I know I have.
Everyone’s experience differs, but managing client expectations is a must-have skill for every freelancer — and not just for preventing the above scene. Properly managing your client’s expectations can help build and save relationships, and save yourself — and your clients — a few headaches.
And in the end, it’s all about communication. So here we are, communicating 10 ways you can better manage your clients’ expectations.
1. Define appropriate channels of communication and stick to them
Whether you use Slack, Skype, or email, find the channel that works for you and your client, then stick to it.
Your client is not your significant other ( usually ), so they don’t need your personal phone number — unless you’ve shared it with the stipulation that it’s only for emergencies.
Establishing a channel of communication also simplifies things by ensuring that all your communications happen in one place. Tracking down that one piece of feedback you need to address ASAP is no fun when you’ve got to check Slack, Skype, and email.
Ideally, you’ll use a particular channel of communication with all your clients, so you can communicate that on your website, business cards … well, everywhere.
2. Set your hours of operation — and don’t work off-hours
Whether you work a “standard” 9 to 5 Monday through Friday or something more eclectic, set your hours and stick to them .
Communicate your working hours up-front and include them in your contract so you always have a shared document to point to. Makes it a lot easier to communicate a tough point when you can cite something you’ve both agreed to.
And remember that sticking to specific hours isn’t just for your clients. It’s for you too. As a freelancer, it’s very easy to get into habits like responding immediately, or dropping everything to tend to a client request late in the evening (even when it’s not an emergency). But you deserve to live a full and varied life. If you don’t make time for friends, family, and fun, freelancing will just eat you alive.
3. Create a detailed Statement of Work
Before you push a single pixel or talk to a single end-user, get your Statement of Work agreed to and signed .
If you’re the type who likes to use tools to simplify and streamline processes — and who isn’t? — check out the contract creation tools on Best Tools .
4. Gather all the requirements before you quote for a project
Seriously. One of the easiest steps to miss in the freelance design process is requirements gathering. But you want to be sure to ask your client as many questions as possible before you provide them with a quote. The more you know, the more accurate of a quote you can provide your client. Check out We Make Websites’ excellent article on what questions to ask in the requirements-gathering process .
A great way to do this is to build out a new contact form, thinking about all the questions you ask your client mid-process, that you could just ask up-front.
Alternatively, ask your client what their budget is and let them know what you can do within that. Very few clients are willing to disclose this information, but when they do, you can itemize your services for your client to choose from.
5. Set deadlines, and share them
This is as simple as letting your client know when you’ll finish a given task. That keeps them at ease, and keeps you on track.
Also, try giving yourself deadlines to finish a project a day or two before it’s due, so you have time to review your work before they do. Obviously, you don’t share these with your client. They’re just for you.