We’re continuing our run through client management tips that began with the Improv to Improve client management course on the Patreon.
Let’s take a look at the over-eager client in relation to your freelance time management strategies.
Get off the starting blocks properly
There are a couple of client management tips to consider prior to heading off for the templates.
Aim to instil positive habits from the outset
View the initial engagement as one that sets the standard for the relationship going forward. For example, if you answer that email or phone call straight away, you’re setting yourself up to have to be this available for the life of the project.
Make sure your time is respected
A common mistake freelancers make is that we set a deadline, the client listens to it whistle past, and then we over-compensate to make up the lost time. The client needs to understand that they have to be accountable for making sure the project runs on time, too. And that means facing consequences like delays if they step off the timetable.
Be vocal about what you expect when
Clients often forget we have other people we’re servicing. By outlining when you can work on a project, being transparent about when meetings will happen or you expect feedback and letting them know they are part of a roster, you have a better chance of ensuring they don’t monopolise your time.
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries
As far as client management tips go, reminding your client of the boundaries they need to respect is number one. Make sure your clients understand that they can’t call you all hours, stalk you on social media, do whatever they want and then hold you to a higher standard. And this means including:
- Some ready-made phrases for client management
- Terms and conditions
- The ability and desire to enforce them
Nothing you say will mean anything unless you make sure the client understands you will protect your boundaries and follow through with consequences if they step off the map.
Encourage good behaviour
Often, we’re so busy looking after the far more vocal and tricky clients that the nice ones fall through the cracks. So many freelancers forget to praise the good clients for being exactly that. If they pay on time, thank them. If they refer you to people, hug them even tighter. If they respect you, respect them back.
One of the best ways to get great clients is to look after the ones that treat you well and let them spread the word!
Don’t put a hole in the fence
Client management is a lot like puppy training. If a client (or a puppy) gets a pay off when they misbehave, they will continue to enact that behaviour.
What do I mean by that?
Well, if your client calls you all the time and you answer to get rid of them, they will continue to call.
Or, if you ignore them on email and then they resort to social media and get your attention for that non-urgent query, they will continue to use social media as a way to elicit a response.
If you don’t want a client to contact you after hours, stalk you across six social media platforms or do things you don’t want them to do, as hard as it may seem, don’t respond.
You can do this by:
- Make sure the channel you want them to contact you on (Slack, email, project management software etc) the one where they get the right response for their needs
- Telling the client you won’t accept their Facebook messages or texts or whatever – and sticking to it
- Reiterating the appropriate place to contact you is via the correct contact means and responding there
- Setting up a system where one form of contact is for actual emergencies – and protecting it
- Charging them a service fee for calls and disruptions outside of usual working hours
Know your problem areas
One of the best things client management tips I’ve received is to always look to improve your customer service skills.
Part of that is sitting down and reflecting on the projects that went south. Run an autopsy. Know exactly where the breakdown occurred.
And this means looking at the following:
- What were the problems within the project?
- What would you do to address them in hindsight?
- Are your onboarding processes robust enough for a client to know what you expect from them? E.g., did they know the timeline for the project’s development? Did they know what to supply and when? Etc
- How did you communicate with the client? Did you plan sufficient meetings to allay fears? Were there summaries of discussions sent through? Were you available to discuss the project enough? Were you too available?
- What problematic behaviours did the client display?
- What did you do to redirect, manage, de-escalate or challenge these behaviours?
- What problematic behaviours did you display?
- What would you do again in hindsight?
- If you saw red flags at the beginning, why did you ignore them?
- What can you do to change the conditions that lead you to ignore that red flag? E.g., more savings in the bank, challenging your people pleasing, building your confidence etc
- Did your terms and conditions and processes cover off what they needed to?
- Did you make use of them? What consequences (if any) did the client face?
- Was there a turning point in the project where you could have changed the outcome for the better? Or walked away before it became too problematic?
- Was there anything else going on in your life at the time that made client management difficult? E.g., family stress, ill-health, mental health, fatigue etc
- What preventative measures can you put in place to avoid that kind of problem, project or client in future?
We all have weak spots when we come to client management. Knowing where these weak spots lie gives us the opportunity to work on changing future outcomes.