Client Conversations Can Be Scary, mmkay?

You’re going to have to do it at some point in your career. You are going to to have to tell your client some unfortunate news. And this can be scary…anxiety ridden…or fun if you’re sadistic.

How you approach it can turn an emotional experience into just part of business.

Keep it simple, stupid.

Yeah, you’ve probably read that on some other blog. Unfortunately, I’m all out of fucks to give. You’re reading it again because the universe said you need it again.

Keep your email to a maximum of 3 lines, with no more than 30 words to a line. Clients and the general populous don’t want a long drawn out explanation of why there was a fuck-up. It is just business. Nothing personal.

To ease your mind a bit, here is a quick template:

Dear [client],
After reviewing [parameters of x,y,z], I unfortunately do not believe [x, y, z] is the best course of action. It may result in [a,b,c]
My suggested solutions are [begin a list of solutions or make a succinct sentence].*
I’m sorry for the inconvenience and please reach out here or via [phone, cell, Morse code] as needed.
Thank you,
[Birth name]
  • A note: Depending on the context, I like to include a PDF with additional information they can print, with more details and show to others if necessary. It keeps the email succinct, professional and easy to manage.

What if they come back furious? That is what I’m really worried about.

Did you just read that template? That literally took me about two minutes to concept. If taking two minutes to shoot off this email is going to cause a wad in your downstairs mix-up, I’m sure there is a therapist in your area.

In my experience most clients are pretty awesome. If a client responds to a professional email in a furious manner, then you’re probably best dropping the client. 95% of clients are just other humans you’re interacting with and just want the same dignity you expect. Shit happens. They know that. You know that. Brush off the anxiety and move on as best you can.

There isn’t some formula to combat the anxiety of waiting for a client to respond. Good or bad news. I get anxious even knowing I’ve nailed a bid and waiting for a signed contract to come in. I know they’re going to sign the contract, but I still get anxious over it.

The more you can repeat to yourself that business isn’t personal, the easier it becomes to recognize the emotions you’re having, have them for a moment, and move on in the day.

Liam Clisham is the owner of the content creation firm, Five31, in Bel Air, Maryland and co-founder of the collective, Pancake Camp.