A majority of projects that have gone bad are my fault. Sure, it would be strongly argued that it is the client’s fault, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, I didn’t set good expectations. Those incidents create a flood of e-mails, a high-stress call, and sometimes threats for either party that ought not happen.
Expectations, clear ones, set the tone for the entire project and the duration of what could be a long-term client relationship. Don’t mess it up with muddy water.
how to avoid poor expectations
The key to such calamities is communication. I state before a call is scheduled what my normal starting price for a project is and what my timeline looks like. That immediately dissuades those who are looking for a $500 site by the end of the week.
Communication can also disrupt feelings of discontentment with waiting for the project start or completion. Unless there is a hard deadline due to a publication or some sort of hard launch, then it’s best to communicate that everyone gets your full attention when it’s their turn, just as you expect with a doctor’s visit. I don’t mind waiting past my appointment time nearly as much when I know I won’t be rushed out the door when it’s my turn to be seen.
terms and conditions
Terms and conditions should be stated clearly and in plain terms, not legalese. My terms are quite a bit longer than I would like them to be, but if any part of it is removed, then it opens the door for poor communication. As an example, if I solve a need that many people have with their sites and I spent a good chunk of time solving it, I like to share it on GitHub or package it into a plugin – my terms allow me to do that so long as it’s not proprietary to my client’s business. No surprises.
reputations precede you
It’s always good when someone is referred to you from a close friend or respected colleague of that person. There is going to be an instant trust with your new contact because they have built trust with their contact. That’s one barrier down right away.
When I sense that someone is leery of my ability to exceed their expectations, I often open them up to the idea of asking around on Twitter what other people “think about @jpetersen’s #WordPress and #GenesisWP skills” and I have yet to see anyone do that, so it must be transparent enough to do the job.
I’ve said dozens of times that I’m an open book. Very, very rarely do I hide anything that I’m doing with the rare exceptions of launching a new service when I only teased and told 2 people – one of whom was also concurrently working on his own service and we both launched same-day.
Once I’ve figured something out and it’s not any real benefit to be the only one who knows what it is that I’m doing, I share it. Transparency reaps trust and helps an expectation that I’ll help out in the very near future. I don’t like monopolies, even in what I do for a living.
When clients see that is the kind of person you are, you are helping your current and future self out… possibly even future generations.