It’s Monday morning and time to start the week fresh. You open up your emails only to discover that there are 10 messages from one client that just can’t wait. It’s as if you’re the parent of a toddler who is too impatient and wants your attention right away. Sound familiar?
All too often new business owners and freelancers get too focused on just one individual or company that seems to take up so much of their time that there is no room to take on more projects.
Once you allow a client to have too much access or unlimited requests it’s much harder to put on the brakes so that you can actually grow your business.
I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago and it nearly cost me my sanity! Communication became difficult and before long I had grown impatient and had to apologize to my client. Thankfully you can avoid that type of scenario by placing some simple boundaries in place.
Here’s what you can do to manage your business relationships better:
1 – Remain calm yet assertive
How we respond has a cause and effect reaction from the other person. The best approach is to use a tone of voice that is both calm and business-like. Avoid defending yourself and speak directly either in a video chat, personal meeting, or by phone. When you send an email or write a text it’s difficult to know where each person is coming from emotionally, which can quickly go into a back-and-forth cycle.
2 – Don’t say ‘yes’ to everything
We want to provide our clients with the best service possible — but it’s impossible to give them everything that they want. Know ahead of time what is going to work for your schedule and work load and let them know what cannot be done up front. Later on if you are able to fulfill some of those items they will be pleased that you went beyond the scope of what was promised.
3 – You are the guide, not the other way around
It’s your job as the leader of your company or a freelancer to take the role of leading the client where they need to go. Sometimes they may want to be at the controls without realizing that is why they hired you in the first place. Take the lead and think ahead with a well-laid out game plan and suggestions on how to improve their business. If you are not confident in what you are doing they will naturally want to take control of the wheel. Create a system that keeps your clients in the loop and opens the door for managed communication. There are plenty of project management tools available that can help you achieve this such as Trello, Basecamp, and Asana.
4 – Document your projects, strategies, and conversations
During the course of working with a client your plans could change according the results and changes in the market. This is to be expected, and is why you need to create a detailed record of all processes with full reports and goals. With regular reviews and meetings you can stay on task and make adjustments as necessary as you track everything from day one. Remember that they are not going to understand everything — that’s why they hired you! Be prepared to explain and visually show them how you are going to help get them from Point A to Point B.
5 – Make sure you each sign a detailed contract
After making the sale the next step is to outline the scope of work in a contract that is explained and signed by you and the client. This is better done in person in case they have any questions or modifications before things begin. Include a timeline of when tasks will be completed and an estimate of time for what they are requested. Leave room to provide a quote and timeframe for any work that would be outside the scope of the contract with a clear understanding that this will need to be mutually agreed upon in order to stay on schedule.
6 – Remain flexible yet firm in negotiating requests
There are those times when someone puts on the pressure and goes outside the scope of your contract and plan. Set up a meeting to discuss any tasks that can be removed in order to meet their expectations. The goal is to let them know that you care about their business and want to be as flexible as possible in order for them to meet their deadlines as well. Sometimes this means putting off one project for a while until a pressing item is finished. Create a plan that works for both of you and helps you stay on track with your other clients.
7 – Stick with the scope of work
Maybe you’re a content writer and now the client is asking for you to do some graphic design work as well. This may be tempting to take on if you have some knowledge of this, but is best left to someone who is an expert in this area. Once you cross over the line of unrealistic expectations you will most likely start seeing more of these types of requests in the future. Don’t be afraid to refer them to another freelancer or reputable business when can help them with tasks you are not fully able to perform, especially if it’s outside of your original agreement.
Honesty and proper planning are the two best policies when it comes to managing your clients. Know exactly what you can and cannot do for them with a clear explanation of what they can expect from you. Set realistic deadlines with an “under promise and over deliver” approach. With clear communication, patience, and a calm demeanor you can navigate challenging situations without being overwhelmed by your client(s).
It’s not hard to become an online freelancer or start your own business while working in a full-time job. Just download my free eBook, and get started on your career today: