3 ways client relationships are like online dating

For better or for worse, client relationships have a surprising amount in common with dating. That’s right, swiping your approval (or disapproval) on dating apps like Tinder and Hinge isn’t light years away from navigating the murky waters that can come with the world of work—like when a client hires an agency to work on a project.

We’re not just talking about how seeing a stellar rough draft from an agency can be as delightful a surprise as receiving flowers from a new flame—though it totally can be. We’re really talking about the thing that both successful interpersonal and business relationships share: regular, thoughtful communication, which includes both self-expression and listening.

Here are three things that happen in the dating world that can or do also occur in the world of clients and agencies—that happen to relate back to that aforementioned key to relationships: communication—with tips on how to ensure your business relationships never start down the route of the earth-shattering, gossip-rag-cover break-up story (RIP Ben and Jen, Gavin and Gwen.)

Defining the relationship (DTR)
There’s a point in every young romance where the two parties involved aren’t too sure where they stand with each other—are we exclusive? Can I call you my boyfriend? Are we in love? So they have a serious talk, perhaps over candlelight, about what exactly their union is.

Defining a personal relationship is wrought with potential for hurt feelings and confusion; defining business relationships can be, too. So once the contracts are signed, it’s important for everyone to understand their role and, perhaps most importantly, know exactly what is expected of each of them.

Agencies should take the lead on defining the business relationship—outlining their process and roles in a clear manner to clients, ideally before the project begins. But if a client finds this just isn’t happening, they can ask searching questions of their agency to better understand how the relationship should go (and what is expected of them as a client.)

Don’t over-commit
Apps like Tinder and Hinge exist to widen the dating pool and make finding new potentials much easier, which can be both a blessing and a curse. While it may seem great to line up three dates per week, continuing this practice for too long is not realistic or really all that good for those long-term end goals of romantic love.

Burnout is pretty common in agencies and at Whistle Studios we like to think of ourselves as a lifestyle business that has a healthy balance between work and life outside of the office. For us, choosing the right clients and slowly growing our company means that we can avoid 60-hour weeks and provide great services to all of our clients.

Clients can burnout by overcommitting, too—by hiring too many different agencies, each with their own specialities, to tackle different parts of one project. There’s an easy way to avoid this: hire one agency as the primary and let them take the lead on delegating out any tasks that they don’t specialize in.

This saves the client from doing too much coordinating—and also ensures that there aren’t too many disparate cooks clogging up the project kitchen.

Ghosting happens in love and business (sad but true)
Ghosting is a concept that’s seemingly entered our collective consciousness recently. It’s the mind-boggling practice of one party in any kind of relationship completely cutting off communication from the other. No goodbye text, no “see ya” email, nothing.

This practice, believe it or not, also exists in the world of work. Agencies get busy, clients get overloaded with more pressing matters and projects can go slightly too long without a proper check-in. Again, the key to solving this problem is regular communication.

Be sure to schedule regular check-in calls on the calendars of both client and agency and stick to it—not only does this keep everyone on the same page, it also avoids the kind of creep that can happen when communication parameters aren’t defined (aka too much of a seemingly good thing.)

Relationships of all stripes take work. Keeping in mind the basic tenants of how successful relationships run—remember: communication is key!—will help keep everyone in the business relationship happy and will ensure killer projects.