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Dealing with Clients

Handling Clients Who Just Aren’t That Into You

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Last month’s post, Are You Dating Your Client?, covered the stages of commitment from flirting to marriage. But the road to long-term freelance bliss is paved with clients who aren’t quite right, because, to paraphrase Greg Behrendt and his famous dating book, “they’re just not that into you.”

Maybe their boss is on their back about cutting costs. Or perhaps they’re not really sure what they need. Either way, it’s not you, it’s them. And if you don’t carefully manage him or break up with Mr. Wrong, then there’s a real possibility that you’ll end up with a broken heart. Or at least, shattered confidence and the sick feeling that you’ve just wasted your time.

Here’s our field guide to identifying and coping with these types of clients:

The Penny Pincher

If I were on a date and a guy busted out a coupon, well, be still, my bargain-loving heart! But I know I’m in the minority. Just as many women prefer men who wine and dine them a bit without stressing about the bill or trying to cut corners, many freelancers (myself included) prefer to work with clients who aren’t always trying to get more work for less money. You can spot the Penny Pincher when he uses phrases like, “our last freelancer charged half as much” or “are you sure you can’t do it just this once?”

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First Draft Success: A Method for Meeting Client Expectations

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It’s hard to get on the same ball with some clients. You have a consultation, perhaps exchange detailed material and you think the project will work out great. You and your client are on the same path and they will love that first draft, right? Then why, after you submit that first draft, do some clients say the material was not exactly what they wanted?

Well, it can be them. Or it can be you. Sometimes, it can be both. Somewhere along the way, the right look, feel or tone of the work can get lost in translation. Even a seasoned freelancer can become confused or frustrated when the client says that the project wasn’t what they expected and the deliverable “needs work.” (Or worse, “is no good.”)

I’ve been in this situation a few times as a copywriter. Sometimes a client will say that the copy needs work, which is understandable. Rarely do you get things “just perfect” the first time around. Some clients are cool even though they don’t like the first draft and will work with me to polish it up. Others want to write you off and start searching for a new freelancer, even if you offer to work with them on it. Regardless of what the client’s attitude is, here are a few ways to help prevent that first draft from being in left field.

Be honest.

When I’m selling my services, I always tell my clients that they may not find the first draft to be perfect, but it’s a jumping off point. Many clients cannot articulate what they want to say on a website, for example, so I tell them that they are hiring me to help them get it in writing–and work with them to fine-tune it. This helps to “pad” things a bit in the event they receive my copy and don’t like the way it reads. This way, they are more open to the fact that most projects take a few rounds of edits to get it right. I always tell them that I am there to work with them, so they don’t just receive the first draft and are stuck with it. Instead, I include a couple of rounds of revisions in my price–and I use that as a selling point so they feel confident that, even if the copy wasn’t exactly what they wanted, it will be because I am there to help them get it right.

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Keep Your Sanity by Managing Client Expectations

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Being a freelance web designer certainly has its perks. You get to make your own hours, set your own rates, and control your own professional destiny. I’d add that designing for the web, like any freelance field, is a craft that most of us are truly passionate about. There’s something about the merging of beautiful design and cutting edge technology that keeps our creative juices flowing and keeps us endlessly engaged in our work.

But as any freelancer or small business owner knows, sketching diagrams, arranging pixels and constructing code make up only a small part of this profession. At the beginning and the end of the day, it’s still a business, which brings it’s own inherent challenges. At the top of the list is something we all must deal with every day: managing client expectations.

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