I’ve never had a massive client issue, and I (begrudgingly) thank my employed life for that.
Traditional employment has its downsides, especially as traditional career paths become much less reliable. If you’ve been employed and are paying attention though, you’ve probably learned a lot about communication, workflows, customer service, even your niche/industry. One of the biggest lessons I learned early on was expectation management.
One of my first bosses was a woman who liked to check in on things…over, and over again. If you’ve ever worked with someone like that, you know that this passive-aggressive method of management can leave you frustrated, annoyed, and even resentful in your work. Eventually, I realized that I needed to ask questions up front and communicate with her very regularly about the status of my work. Once I got that down, she left me (mostly) alone.
I realized how powerful that was when she gave me a call and said “I see you’ve learned how to manage upward.” Yep. What I was doing was practicing active expectations management, and you should be doing the same with your freelance clients.
Managing Expectations as a Freelancer
Keeping your clients happy (our focus at the Academy this month) is all about setting up a picture of your services and meeting, or exceeding it.
A few outliners aside, if you’re open with your clients from their first interaction with you to your deliverables, you won’t have too many bumps or bruises in your customer service. One of the most powerful places to kick this off? Your initial interview.
With few exceptions, you should be conducting initial interviews with your clients.
I usually do mine after a short, initial interaction to find out if a client is a good fit (important for setting yourself up for success), and then schedule a separate call where they know they’ll be spending some focused time answering questions to help me better help them. These calls typically take 15-20 minutes and follow a basic structure. This is the structure I’m going to share with you so that if you want, you can build out your own interview template.
The great thing about having a template is that it will grow with you as your build your freelance career and you’ll refine it to fit your needs and produce your best work possible. So here are the basic questions I like to get answered…
- What made you decide to start looking for someone who does the work that I do?
- What business goals are you hoping my work will achieve?
- Where do you see your business headed in the near future?
- What kind of results would from my work would make you happy?
- What’s your preferred method of contact?
- How often would you like to hear from me?
I switch those up depending on the client and situation, but overall, those answers let me know what I need to do to keep my clients happy. Bonus: they also let clients know that I’m listening and care enough about their satisfaction to ask direct questions. You can build your own off of these questions by personalizing them for your business and niche, and adding in questions to point to information you need to do your best work.
So what about you? Are you conducting interviews now? Is it something you’d be open to starting? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. If you’re interested in getting more help like this, as well as a bunch of other great benefits to help you build your freelance career, come try out your free month at BlackFreelance Academy!
I have a few potential clients calls lined up throughout the weekend. I’ll definitely be using these questions as a guide. As a self-taught designer, I find myself flailing when it comes to the structure of my business, especially because in entrepreneurship, it’s truly tailored to you and your client’s needs. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Definitely let me know! Have you checked out the skill set dropdown (under basics) for some business resources?
Thank you for this article. I am just starting out a freelance social media manager and ended up having to let a client go because I just couldn’t seem to manage their expectations. They ticked every box of a “nightmare” client, but I keep wondering if I had just done an interview like this, maybe I could have salvaged the relationship.
Will definitely be using these questions to help me onboard clients in the future.
Hi Amanda! Maybe you could have salvaged it…or maybe you would have rejected them from the start. That initial interview determines a LOT.