Transparency: Do You Owe It To Your Clients?

In the next six months, I’ve got plenty of travel planned. There’s at least one month that I essentially just won’t be home. But I don’t think I’m going to tell my clients that fact. It’s not that I think my clients will care — it’s actually the opposite. I just don’t think any of my clients will actually care as long as my work keeps showing up in their inboxes. Clients are welcome to ask me about where I’m located this week, but I won’t be sending out announcements.

Transparency

I’ve had some difficulty defining just what I consider my clients’ business, what I don’t think they care about and what I don’t think is any of their business. To be honest, the list of things I don’t think clients care about is probably the longest: it’s information I’m willing to make available if anybody asks. Most clients care about exactly one thing, though: their project. They’ll ask about information relevant to the project (how much it will cost, my previous work, the deadline) and they are done. My life history doesn’t matter.

There are some questions that I’ve received, though, that I don’t feel a need to be transparent about. I don’t think I need to tell one client what another is paying. I don’t think I need to share exactly what time I did a particular piece of work. I’ve received a few questions that pry beyond the business side of things, as well: if a client is just trying to make conversation, I’m cool with that. But some parts of my private life are, well, private.

Social Media

The question of transparency gets exponentially harder when you’re involved in social media. I share all sorts of information via my blog, Twitter and other websites — sometimes information I’m reluctant to share with clients. I’ve tweeted more than one about a particular project I’m working on with a deadline looming. These days, I try to think about what I’m going to post pretty carefully. I don’t necessarily avoid posting information I wouldn’t want to share with clients — but there are limits. If something is going absolutely haywire in my personal life, it’s almost a given that I won’t post about it because I don’t want a client to Google my name and wind up with a big pile of drama.

I don’t think of it as being other than transparent — I just don’t think that transparency has to mean ‘too much information.’

4 Comments

  1. Janice Campbell   •  

    Professionalism is knowing where to draw the line between business and personal issues. You’re right to be discreet about what you reveal, especially online where it can live forever.

    As for revealing travel plans, they are relevant only if you will be out of reach or will need to turn in an assignment later than promised. If clients can reach you by e-mail or phone as they normally do, and if the work is getting done on time, it doesn’t matter if you’re halfway up Machu Picchu or at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. They didn’t hire your location, after all– they hired you!

    Janice
    National Association of Independent Writers and Editors
    http://www.NAIWE.com

  2. thursday   •     Author

    @Janice, Thank you for your comment. I particularly like your point that my clients didn’t hire my location! I may have to use that some time.

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