No doubt you're familiar with the catchphrase, "under-promise and over-deliver." Unfortunately, some business people do the opposite, leaving their clients frustrated by missed deadlines.
Don't be one of them.
To succeed as an independent consultant or freelancer in today's remote economy, commit to meeting and exceeding client expectations, every time.
The foundation stone for exceeding expectations is flexibility. Renowned blogger, author, and serial entrepreneur Seth Godin writes,
"For every person who has proven the skeptics wrong, there are a hundred who should have listened to them and done the work they cared about instead of keeping track of the wrong metrics."
Godin instructs freelancers and independent consultants to "begin at the beginning: who are you serving? What does a successful contribution look like?"
9 Fail-proof Ways to Exceed Client Expectations
- Listen more than you talk. While communication is paramount in all exchanges, the emphasis in client communication should be on listening. You're naturally eager to share the benefits of your consulting or freelance services, but let clients convince themselves of this. Ask one or two insightful questions. Then stop talking. If you've honed in on their pain point(s), your client will begin describing their needs in detail — and the solution is right there on the phone/video call with them.
- Schedule appropriately. Of course, you'd like to deliver results with lightning speed, but that's probably not realistic. Know your availability, use a scheduling app such as Calendly, and commit to a reasonable timeline, given your other responsibilities.
- Beat your best time. Once you've agreed to a deadline you know you can meet, surprise your client with an early delivery. The surprise factor will be memorable and endear you to the client's heart.
- Give it away. Music artists do this all the time in the digital age: offer their music as free downloads, which actually boosts album sales. What type of lead magnet will work best for your business? An ebook that addresses a key aspect of this vertical? A newsletter that addresses a timely issue in your client's industry? Think about what you can offer as a freelancer or independent consultant in your business niche.
- Establish rapport at the start. One freelance writer, part of a startup support team on a group Zoom call, heard a new business owner introduce her highly unusual name with a little song her mother had created for her as a child. When the freelancer connected with the business owner one-on-one to assist with her website copy, she sang this ditty, delighting her — which led to an immediate bond.
- Know when to say no. Turning down business can be good for business. For example, if a potential account is struggling to stay afloat, or in a field far from your expertise, you may want to avoid taking the assignment. One consultant received a letter of interest from a fast-growing startup that was seeking multiple freelancers in different areas. However, after perusing the potential client's website and reviewing the job listing, he realized his lack of industry knowledge would affect his ability to deliver quality, timely results. He told the prospect he appreciated the contact, and advised him to look for someone with a background in this niche.
- Ask for feedback. Once you've completed your project, ask whether it met your client's expectations. Be open to critique, especially if this is an ongoing client relationship (or you would like it to be.) Implement their suggestions for future projects.
- Practice work/life balance. What's your outlet? Going for a run, strumming your six-string, reading mystery novels? Make time for relaxation and play. If you feel stressed regularly, you may want to consider learning a mindfulness practice to help you remain present and calm.
- Become the customer. If possible, make yourself a "new customer" occasionally to see how your business responds. When one consultant who outsourced product fulfillment did this, he got a rude awakening: a customer left an angry voicemail that she'd been waiting a month for her order. The consultant apologized profusely, refunded her money, and promptly sent her his full complement of books and CDs, restoring her goodwill. And he fired the fulfillment company.