difficult tones of voice to weave together. And it was my responsibility (as the copy writer) to blend these styles to communicate that Shannon is a direct, knowledgeable trainer who, at the same time, isn’t so much of a left-brain robot that she won’t treat your dog like family.
Solution: Short Sentences With A Touch of Love
I can’t say there was any particular strategy I used to do this. But looking back, one thing that marks the copy I wrote for this site are short sentences. Short sentences are clear and straightforward. They communicate clearly without beating around the bush like untrained puppies do. When writing the copy for this site, I used short, straightforward sentences while keeping in mind the warmth of how I felt personally about my own dog. Combining these two orientations, I think, helped me to not err too far on the side of being overly terse or pathetic.
Problem 3: Nothing!
There are very few projects, in my experience, that go off technically without a hitch. This was one of the few, and that was largely because of the quality of working with Shannon as a client. She made the entire process extremely easy. She communicated well up front, so there weren’t any surprise needs that came up late in the project. She was eager to schedule time to review, and was honest and open when she had critiques. She eagerly edited the crap out of the first draft of my copy (which I love!). And in the end, she was satisfied with the website, and has since continued on to work with White Hat Matt on a pay-per-click campaign designed to get people to her site.
Learning: It Takes Two To Tango
Sometimes I tend to take all of the blame for a project going smoothly upon myself. And as a business owner and a leader, that’s part of the gig. Even if there is shortcomings on the side of your client, you have responsibility only over yourself, and being proactive to, without shame, own blame and mistakes when they happen and learn from them creates a culture of openness that is essential to growing as a business and a person as well.
However, sometimes it is nice to remind myself that a business deal is a two-way street. It takes two to tango, and just like with dance, if the person following is not skilled in doing so it can cause a few awkward moments stepping on each other’s toes. Sure, you get through the dance, and it looks great to everybody else. But you and your partner know that there were a few cringes here and there, probably because both the leader and the follower have room to grow in their dancing skills. And sometimes this is a nice thing to remember when you’re dancing with clients who have a few steps to learn. Or alternatively when you’re working with someone who is truly a wonderful partner with whom to dance – like Shannon was – so you can be thankful to them for how wonderful they are.
Project Results: A Great, One-Page Site
Bottom line, I’m pretty proud of being able to take this site from beginning to end. There are only a handful of sites I’ve done so with. The site makes a clear, concise, and welcoming argument about why a prospective client should work with Shannon, what makes her unique, and who and where she serves. There are few questions left open when someone fully reads her site. They have a great understanding of who she is, what she does, and how to get in touch if they’re interested in working with her.
Here’s the link to the full site: