If you work in an industry or position that deals directly with clients, it is only natural that you will both come to know each other well throughout your time of contacting each other and meeting for appointments. You’ll likely bond with some clients more so than others, some of them even feeling comfortable opening up to you about their personal life.
There comes the point in some of these relationships where you wonder whether you could be friends with your client outside of work and whether that is professional to do. Even though your mind might be selfishly yelling a resounding “Yes!”, there are also considerations you have to take into account.
Pro: Creates Trust
One of the most important traits you can develop with your client is the groundwork of trust. Obviously, by this point in your relationship, your client most likely trusts you if they are wanting to get together in a non-professional setting. However, beginning a friendship can add to the level of trust they have in you and your services, which could also lead to them wanting to continue doing business with you even if their initial need was met.
Con: Shows Favoritism
Your clients will not likely care who your friends are outside of work. However, it makes a difference if they catch wind of a friendship you have with another client, and that client just so happens to be shown favoritism in the forms of free hand-outs, on-the-house discounts or products, bending the rules and more. What may seem harmless to you can rub off the wrong way if your other clients become informed of it. It is best to keep your professional offerings the same for clients, regardless of whether you are friends outside of work or not.
Pro: Leads to Referrals
A hidden bonus of becoming friends with a client is the number of referrals they can bring you, especially if they begin introducing you to their friends or inviting you to dinner parties. Although your goal of every conversation shouldn’t be to make a business transaction, it can also be an organic way to garner more clients. Word-of-mouth referrals and in-person networking are both two underestimated marketing techniques that can have positive effects on business.
There are a great number of considerations to be thought about when deciding whether or not to be friends with your client, some of them depending on the type of industry you are in. For instance, a freelance photographer will likely feel more comfortable being friends with their clients than a therapist might be. It is always best to examine your personal situation, but in most cases, there is no harm in being able to call another individual friend.