Whether you rent serviced offices in Australia or work from a home office in Mexico, (successful) freelancing life requires that you’re able to effectively manage your clients. Some might be a bit too demanding; others may be a bit too lackadaisical. In both cases, clearly setting and managing expectations will help. So, how do you do it?
Below are our top five tips:
1. Be clear from the get-go
Before committing to a project, be confident of two things. First, that you clearly understand what the client wants. Second, that you can produce what they want within an agreed-upon timeframe. If you have any questions about the finer details, ask. Then, reiterate their answer in your own words (preferably in writing), and confirm with the client that your understanding is correct.
Nailing this down at the start ensures that everyone’s on the same page, allowing you to manage any bumps that may arise down the road.
2. Agree on a communication channel
Once you’re clear on what your client wants, set up a communication channel that both of you are comfortable with. Back in the day, this meant a phone call. Nowadays, however, there are far more possibilities, from WhatsApp messages to Zoom meetings and Slack channels.
To settle on what’s best, ask new clients what communication channels they prefer. Failing to do so might lead to important updates being missed. After deciding what channel to use, determine how often to use it. Would a weekly email update be best, or would they prefer a biweekly video call? Whatever the specifics, write it down and agree.
3. Give specific updates while avoiding jargon
Most clients want to be kept in the loop. They want regular updates through agreed-upon communication channels so they can gauge if you’re going to finish on time. If you are, great. The client will be able to stick to their original plan. If not, the client wants to know so they can readjust their schedule and expectations.
With all that in mind, a generic “everything is fine” won’t suffice. That kind of update doesn’t tell the client much. Going to the other extreme with a jargon-laden update won’t do either. Aim for somewhere in the middle. If you’re writing a white paper, for example, you can let them know you’ve finished a first draft and are letting it sit before a second edit. Be plain, clear, and practical.
4. Exceed your client’s expectations
Of course, your first goal is to deliver what the client wants. However, once that is clearly in the bag, consider pushing it a bit further to exceed their expectations. That could mean delivering the final product before the deadline or adding a little extra flourish to the end. In either case, wow them with what you deliver.
This tactic is particularly useful for establishing a long-term working relationship. If you develop a stellar reputation by delivering great service in a timely manner, clients will want to work with you again. Not only that, but they’ll probably be comfortable paying you more and referring you to their professional contacts.
5. Be honest
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to emphasize: always be honest with your clients. If your power went out or another client piled on an urgent task, let your client know what happened and how it will affect their project. Don’t wait until the deadline or make up an elaborate excuse.
Dealing with clients as a freelancer can feel like a roller coaster of ups and downs. Apply the five tips above to make it a smoother ride.