It was bound to happen at some point, right? When you start working with local, small businesses, at some point you're going to run into clients who are in the same niche or similar. Which can cause client conflicts…
What do you do? Do you disclose that you have a similar client that you provide similar work for (blog posts, SEO articles, copywriting services etc) or do you say nothing and continue on your merry way?
This situation was one I was confronted with fairly early on in my freelancing career. And I had no idea what to do.
At the time, it didn't actually occur to me that there could even be an issue. It wasn't until I was chatting with my Mastermind group that someone raised the point… “How are you managing the conflict of interest of them being in the same niche?”
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Um, what conflict?!
That's all it took to send me off into a whirlwind of “oh shit's”, and “uh-oh, what now's”.
It had never even occurred to me that there was a conflict. I was just doing the work. And there is part of the problem.
[Tweet “That's all it took to send me off into a whirlwind of “oh shit's”, and “uh-oh, what now's”.”]
When you start out freelancing, you can sometimes become a little disconnected from the overall big picture of where your work will sit in a company's business.
Once I started thinking about the big picture and considering the implications of writing sales copy for two companies in the same niche, the ball dropped and I started looking for ways to manage this type of conflict.
There are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself initially before doing the same type of work with clients:
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- Will you be providing the EXACT same type of work to the new client/s that you already provide to your existing client/s?
- If not providing the same type of work, will you advise both parties about the fact that you are working for them both?
- If you would be providing the same type of work, how can you assure the clients that there won't be any issues?
If you're facing a similar situation right now, follow the strategies outlined below to save yourself any embarrassment and loss of business further down the line.
3 Ways to Manage Client Conflicts
Strategy 1: Communicate
I like to be upfront with my clients, so if I have an existing client and a potential new client that are in the same niche, I'll find out exactly what the new client is looking for and then speak with my existing client to find out if they have any concerns.
If it does work out that I'm providing the same type of work, ie writing articles on the same keywords, developing sales copy for the same product—then for my own piece of mind, I will fully disclose this to the existing client.
In most cases, I'll refer a new client to a respected colleague rather than take on the risk of duplicate copy or work that could be seen as too similar.
[Tweet “In most cases, I'll refer a new client to a respected colleague rather than take on the risk.”]
If the scenario was around two new clients wanting similar work done and there were no existing clients, then I would still disclose to them and then let them make the decision whether they wish to continue.
Being upfront and honest is always the best policy as far as I'm concerned.
Strategy 2: Separate
If both clients are happy for you to continue working for them, then you need to ensure that you keep all their project details separate.
I have a VA and a couple of writers that work for me, so I'll create separate Trello boards and assign separate writers (where applicable) to each client, so I don't have the same person working on the same content.
This way, I can ensure that the work is not the same, and when I fine tune it, I'm not tempted to write the same stuff.
If I'm doing the writing, which is generally the case for copywriting and blog posts, then I work on each client's work on different days.
I even go so far as to work on one client's piece one week and then the other client's piece the following week – just so I don't have any overflow of similar ideas and words popping up in both their work. It can happen, which is why I use Copyscape to make sure I'm not copying myself!
[Tweet “I work on each client's work on different days.”]
Strategy 3: Determine the Risk
Even if both clients are happy to continue working with you, you should also consider the risk associated with writing copy and articles or ranking for the same keywords, particularly when it comes to SEO.
Only one person can be in the number one position, so how do you manage that?
Personally, if I had two clients wanting to be ranked for the same keywords, whether through website copy or blog posts, I would have to decide who I wanted to work with going forward.
If it's an existing client and I enjoy working with them and there is a retainer in place, I will choose them over a new client.
Conversely, if the new client provides more opportunity to expand my skill set and the existing client has been dragging the ball lately (which has happened before!) in terms of payments and communication, I take the opportunity to ‘fire' my existing client and take on the new one.
[Tweet “…I take the opportunity to ‘fire' my existing client and take on the new one.”]
It's all about managing the risk — I can't, in good conscience, work with two clients who want the same keywords included in their copy without letting them know and determining whether it's the best course for us both.
This is when having a couple of people you can refer clients to is a bonus. You could even have in place some type of referral fee…
The bottom line at the end of the day is the relationship you want to have with your clients.
Personally, I believe in full disclosure and in most cases, have found that clients don't mind you working with a competitor if you're not doing the same type of work.
The issue only arises when you are doing the same work and aiming for the same keywords. Then that gets tricky.
I like to keep my work environment free of stress and sometimes, having clients in the same niche causes unnecessary stress. Remember, you have the choice of whether you want to take on any client, so remember that when considering potential client conflicts.
Has this ever happened to you? How did you deal with it? How would you deal with two clients who wanted the same type of work?
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