It’s easy to form habits in life, and your freelancing career is no different. Here are four things that you might catch yourself saying to your clients, and why you should stop saying them if you do!
#1 “I’ll get this back to you early”
Eager to impress a new client, you quickly assure them that the work you’ve been hired to do won’t take you as long as the agreed timeframe. Whilst this might seem like a good thing, making promises like this upfront limits your potential to take on more work and locks you into a needlessly reduced timeframe.
If it turns out that you can’t get the work back to the client early, your image will suffer in their sight – even if you’ve still returned the work within the original timeframe. If you think that you’ll be able to complete a contract early, don’t tell your client, and instead surprise them with the completed work a few days before the deadline. It’s always better to under promise and over deliver.
#2 “I won’t be able to finish this on time”
When agreeing to a new contract, it’s absolutely vital that you’re able to complete it within the specified timeframe. If you’re just beginning your freelance career, you might not be as sure of your ability, and it’s both possible and understandable to underestimate how long a project might take you to finish.
If this happens to you, then you need to chalk it up to inexperience, bite the bullet and work overtime to complete the contract. Having a reputation for failing to meet deadlines will destroy your freelance career and diminish your personal integrity. So apart from emergencies or extreme exceptions, don’t ever tell clients that you’ll miss a deadline!
#3 “That’s not part of my brief”
Sometimes, clients request extra work from freelancers, which can often come as a surprise. Whilst you shouldn’t be obliged to take on extra work (hopefully you’ll have a number of other contracts lined up to fill your time!), how you assert yourself with your client can affect whether they’ll hire you again or not.
Generally speaking, most clients are reasonable humans and not unsympathetic overlords. If you’re asked to complete more work than was initially agreed upon, make sure to point this out diplomatically and politely (for example, saying something like “Sorry, I think there might have been a misunderstanding. From my perspective, I thought that…”) instead of forcefully stating that the work isn’t part of the original brief. Chances are, the client’s request for more work was caused by a simple oversight, and you don’t want to close the door on potential future work with that client.
Now, “yes” might seem like a good thing to say to clients – and often it is – but as a freelancer you should be aiming to make yourself invaluable to your clients and distinguishing yourself from the traditional employee. Simply saying yes to every request shows that you’re dependable, but it doesn't necessarily make your client’s life any easier – after all, doing what you’re contracted to do is the least clients expect.
When presented with a request, suggesting how the project could be enhanced, or proposing how you could modify the brief to make the end result better, implies that you’re a valuable specialist who makes your clients’ lives better.
Obviously, it’s important to suggest improvements tactfully, and a pre-existing relationship with the client will certainly help matters, but with some discernment you’ll find that clients greatly appreciate freelancers who don’t say yes to everything unquestioningly.
Make sure you don’t say the above four things and you’ll be on your way to becoming a fantastic freelancer. Do you think there’s anything else that shouldn’t be said to clients? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know!