Does What It Says On The Tin!
“People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today's world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine.” - Neil Gaiman
This quote highlights the importance of our working relationships. Without the ability to deliver the work you have promised, on time, it will be difficult to build your reputation and people will not even get to see your brilliant work.
Finding someone you want to work with can be a challenge at the best of times. When we are meeting people on-line this is magnified, and most businesses use on-line methods for at least part of their marketing process. It is hard to know who to trust. Reputation and social proof are becoming increasingly critical.
We can consider building our reputation in 3 parts...
Lets consider each in turn…
Having a clear agreement
When you are just staring out, you may be eager to please and impress your client. Being ready to ask the obvious question, taking time to get clarification and making a formal agreement may feel uncomfortable but they are well worth doing.
You may find a standard format though your professional body that builds on the experience of others in your sector and your own approach will also evolve with trial and error.
Remember the old saying ‘under promise and over deliver’?
Rather than this being a time for making big promises, it is a time for listening and learning as much as you can about your client and their priorities. This will be the foundation of your relationship with them.
If you’re tempted to promise more in the hope of winning the business, remember you are in this for the long run. Winning business you’re not able to deliver will be at the expense of your reputation.
The agreement is also your opportunity to clarify what you need from the client in this process. Start training them to be a client you really enjoy working with and will do your best work for.
Updating and re-negotiating
We can not cover every eventuality in our agreements and the chances are something unexpected will happen. This is especially true in the early days when we are getting to know the environment we are operating in.
Having our finger on the pulse, measuring key statistics and allowing time for reviews and reflection will give us early warning.
We might have the desire to wait, hide or ignore the issue but this is when we most need to step into a leadership role. Even if you don’t believe you have caused the situation, you can take responsibility for finding a solution and seeking resolution.
Nip it in the bud, risk upset and anger, be open, do the right thing.
Weigh up the value of the relationship. It might be worth spending your profit/running the project at a loss to get through this.
Keep your eye on what is best for the long term relationship between you and your client
We all have our preferences for different stages of project delivery. For some, completing the last details can be quite a challenge. We might have unrealistically high standards or resist letting go of our creation.
We might put off declaring our work finished as it can lead to a sense of loss.
At the other extreme we might find ourselves running out of time and delivering work that isn’t our best.
Be clear on the standards that you have promised and make sure anything else these can be fully justified.
If you know completing/finishing is problematic for you, give the final stages of the project more time and attention. Perhaps enroll the help of a proof reader, quality assurance person etc. and, once they have declared the job finished, let their say be final.
When we are busy, and especially when working on our own, we often don’t get to celebrate our successes. Make sure you mark your achievements in ways that have meaning for you. And of course gather all the ‘after pictures’, feedback and testimonials so you can keep building that reputation.
Perhaps you’re thinking ‘this is all good in theory but the problem happens when I’m busy, feeling pulled in lots of different directions and just trying to get through the day!’
In that case, I’m a big fan of checklists. Decide the stages and checks in advance so before you send the proposal or dispatch the product, you tick off all the requirements are met. This means you can work smartly, even when you’re not feeling your smartest!
I’d love to hear your experiences and what works for you below and do get in touch if you’d like to explore how I can help with implementing these processes in your business.