Understanding and assuaging client fears

Two people clasping hands together

Communication in business is important, when you're a freelancer it's crucial. There's nobody between you and your client, you are your own resources manager, HR consultant and creative mastermind. When a client has questions it’s your job to read between the lines and ease any concerns they might have. Every step of the freelance-client relationship benefits from strong communication. Whether it’s the initial consultation, contract, project timeline or delivery of final product, communication is key.

I’ve broken each potential client fear into two categories. First, the fear itself, and then what you as the freelancer can do to reduce that fear. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!

Let me say know that I do understand the need for trust. You’re the designer, writer, developer, etc and can finish projects on time. You're busy working and don’t want to waste time sending unnecessary emails.

But, take a look at the other side. Trust is a two way street. Spending three minutes writing an update email can mean the world to a client's confidence. Going that extra step can soothe a client's fears and create loyal clients and referrals.

Client’s Fear: Will my project be finished on time?

If this is a new client, this is an understandable fear. Especially if they have worked with others that have not respected previous deadlines. Even with long-term clients there is a chance that something could take the project off schedule. Unexpected issues crop up no matter how thorough the planning and proposal phases. Planning for eventualities is a smart habit to begin.

Spending three minutes writing an update email can mean the world to a client's confidence.

What you can do:

Before signing a contract, ask your client how often they would like updates. Some will trust you to complete the project on time and not want extra emails. Some, though, may prefer weekly or bi-weekly updates. Showing that you see them as a person and care about their concerns can win you a client for life.

Once you’ve set this guideline, stick to it! Try setting aside time to update all clients at once to minimize daily disruptions.

Client’s Fear: Will there be any hidden fees associated with the project?

Today, many transactions come with the ever mysterious “hidden fee”. Pricing transparency can help your client appreciate and understand costs.

What you can do:

Yes, changes in pricing may be necessary for some projects. But, try to map out all eventualities in your contract. Clearly outline payment schedules and late fees, and talk through it with your client. Ensuring your client understands their responsibility can minimize problems later.

Find out as much about your client's project upfront, so prices are as complete as possible.

Do clients often have questions about your pricing? This could mean it’s time to rework your rates and charges. Try putting yourself in your client’s position. It can be easy to assume something makes sense when you’ve written a thousand times. For someone who's new to working with freelancers, this could be like speaking another language. The more communication before you begin, the lower the chances of misplaced expectations later.

When we work with something every day and are passionate about it, it can be easy to gloss over details. If you struggle with this, think of every client as if they were your first. When this business was new, you had questions too. Lastly, practice patience. Left-brained and right-brained people process and think in a unique way!

Left-brained and right-brained people process and think in a unique way!

Client’s Fear: Do they truly know what I’m looking for?

It's always risky trying to explain an idea to someone else. The results may not be what the client expected, which isn't great. Sometimes, an idea can be explained and the project can be finished without issue. Other projects may be more abstract, and the client might have trouble explaining their idea succinctly.

5 people in a client meeting

What you can do:

Left-brained and right-brained people think opposite each other. If you're working with another freelancer, you may not need to worry about this. Yet, chances are you’ll be working with someone who sees the world in a different way. This is why communication is so important.

Make sure your initial meetings are thorough. There are a few questions you should ask in any client interview. And be sure to repeat their thoughts, needs, and desires back to them for confirmation. Well written proposals are fundamental for defining expectations. Let your client know what your solution is before even beginning. Stating the project diameters in written form is a record of what they've asked for, and what you have agreed upon.

If anything is unclear to you, don’t assume. Contacting your client can help you avoid costly mistakes, like lost time, money, and maybe even a client.

Client’s Fear: Are they the right person for the job?

In this digital age, there is no reason to not show off your work! Portfolios give clients a glimpse into who they hire before making contact. Today, domain names are cheap and you don't need to be a coder (there are plenty of hosted services). Because it's a dynamic way to show off your skills, it gives potential clients a great first look.

How to address it:

If you already have an up to date portfolio, then this fear is partly a moot point. But there will still be clients who may doubt your ability to complete the project. Try to face this, but in a diplomatic way by explaining your experience and your vision for the project. Case studies are a great way to do this, as are blogs. Both can give insight into exactly how you've helped previous clients, your work processes and how you think. Let your personality shine through.

Of course you won't always land your client, and this can be hard, especially if you had a terrific vision for the project. But remember your skills have value, and there will always be more clients, always!

How have you handled a client’s fears?

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