As a freelancer, you’re going to find yourself working with a multitude of clients. In some cases you’ll work with them just one time, while in others you’ll have the opportunity to develop lasting business relationships. Regardless if a client is new or old, it’s important to treat each project as new and be sure to understand exactly what the client wants.
Don’t ever make assumptions
Understanding the client’s expectations is crucial. Do not work based on assumptions. It’s vital to gain as much information from the client as possible before beginning and in some cases before accepting the job. Sometimes, a client may know they want an app, but have no idea what kind, what it should be for, or even whether it’s a reality. Other times you’ll have a client capable of providing you with in-depth details but doesn’t due to time constraints or communications issues.
It’s important to ask the client to explain their vision of the completed project. If they can articulate details, chances are they have done their homework and will provide you with a comprehensive framework of their vision. If their answers are broad in scope, vague or full of uncertainties, you may find yourself working with someone who is uncertain of the realities behind their request. These types of clients will depend upon your expertise for industry insights and project completion.
Question, Question, Question
To help fully analyze a client’s wishes, ask a few questions to gain a better perspective. You may need to adjust the questions based upon the project or the industry, but they may include question such as:
- Who is the target audience the app/article/website?
- What do you expect this project to do for your business?
- Where do you expect this to go live or be published?
- How did you come up with this project? Are any of your competitors doing something similar?
- What is the time frame for completion?
- What voice would you like this completed in? (Although this seems like a question for writers, this is essential in nearly all industries. The voice can be serious, whimsical, casual, or just about anything else.)
In addition to getting detailed information from the client, as a freelancer, it may be in your best interest to develop an outline or contract detailing the stages of the project. Consider having the client sign off on the project’s progress at pre-defined stopping points. For example, a website developer may want to have the client agree to the design structure after just a few pages are completed. This will help ensure the designer’s interpretation of the client’s wishes is truly in-line with what they want. By giving clients the opportunity to give feedback along the way will minimized the risk of them scrapping the project after completion because it’s not meeting their expectations or visions.
Unrealistic clients are par for the course
Inevitably, you’ll end up working with a client who has unrealistic expectations through all phases of a project. There may be some tell-tale signs, like constant phone calls or emails asking for updates, pressing for completion before the due date or nitpicking each and every detail. Despite extensive pre-assignment communications, you may also run across the know-it-all client who asserts his “knowledge” throughout the task, attempting to force your hand in a direction that may or may not be good for the end results.
As a freelancer, developing a communication protocol for each and every project is essential to fully understand the desires of each client. You may find that a stock template of questions works or you may need to customize your queries for each client or job. Regardless, communications before, during and after the project are vital to your success and your client’s happiness.