How to Manage Client Expectations Like a Pro

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Share, communicate, profit, and repeat...

For any business relationship to be successful, you and your client have to work together to make sure expectations are understood and agreed upon by everyone involved.

Sometimes what your client is looking for may be different than what you think the solution should be.

This could be due to limiting factors like: time, money, or raw materials. For different challenges, it could be that it’s only one or two of these things, or it may be all three. The business challenge will be figuring out what the optimal solution is based on the resources available and what your capabilities are.

So, how can you manage these expectations?

In the beginning, the best thing to do is to over-communicate. No one has ever lost a job because they communicated too much. If the client doesn’t want all your updates they’ll say something along the lines of "no need to send all the emails, we trust you." The last part of that sentence, we trust you, affirms that you’re being a good business partner.

The frequency of your communication will depend on the length and size of other projects. Given that, here are two scenarios you may generally fall in to and can model your communication after:

Two Weeks or Less

  • Kick-off call to go over schedules, which is then followed up with a recap message

  • A first impression message when you get a couple of days into the project to communicate what you’re seeing and ask any questions or bring up any potential challenges you’re starting to foresee

  • Mid-way through the project you should message with a status update: are things tracking according to plan, are you behind, ahead. Let your client know anything that will help them understand where you’re at in the process.

  • Just prior to ending you should send a short message saying that you’re closing in on the finish. This will get them excited about seeing the final product.

  • Once the project is complete you should really meet in person or get on a call to present the final product. After that, you should send a recap message so everything is documented and signed off on.

  • Then finally, once everything is all said and done you may want to check-in with your client to go over how they thought the process went and ask for any feedback for future projects. This will position you as a true partner and open you up to the possibility of repeat work.

Long Engagements

If your project is longer than two weeks you should add these weekly messages into your cadence:

  • Monday — send a message update with what you intend to accomplish that week and bring up any other info the client may need such as reminders of upcoming milestones, etc.

  • Friday — send a message update recapping how the week went along with a note on what to look forward to next week.

  • These weekly messages will cover the minutia of the project and will allow your mid-way and milestone messages become larger, higher-level, recaps of what has been going on.

Remember your client is coming to you because they have a problem they need to solve and don’t know how to do it themselves.

By managing expectation from the start you give your client the confidence they need to know they made the right decision by going with you.

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