6 Secrets of Managing Client Expectations as a Creative Entrepreneur
Lately, the biggest resource for creative entrepreneurs is to connect with fellow business owners via private Facebook groups. This is actually pretty awesome because it helps build a positive community of people that are in similar industries or similar places in their businesses. Every day thousands of creatives seek advice on anything and everything they are struggling with in their business. (yay for #communityovercompetition, am I right?).
Casual side note* Here are some of my favourite Facebook groups for business:
Can you guess what the most frequently asked questions are about in these groups?
The #1 most frequent posts on these groups are from solopreneurs asking for assistance with dealing with tricky client situations. Almost every single day I see people unsure of how to deal with clients that just don't seem to 'get it'.
Get ready for this #unpopularopinion...
It's not the client's job to get it, it's yours. (tweet this)
Although some of these situations come from crappy targeting, most are simply a result of a lack of client management systems and miscommunication. Even if you've connected with your dream client, they still are probably new to doing this kind of business. In the wedding industry, chances are the client has never been married before. As a designer, your client may have worked with other designers before, but they are still new to and unfamiliar with your process. This can make managing your client's expectations especially challenging, especially when you have yet to develop systems to do so.
Here are the ways you can streamline your client process and give them a consistent experience:
1. Know Your Entire Process
If you know exactly what you will be providing your client and when, then your communication with those clients is always going to be consistent. When your process is finely tuned, you know what you should be promising and committing to with those clients. You should know exactly how long you need to provide certain services or products. You should also be confident with your business policies so there is no wiggle room or room for misinterpretation.
2. Promise Conservatively, Over-Deliver
Always give yourself buffer room with deadlines. Quote a longer timeline than you'll need, then deliver your final product earlier than they expect. You could do the same with other areas of your business (quantity, upgrades, surprises, etc.) in order to provide a thrilling experience.
3. Concise Agreements
Your contracts should clearly detail what you'll be providing, when, and for how much. Thorough client contracts avoid misunderstandings fuelled by assumption. This is not an area of your business to skimp out on.
4. Anticipate Client Needs
Just because they didn't ask a certain question in your consult, doesn't mean that they won't want to know that information later. They might already have made an assumption that a simple informative package or FAQ could correct. Take note on what other clients have experienced confusion about in the past (either your clients or others in your industry).
5. Make It Easy
Make sure all the information your client might need is readily available. Custom client portal systems (ie. Tavé, 17hats, ShootQ) allow clients to check the status of their commission or payment deadlines without having to send you an email. Make it ridiculously easy for a client to move forward with booking (online quotes/proposals are THE BOMB). The less they have to wait to get what they want, the better experience the client will have.
6. Set Boundaries
Setting up set office hours is key even if you work for yourself. Without office hours, your client might inevitably feel frustrated when you don't reply right away at 8pm on a Saturday night. Office hours avoids this problem, but it also reduces the amount of time you have to spend hovering over your email all day. More freedom = higher productivity.
The best thing you can do for your business is to take care of your clients. If you avoid creating systems to ensure client satisfaction, you could be missing out on hundreds (or thousands) of dollars in referrals. Happy clients = more word of mouth recommendations. It's as simple as that!
What systems do you have in place to avoid client frustration or miscommunication? Let me know in the comments below! :)
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thanks for dropping by! I'm Caileigh and I create killer brand identities and offer coaching for creative entrepreneurs with gumption. When I'm not helping people build profitable businesses, I document love stories as a fine art film photographer.