Working remotely has a lot of perks: no commute, more flexible hours, and the ability to work in your PJs. However, it can also be challenging to manage client expectations when you’re not in the office. Here are a few tips for how to manage client expectations while working remotely:
Landing a new client can sometimes feel amazing at the start but then turn into a nightmare. Instead of just automatically blaming the client for everything that is going wrong, there are ways in which you can stop working relationships from turning toxic; by improving how you manage client expectations from start to finish.
Table of Contents
1# Be selective on the brief you accept
There are many clients, who don’t really know what they want until they see it. This makes for a more challenging job. When this happens, it’s super important to research as much as you can about the business and its direction. Ask plenty of questions so you have a real feel for what the company is about and does. It’s worth setting up a face-to-face meeting and discussing the direction you are mutually going to take. Possibly rewrite the brief and after the meeting confirm over email what was agreed upon. If you have to go back to the drawing board, accountability doesn’t just lie with you.
2# Be transparent and offer options
Transparency is the most important factor when managing client expectations. Time is money, so if the project starts wandering in different directions, or the scope of work increases; make everybody aware. Talk through the work involved and how much extra time it would take. Ask if the client is still ok to proceed. Not asking, and just charging is unethical.
Also ask enough questions so you are on the same page as the client, If issues come up, keep the client aware and even find solutions together.
Keep confirming over email so everything is written down. Many clients want something for nothing. Make it clear that any additional work will incur an extra cost.
3# Set clearly defined goals
You can’t manage expectations without establishing what is required. Make sure the goals are realistic, achievable and measurable. Agree on time frames and possibly set milestones, each milestone could also be pre-funded.
Don’t overcommit or make promises you can’t guarantee. You have a brand to keep.
4# Set clear boundaries
Be clear about what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it. Never assume. and give clarity to what you will be delivering and providing.
Time is everything. With more people working from home, set boundaries; otherwise, you may receive calls in the evening, early mornings, and at weekends.
5# Should I charge a fixed or hourly contract?
When pricing up a project, you have to consider whether a fixed price or hourly rate would be more suitable.
Fixed-priced jobs are for those projects which are relatively straightforward, and you can confidently guess how long the work will take.
If you come across a project that has too many unknowns and is too vague, or from a client that you have never worked with before; it’s wise to suggest an hourly rate. Sometimes, you can also bill weekly on an hourly contract.
If you want to focus on your job at hand and spend less time dealing with being paid on time, look into inviting clients on Upwork.
6# Put everything in writing
Everything should be clarified in writing, from Job proposals to briefs. Make it obviously clear what your client will and won’t be getting for their money.
For example, if you’re a graphic designer; ensure the client knows they need to provide the copy and maybe imagery.
Clarify everything in an email, and get them to reply saying that they’re happy to go ahead. If you come across any problems in future, you have a leg to stand on, and can refer the client back to the email they sent, showing their written consent.
As well as confirming in writing, don’t be afraid of the phone, nothing is wrong with phoning for an update or asking for a reply to an email.
7# Draw up a contract
Contracts will help with projects if things don’t turn out too well. Contracts should include an overview of deliverables, as well as time-frames, cancellation clauses and a breakdown of costs.
Contracts don’t have to be pages long; they can be concise and still have the same effect. It may be a good idea to purchase a template from a solicitor or your insurance company.
8# Be transparent about how you work
To manage expectations successfully, provide some insights on how you work, and even the types of software/methodologies you use.
Provide a list of promises that you will honour during the work. For example, explain how on-demand you are, and how you are happy to take calls. Offering reassurance that you’ll always be around.
Transparency with the billing process is also super important, Keep the client updated with costs and how long certain tasks would take, this is to justify all actions.
9# Stay in constant touch
When freelancing or running your own business, communication is key and should never be underestimated. keep your clients happy by staying in continuous contact with them. Don’t just email all the time; pick up the phone! It’s still the best way to communicate and it builds trust remotely.
Updating clients regularly with updated timelines and workflows is super important, as well as asking questions. It’s a smart move to make clients feel more involved with the service and process you are helping to provide.
10# Listen to your gut feeling
If you have a gut feeling that something about the project isn’t right, be extra sceptical! Anticipate what the client might also be thinking, and have answers on hand.
If you’re worried that you’ve not spoken to the client in a while, pick up the phone. Always anticipate when things might not be going to plan or are about to take a detour.
11# Under-promise but over-deliver
Don’t just do the bare minimum. Try to ‘Wow’ the client by delivering more than what they were expecting, and before the allocated deadline. It means they won’t hesitate to hire you again and might even recommend you to others. As more people are working remotely, retailing clients is more important than ever.
Remember that working remotely doesn’t mean you’re available 24/7. Be clear about your availability and respond to client inquiries in a timely manner. But don’t feel like you need to be “on” all the time; set aside dedicated work hours and stick to them. By being clear about your availability and setting boundaries, you can provide excellent client service without burning yourself out.
By following these tips, you can successfully manage client expectations and create a happy and productive working relationship, even when you’re working remotely.