When you get a new client, it’s like any new relationship. Full of hope and promise. Things usually start off strong with casual back and forth communication. But as time goes on, you start to realize that your new client has emailed a dozen times in the last hour and calls you at 8pm on a routine basis. How do you put this client on notice that you aren’t a 24/7/365 operation? You have to TRAIN them how to contact you. Here are my tips for managing a needy client:
- In your estimate or proposal, spell out the exact number of meetings an calls that are allowed for each project. For example, a small website would have “This package includes one 30-60 minute in-person or over-the-phone/Skype meeting for design review. Additional time will be billed at $95 per hour.” This sets the stage for them to know you have one official meeting planned and any extra will be more $.
- Explain what revisions are and how to send them to you. This is also in your estimate or proposal. I have it worded this way, “Once your pages are designed and developed, I will email links for feedback in a timely manner. A round of revisions is a single email that includes all of the changes you need performed. I include two rounds of revisions as part of the fixed-rate for this project. Additional revisions will be charged at $95 per hour.” Again, you eliminate the constant back and forth with edits in the design process.
- If the emails are frequent, tell your client you think a call is needed. Always use a scheduler (CALENDLY or similar) and ask them to pick a time for that call. When you talk to them, you explain the pitfalls of multiple emails (spam filtering, important topics getting lost in the thread, etc). Offer a weekly short call if they need it and let them know you will make them aware when they have exhausted the time allowed for project meetings. Stress that they can always buy more time.
- Turn your most frequently asked questions and answers into blog posts or pages on your website. Then, create email template responses that link to those pages to email back to the client!
- Be firm and don’t apologize. This is something I struggle with, but I want to work with people that value my time as much as I value theirs. You shouldn’t need to say I’m sorry when they are really overstepping the scope you set forward from the get go.
- Never respond to them right away. This let’s them know you aren’t just waiting for their next email. If they email you at 3pm, it’s perfectly okay to reply the next day at 9am.
- Never answer the phone after hours. Always let it go to voice mail first so you can screen the call.
Remember, you are your own boss. Sometimes we get a client that flexes their own boss muscle and whether they are clueless about it, or truly bullies, the steps above can keep you in charge of the pace of communication with your clients.