This is a guest blog post written by Stefan Dubowski for FreshBooks, the leader in online invoicing and bookkeeping for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Use FreshBooks with RightSignature to send invoices and estimates to clients for signature with just a few clicks.
It’s usually good news when a small business or freelancer lands a new customer. But the situation can quickly turn sour if you’re not careful about managing client expectations. Does the customer understand what they’re buying? Is there any chance that the client might think you’ll deliver one thing, when you planned to deliver something else? The risk exists if you don’t follow these five pieces of advice: use a contract, communicate, build a relationship, keep your word, and over deliver.
Use a Contract
By laying that groundwork at the beginning of the job, it’s much more likely that the customer will be happy with the finished product. In a contract you can lay out exactly the terms of the project – deadlines, who’s responsible for what, and of course the amount of money involved. It’s the first step in ensuring both you and your client understand what to expect. You can use FreshBooks to generate a detailed invoice, and send it to the customer via RightSignature for legally binding electronic signature.
Use your words! Keep your client informed as to project progress and issues (including potential solutions for the occasional problem). Many freelancers rely on email to connect with customers, using their email programs as veritable repositories of information, including details about when, exactly, the client agreed to push back the project’s deadline, for instance. In fact, email may be better than other forms of communication (texting and voice particularly) for permissions because it lets you go into detail, and people tend to save emails, so you can check back for verifications later.
Build a Relationship
But email certainly isn’t the only form of communication you should use. It can be somewhat cold and impersonal. Pick up the phone and speak to your customers every once in a while. That can help you build a relationship with your clients, and it helps remind them that you’re not just a distant service provider. You’re a person. That can help you smooth over mistakes (when they happen). After all, it isn’t so easy to write off a work relationship when there’s a personal connection as well.
Keep Your Word
Did you commit to participating in your customer’s conference calls? If so, do so. Did you agree to a deadline? If so, meet it. It’s particularly important that you should keep your word on small details, because if you can’t meet the little expectations, your client may conclude you’re incapable of meeting the larger needs involved in the job.
Aim to go above and beyond the contract. Throw in extras – services, recommendations, support, follow-up – whatever will make your client take notice. If you do manage to over-achieve once in a while, your client could come to see you as someone she can count on as a valuable business partner, not just a vendor. That puts you in a different class of service provider, and it could translate into more business down the road.