Basically, put everything in writing: The contract, letter of agreement, deal memo, adoptive admission, confirming email, client approvals etc.
The Triple-A Troubleshooting strategy
The rule is simple: Freelancing experts say that whenever the project hits a bump, do the triple As.
1 Acknowledge it: Admit there is a problem at the earliest. Check it out.
2 Analyze it: See what went wrong, and come up with solutions promptly.
3 Act on it: Start putting the solutions to work. See what works, and what doesn't. The client will appreciate your responsiveness.
How to minimize damage from your mistake/s
Rule # 1 of damage control is prompt, constant and honest communication/clarification.
Rule # 2: Take responsibility when it is your fault.
Rule # 3: When something wrong happens, offer solutions, not problems.
Rule # 4: Tell client the good news first
Before you tell them what happened, tell them the good news - e.g. there were backups.
Rule # 5: Let the client vent out their feelings without saying or doing anything.
Just listen to them getting it all out.
Rule # 6: Get everything in writing this time too and keep records of all communication.
Rule # 7: Have Plan Bs.
Think in advance what your steps will be in case things go wrong. For example, have a list of backup specialists (who can work on the project when you are not available), or an estimate of time-overruns in case things don't as per plan.
On your part
1. Always apologize promptly for any lapses in communication, being behind schedule, or errors with the work.
And then give updates, reasons, and list all the corrective steps you are taking.
The legal part
1. Consider liability insurance (available in some industries) to deal with the financial (or other) implications of some mistake on your side.
2. If you are a licensed professional in the United States, you should also have malpractice insurance, which saves from the repercussions of a mistake.
3. The contract should also include details about how disputes, termination etc are going to be handled.
How a good contract helps you deal with common client situations successfully
The best way to deal with most client situation is to put everything into the contract beforehand.
- Mention in the contract details about the client's involvement throughout the project run - providing data and other materials, providing inputs on time when asked, giving approvals, and other necessities as you both deem fit.
- Mention a time frame for the client to respond to your query or with supporting materials etc.
- Mention in the contract the maximum number of revisions during the project, and charges for any extra revisions.
- Specify in your contract the number of mock-ups, drafts, or samples you will provide.
- Build an automatic extension into your contract for some extra time ('cushion' - e.g. 'not more than seven days after the agreed upon end date') on the deadline.
- Specify the budget (at least a minimum) into your contract, and/or also say that if the budget changes, the project specifications will be revised accordingly. This will help you deal with situations when the client reduces the budget suddenly.
- Also mention in the contract, how much or at least how you will be paid in case the client terminates the project in between for some reasons. Some suggest to include a 'kill fee', or a non-refundable upfront deposit.
- Put it in the contract that you will not be responsible for costs going up as a result of delays or late start by the client.
- Specify in detail the job scope in the contract and back it up by keeping records of deal memo, confirming emails, phone logs and all client-related email records.
This will help you deal with situations when the client disagrees with something in the project, or the client refusing the final project outcome.
Finally, have a plan B: You may have all the clauses etc in contract, have insurance to, but the unthought may often and you should be prepared.
What if the client company goes down? You may have grin and bear it.
What if the client was working for a company and has just left? You have to follow up with company about the next point of contact etc.
Just think the situation through, and be a nice person most of the time.
Other situations where a contract won't do
We are talking about the personal understanding between the client and you.
Principle #1: Always clarify anything you don't understand fully.
Principle #2: Never assume anything. The absence of something in a contract or a verbal undertaking doesn't mean it was a 'understood' thing.
- If you are tied down with a personal issue or have too much other work, make sure the clients' work doesn't suffer. After figuring out what tasks you can still do, sub contract the work out.
If you have a rapport with a client, inform him about your situation.
- If the client wants you to do more than was agreed, don't say 'No' outright. If this situation wasn't in the contract, tell the client you can do all that too, and suggest the extra charges nicely.
Basically, to deal with any client request to do more, use the positive 'I can do that/I will be happy to do that...It would cost...'approach.
Thank you for reading.
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