The Difference Between Working WITH and FOR People

One thing recruitment people and employers seem to be struggling to come to terms with, given the recent correspondence I’ve had, is the idea of working with a client, rather than for a client. At first it sounds like over-sensitivity to language again, but there is actually a difference. Here’s my definition of the two…

Working with clients puts an emphasis on teamwork and collaboration. It’s about coming together and bouncing ideas off of each other, looking for solutions and ways to improve on what exists. The focus is on creating something usable and spectacular, with an additional reward of seeing something you (in general) had a hand in conceiving, usually from the beginning, coming to fruition.

Working for clients puts an emphasis on hierarchy and image. It’s about people telling other people what to do and how to do their job, simply because they’ve been at the company longer or they’ve got a grandiose title. The focus is on bending over for the end client (the client’s client) and giving them what they think they want, in the name of bolstering the company’s image. (Working for clients also involves picking up where some previous lazy person left off, and you’re also expected to document everything and leave things far better than you found them.)

I think it’s important to make the distinction between working with and working for people. A big part of my decision to freelance was wanting to work with people in a collaborative context, while putting my years of experience and brainpower to effective use, instead of being dictated to and told what to do by someone – to put it as kindly as I can – with far less experience. The number one reason why I’ve been in and have left so many jobs was because I’ve been wanting to collaborate with someone, but instead was ganged up on and told what to do.

I also think the whole collaboration thing is more likely to come about when working with people and clients directly as a freelancer, instead of through recruitment people who tend to fluff up job descriptions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sold a job on the grounds of

yeah it’s a collaborative environment, everybody pitches in and contributes to the project, it’s very team-focused

only to get there and start hearing

this needs doing, get him to do that, d’ya wanna have a look at this, are you happy with that

which is what I’ve wanted to get away from.

Anything to add? Post a comment below.

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