Regardless of what sort of work you do, when you’re working with clients you always want to end the project knowing that your client is happy not only with the outcome but also in how it was to work with you. Happy clients are much more likely to return to you when they need more work done, but we all occasionally get that one client who’s harder to please and make sure they’re happy throughout the project.
Obviously one way to ensure your client is happy is to make sure that you’re doing the work on their project and being a good business owner. However, another great way to help make sure all of your clients are happy is to start managing their expectations before, during, and even after their project is over.
It’s important to start your projects off on the right foot and manage their expectations before you even have them sign on the dotted line, so today I want to share with you how you can start managing your clients’ expectations before and during the project.
Learn to spot red flags from the beginning
As much as I hate to say it, there are always going to be people out there who aren’t happy about anything and yes, we get some of them as clients. Particularly, as designers, we may get one client that loves every single thing we do and never asks for revisions. However, we may get another client who isn’t happy with any shade of color, font, text size, and so on in the project and makes us happy we put that revision limit in our contract. Unfortunately, those clients will never be happy regardless of what you do.
The only thing you can do is to learn how to spot red flags from the very beginning so you can avoid taking on those clients. The red flags are a little bit different for everyone because we’re all willing to bend in different ways; however, there are a few obvious things I think everyone should look out for:
- if they expect you to respond to emails all hours of the day and night
- if they’re wanting you to do work for free or way cheaper than your listed prices
- if they aren’t clear on what they want or want something very specific
These things can cause a lot of stress and frustration on your end and usually aren’t worth the experience or money you’ll get by working on their project because it’s impossible to overcome those expectations.
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Educate your client – in a nice way
When you’re getting ready to book a project is the best time to start setting project expectations with your potential clients. This is your chance to give them an idea on when they can expect to get responses from you, how you’ll treat them during the project, and what exactly they’ll be getting from the project. However, sometimes this requires you to educate your client in a nice way to make sure they’re clear on what’s to come.
Explain your pricing and packages
If you have a potential client that’s questioning your pricing, use this great opportunity as your chance to educate them on your pricing and packages. Remind them how much work goes into whatever you’re creating for them as well as everything that they’ll be getting for that price point. Most clients honestly don’t realize how hard or easy something is for you and by educating them on these things, they’re more likely to agree to pay a price that may be a little higher than they thought it should cost.
On the other hand, be careful to avoid arguing or aggressively trying to justify your pricing to potential clients. Just like there are people out there who will never be happy, there are others who don’t want to pay a single penny for anything. Those people aren’t worth the headache of the back and forth trying to get them to pay your prices. If someone isn’t willing to pay what you’re worth, then it’s best to let the project go to someone else.
Let them know how you work
A lot of designers can avoid frustration during the project and manage client expectations by educating their potential clients on how they work before the project is booked. You don’t have to justify why you work that way specifically, but you’re much more likely to have a happy client if they know what to expect throughout the project. This is especially true for clients who have never worked with a designer (or anyone for that matter) before. Here are a few things that you should let your clients know about the way you work:
- When can they expect responses to emails
- What happens if you are going to go over on time in an hourly project
- How to get in touch with you if there’s an emergency with their site (aka what happens if they get hacked or a plugin breaks their site)
- When they can expect new work (think: mockups) from you
These are things that you can include in your Intro or Welcome packets if you have them, in your Contract, or on a discovery call before their project begins so they know straight away what to expect while you’re working together on their project.
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Use a well-written contract that covers everything
The most obvious way that you can manage client expectations both during and after the project is over is to make sure you’re using a well-written contract that covers all of the details and different scenarios. You don’t have to have a 15-page contract with each of your clients, and it doesn’t necessarily have to have a ton of legal jargon, but it’s important to have everything in writing to help manage your client’s expectations of the project as well as protect both you and the client.
Here are a few things that your contract should touch on:
- What exactly they’re paying you to do (be specific)
- The cost of the project and payment schedule
- What happens if your client doesn’t like the work you’re providing
- How the project can be terminated if they’re unhappy
- If you’ll supply refunds
Getting everything in writing and having your client sign the contract before you do any work is vital in making sure that they know what to expect during the project. If you’re a bit stumped on your contract, I talked more about how you can protect yourself as a small business owner here.
How do you manage your clients’ expectations?
Do you what I mentioned in this post or something else to manage client expectations and make sure you have happy clients at the end of the project? Share in the comments below!