Working with two clients in the same segment

Can you work with two clients in the same segment?

Bob Bly addressed this issue in his recent post (Can you work for your clients’ competitors?) and Henry Alpert, from Action Copy, started this discussion on the CFC LinkedIn Group:

“I am in the midst of working on a project for one company, and another company in the same segment has asked me to do very similar work for them … I think it's OK to have clients in the same industry. That's what specializing is all about. But I sense there are some ethical and professional pitfalls to watch out for in this situation. Any insights?”

I think it is rarely a problem unless they are very large companies or very paranoid business people. In general, the key is communication and knowing when to say what. Sometimes it's better to let everyone know what you're working on and other times it's better to keep it to yourself. 

Credit: Illustration by Kelsey Grafton.

Here’s how other creative professionals answered: 

John White • If you're looking for a way to cover yourself, consider sending each client email asking whether they want to put a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement with you. That way, you'll have done as much toward protecting their respective interests as could be expected of you.

Deidre Rienzo • Working within the same "segment" can just mean that you're a specialist in that segment — and that you understand the environment where these types of companies exist. It can also help you uncover what makes them different and special. 

Beth Brodovsky • At one How MYOB conference a speaker said - 
1 is a client
2 is a conflict
3 is a specialty
…so maybe you should find a 3rd in the same category. There is a lot of value in the knowledge you gain from having expertise in a certain area.

Have you experienced this situation before? How did you handle it?