Some great advice on getting and finding (design) clients in this piece from A List Apart. One of the sections was particularly worth sharing:
Be Pleasant, Don’t Be Nice
We once received a call from a gentlemen who said, “[redacted] referred me to you. He said that you wouldn’t be shy about telling me I was wrong, you’d probably piss me off, and that I should listen to everything you said because it would work.”
I was delighted.
That said, you should aim to be pleasant to work with, as everyone would rather work with someone pleasant than with an asshole. But no one wants to work with someone who’s faking it. Doing good work often requires a few hard conversations.
There’s a difference between being enjoyable to work with and being “nice.” Being nice means worrying about keeping up the appearance of harmony at the expense of being straightforward and fully engaged. Sometimes you need to tell a client they’re making the wrong call. Part of client services is being able to do that without coming off as a dick. But being afraid to do it because you’re too invested in being “nice” is worse than being a dick.
No one is hiring you to be their friend. They’re hiring you to design solutions to problems. But if they can get the same solution from someone who’s pleasant and someone who’s a jerk, they’ll go with the former.