The key to a successful freelance career is happy customers. Happy customers will return over and over again. You’re great at what you do, that’s why you’re doing it, so this shouldn’t be a problem, right? Sadly, it’s not as simple as it should be.
You can be the best WordPress developer in the game, but if you’ve charged a flat fee for a one off build with no support, and your client emails you every week requesting tweaks and updates that they’re expecting as part of the service, you’re going to run into conflict at some point not too far down the road.
Customer satisfaction all comes down to properly managed expectations, both your client’s expectations of you and vice versa. Managing expectations can be achieved easily by keeping one thing in mind: alignment. Your expectations of what you are going to deliver must align with what your client is expecting to receive. If you get this right, you will have happy customers every time. I’ve got a few tips for you on how to ensure you have well aligned expectations across the board.
First, pre-qualify your clients. This may sound counter-intuitive, as particularly when you’re starting out your instinct is to take all the work you can get. However, taking on any and all clients might actually end up being detrimental to your business, as an unhappy client can do real damage to your reputation, and you could end up working at an extremely low rate if the customer is going to place unreasonable demands on your time. Depending on your sector, there will be certain red flags that alert you to a potentially awkward client – learn what these are, and keep an eye out! Sometimes it can make good business sense to turn down work.
Second, be honest with all of your clients from the outset. Don’t say you can do something if you can’t. My guiding principle here is to always under promise and over deliver, normally a fool-proof recipe for happy customers. It’s always safest to get this in writing, though, so once you have had an open and honest conversation with your client and agreed on the scope and terms of the project, get a contract in place – better safe than sorry!
Then, throughout the course of the project, keep a transparent dialogue going, and address any problems directly. This in turn will help build a relationship that goes beyond that of a simple client/service provider relationship – we’re all human after all, and by nature we are reasonable. Making things too ‘corporate’ can make clients more prone to unreasonable demands and misaligned expectations.
In my experience, if you follow the above guidelines, you will effectively manage expectations and deliver a high quality service every time, along the way building an army of loyal and happy clients, who will return to you time and again, and with any luck will be shouting your praises from the rooftops! Just remember – alignment is key.
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