Meta conversations with clients

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Communication can make or break your relationship with clients, and meta conservations are one of the most important types of conversations that you can have with clients.

A meta conversation is about how you work and your working relationship with a client. It often involves setting boundaries and expectations. You are not talking about the project that you’re working on. These kinds of conversations involve setting boundaries, expectations, and addressing any problems in your business relationship with a client.

Have meta conversations and determine your boundaries. And then you can decide what a healthy work environment looks like for you. Meta conversations are valuable, not just with clients, but also with employers, colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends.

A meta conversation is usually not initiated by the client. Clients want to talk about the project, when it’s going to be done, and what it’s going to look like. If you allow the client to drive your conversations, you won’t be having meta conversations. It’s your responsibility to initiate these discussions- and the sooner the better. Download a free copy of my template for meta conversations, called “How I Work,” to guide you if you’re having trouble initiating and structuring these conversations.

So why have meta conversations?

Meta conversations are rewarding and they make future work with that client so much easier. In addition to helping you to set healthy boundaries and expectations with clients, these discussions can reveal if a prospect is a bully before they become a client. There are certain people that you don’t want to be your clients, such as overly demanding and abusive individuals. You don’t want clients who don’t respect your boundaries and having meta conversations can show you who to avoid early.

You have to be okay with not having lousy clients and letting go of prospects who do not respect your boundaries. Then you can open up your schedule for the clients who are a good match for you and who will respect your boundaries. It’s hard to work with those great clients if your schedule is taken up by a different client who doesn’t respect your boundaries.

Leave a comment and any questions or any situations that you would like to add to the discussion of meta conversations. So if there are situations that I’m not taking into account, I’d love to hear what they are.

Let’s brainstorm. Tell us what happened and how it went. Did it go south? Did it do well? Did good things happen?

Table of Contents


00:47 Introduction

01:15 What is a meta conversation?

02:10 Why are meta conversations important?

02:47 Why do I have meta conversations?

03:53 The Sooner the better

05:56 Refunds?

06:54 Setting boundaries and saving projects from failure

07:49 The reward of meta conversations

08:25 Creating your  own “How I Work” document

11:50 Download the meta conversation template, “How I Work,” that I created for my clients

12:21 How to know when you need to have a meta conversation?

14:26 Why you should avoid meta conversations through email or text

15:31 “Broken Record” Treatment

19:25 Building trust with clients

20:23 The types of clients you will have meta conversations with

31:47 Letting go of lousy clients and accepting loss

35:02 Protect your team

36:15 Encouraging your employees to have meta conversations

39:10 Tell us your experience with meta conversations

Hosted by
Emily Journey

Welcome to WebDev Success. I’m Emily Journey and this podcast is where I take a hard look at the challenges facing the website development industry. Learn how to attract loyal customers, how to raise your prices with confidence, and take steps to craft the work life you’ve always wanted. Subscribe, listen in and develop brilliantly.

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Hi, I’m Emily Journey. I founded and lead a website consulting agency with six coworkers. This blog is where I write about the things I’ve learned at my real job.
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Episode 15