I used to work in agencies before but now I am on the client side. I always thought, “the client side is so easy and breezy”, especially because when you work in agencies, you are overloaded with clients and multiple projects from different clients.
When I joined the client side as a UX Researcher, I thought I could finally relax, take a breath and take pauses — which is almost never possible on the agency side. Relaxing? No, we have deadlines! Taking a breath? No, gotta get the weekly report to the client right now! Taking a pause? No, thank you, I’ve got two usability testing sessions for two different clients happening simultaneously!
So, as you can image, I quite literally breathed a sigh of relief when I was on the other side, the brighter side, and the more smooth-sailing side. Or that’s what I thought. I realized in a few weeks that I still have several clients although I am not in an agency anymore. These clients are internal, however, must be treated the same way as any other external client.
I thought, “I can simply hand over everything to the agency, sit back and relax.” In reality, that’s not the case. There’s so much more to it. In addition to ensuring that your internal stakeholders (or clients) are in alignment with your research plans, you also have to ensure that the agency is. I find it quite challenging to constantly remind myself that I am NOT the only client that the agency has. I tend to think they are always at my disposal, although I know deep inside they are actually not at my disposal.
There’s also the task of explaining to your internal stakeholders why we conduct user research. In some cases, convincing them at what stage it is important. But you know what I find most challenging right now? The fact that I can’t get my hands dirty conducting hands on research.
The agency gets to do the fun part and I am having to do the moderately boring part of research — coordinating, preparing assets, and activation of findings. When the agency conducts research, I have the compelling urge to jump in on the interviews or dictate how I want the report to look like, or even the most trivial things like what customer quote I want in the report.
I realized soon enough that effective collaboration is a game-changer. I changed my approach from “getting approvals” from stakeholders to collaborating with them to create objectives. I also went from “dictating how I want the research to go” to the agency to collaborating with them from day 1 on what the plan looks like and how we could meet the deadlines more efficiently.
I won’t lie — the changes are still happening and so is the transition to a first full-time UX Research role, a first client-side role, and a first long-term role in Australia. Too many firsts. I know eventually I’ll get to the other side of the waters (we all do!) but right now, I am glad I have something to write about.
Trust me, the grass is always greener on the other side. Always.