The life of an entrepreneur can be a rugged one, full of up and downs, twists and turns and before you know it your turning every which way but the way you thought you’d be turning at this stage of your business life. It can be difficult to say the least, but you wouldn’t trade it for the world. The freedom and joy you feel from a project done well. After all, that’s why you do it, right? To share your talents with clients in desperate needs of your skills and services (for a fee of course), what better feeling could a freelance have? Of course to get to that glorious point you must first traverse the field of uncertainty. What is this field that I speak of? Well, I sure there are a few people reading this that already know the answer. They’re the ones with the sly grin, reminiscing of the arch nemesis of all freelancers, the uninformed client.
Now, before we continue down this dark path, let me start by saying that this client is NOT a bad person; at least most of the time they are very kind-hearted people. The problem with these individuals is their lack knowledge. They’ve hired you, an SME (subject matter expert) to handle all the things that they don’t know about, and they usually kick it all off with something like, “I need you, to do what it is that you do, for me.” They have no idea what they want, but have every idea of what they don’t want. Well, fear not. Here are a few tips to get the information you need from the client without a clue.
1) Treat them like children. No, I don’t mean demoralize them buy insulting their intelligence. But, you just may have to hold their hand and walk them through this entire process. As a freelance professional, you already know that patience is a virtue. So, start by not asking what they want, but explain what they may need. This can be the water necessary to help sprout the ideas of an otherwise clueless client.
2) Be professional. At no time can you lose your cool and show your frustration. Remember, you are a professional, and you are being paid. That means somebody had enough confidence in you to hire you for your expertise, not your quick wit and sly side humor. Remember, this client could very well lead to either more clients, or the end of your freelancing days.
3) Think ahead. You should have already constructed a presentation for your client in their native language, clienteese. This could assist the entire project by giving the client a visual representation of what to expect and what will be needed from them. Don’t use a lot of terms that only someone in your field of expertise would know and understand. Not only will you lose their interest, you’ll more than likely make a bad situation worse. Your client’s time is precious, and so is yours. Make every minute count and get to the bottom line ASAP.
4) You’re an educator. Wait, you weren’t hired to teach anyone, right? The truth is although you were brought in to perform a certain task or service, it would be beneficial for you to “educate” them as you go through your scope of work. I’m not saying that they should be SME’s by the time that you leave, but there should be a better understanding of what you do and the work that you have completed. This will provide two things: 1) A greater respect for your craft by the client, and 2) A better understanding of what you are capable of. Remember, 40% of a small business’s customers are usually repeat customers. If they know what you do, they will call.
Remember, your skill is only one of many reasons that your client chose to roll the dice with you. Be understanding, patience, and professional; your mission demands it.
What do you think about the balance between creativity and the crazy demands of clients? Has any strategy worked well for you in your career?
Written By Anthony Chappell of Chappella Group (www.chappella.com)
Anthony Chappell is the President and Senior IT Consultant at Chappella Group, Inc.. Having over 20 years of experience in government technology instruction, security and implementation projects, he seeks compliance without sacrificing design. When he isn’t bogged down with work, you can find him spending quality family time. You can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter as @chappellagroup, connect with him on LinkedIn, or visit the Chappella Group Incorporated website.