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6 steps to a healthy client-agency relationship


It was Shakespeare who once famously wrote that the course of true love never did run smooth. That also stands for other relationships in our life, specifically the client-agency relationship. While this partnership can be the most rewarding, it isn’t always exempt from friction – particularly in the joint pursuit of successful project execution. Follow these tips for a smooth collaborative process.

1. Expect and prepare for challenges

Expecting a trouble-free client-agency relationship before the ink has dried on the contract is akin to hoping for a December heatwave: it’s rather unlikely. This preconceived assumption immediately creates added pressure. Bin it. Understand that as with any collaborative process, it’s OK to be challenged and to anticipate some bumps.

While a client is better placed to understand their brand, market and channels, the agency or freelancer knows how best to market and will be adept at building customer relationships. Being open is a big part of establishing effective client relationship management, so that both parties can gain from a rich pool of valid insight.

In late 2019, Hoxby partnered with Beer Hawk FRESH to review their marketing strategy. The company’s wholesale distribution of refrigerated craft beer was set to revolutionise the industry. But following the lockdown of pubs and restaurants in early 2020, Hoxby pivoted along with the Beer Hawk FRESH team to launch a brand new business, Beer Hawk NOW! – trialling the home delivery of craft beer directly to customers. “This proved the value of our flexible ways of working, offering invaluable knowledge and experience to everyone involved” noted Hoxby’s business director, Simon Marjoram.

2. Build trust through honesty

Honesty is the lifeblood to any agency/client relationship. Trust is built quicker if mutual openness and honesty are exercised from the start, so it’s important you don’t ignore the elephant in the room, no matter how small. If you feel that something isn’t working quite as well as it could, then speak up – while this might not seem easy, it’s definitely commendable. Any agency worth its salt has a voice worth hearing.

Should a client let an agency know if they consider it to be underperforming? Yes. By withholding honest feedback, you’re not giving them the best chance to succeed. Remember, the mutual goal is to get the right results.


3. Keep your communication open

According to the iconic 90s BT ad campaign, it’s good to talk. Ah, those were the days. In a digital age where ‘being online’ is a permanent condition, poor communication is as ironic as it is preventable. The agency/freelancer may think they know what the client wants, with the client having been assured everything is great, only for them to utter the immortal words ‘but this wasn’t what we were after’. Cue complete project breakdown.

Ongoing feedback at every stage of the project development, from each side, is crucial. We’re not talking via email or online project management platform, either. Covid may have stopped face to face meetings for now, but a regular Zoom call or even – heaven forbid – picking up the phone, nurtures rapport and melts away any ambiguity (the spoken word is a powerful thing). Effective communication builds trust – the holy grail for any business partnership.

4. Be clear about expectations

Lack of scope from the start is a potential pitfall that will cause issues sooner or later. Common bugbears such as running over budget or time and lack of attention to detail can be avoided through establishing transparency. From the outset, it’s important that as a client you’re clear about expectations so that the agency can agree on realistic objectives and deliverables. Having a robust, but not overly elaborate framework in place, is vital.

5. Nurture a client-agency relationship

The client-agency relationship is a two-way street. Think of strategic partners with a shared goal of executing and achieving successful campaigns. As professionals in their respective fields, treating each other as equals is the foundation of a healthy working relationship.

An agency should be responsive and proactive, pushing the client to get the best out of them. In return, it’s important that clients make time to respond to requests for information or feedback.

6. Be flexible and stay positive

Remember that there’s no perfect ‘one size fits all’ solution as all relationships, and clients, are different. Being flexible to change is key and staying positive is an underrated asset. If all else fails, some fresh air or a post-work gin & tonic* can do wonders.

*other drinks are available

At Hoxby, we work with clients of all disciplines and sizes across the globe, helping to create refreshing work with impact. We hand-pick industry experts from our global freelance community, who adapt and flex to meet shared goals and seek out disruptive and innovative solutions. If it’s time you looked at things differently, we’d love to hear from you. Find out more here or drop us a line at When you have a mo could you please revise? Thanks again!

Claire Brown is a PR and communications specialist and is part of the Hoxby community.