As a freelancer, you may find that some of the clients you work with have never had experience working with a freelancer before. If you’re also lacking in experience, the client relationship can be a difficult one to manage. If neither of you know the right way to do things, it can lead to confusion and bad habits can start to form.
Did you think policies were just for big businesses? Freelancers can and should have a list of policies too to protect their business.
It’s important that no matter how inexperienced either of you is, you can manage client expectations well right at the start. This makes the process smoother and also establishes you as a professional.
Set working hours
If you’ve ever got calls at night from clients with new ideas or complaints, then you know just how important setting strict hours is.
You’re operating a business and all businesses have opening hours so it’s not unreasonable to do the same with yours. This is best established at the start of a client relationship but you may need to remind them if they forget.
You need to be firm on your hours. As freelancers, your most valuable asset is your time and you need to protect it. So that means not answering calls and emails during unsociable hours because they’ll just expect to do it again. It’ll also be harder to explain why don’t want calls at 9pm if you’ve already been answering them.
Decide on terms together
When you agree to take on a project you should both discuss and decide on how you’re going to make this project work. That means going over things like timelines and deadlines, scope, aims of the work and how it will be used.
If you decide on deadline beforehand this will stop clients getting impatient or disappointed that the work isn’t going to be completed straight away. When setting deadlines it’s always better to give a little extra time to account for things like emergencies or faulty tech. It’s often best to under-promise and over-deliver.
Communicate and decide on check-ins
Some clients will be happy to let you get on with the work on your own, others like frequent check-ins. Discuss this beforehand so that you keep in regular contact where necessary. Some clients get nervous when they haven’t heard from a freelancer they just hired so you need to put them at ease. This will also make them less likely to call or email out of the blue.
Set terms in writing
Your best form of protection is a written contract of the terms of the project. This protects both of you so that each of you hold up your end of the bargain. If either of you doesn’t, then you’ve got a good basis for a court case if it ever comes to that.
In your contract, you should include all the details of the project plus all of your policies so that the client knows about them all before the work starts. However, it’s a good idea to discuss policies separately anyway.
Don’t just leave this to the contract, make sure you’re discussing payment terms before the work is started so that nothing catches clients off guard.
This means going over your rates and also pointing out any payment terms that you might have like invoice deadlines, extra work fees, late fees and kill fees. Some of these can work as a deterrent, for example for clients paying late, if they know about it right from the start.
What else would you add to the list? Have you ever regretted not making anything clear at the start? Let us know your thoughts.