I hate that feeling. The feeling I get when I meet with a client I write down exactly what I believe they were expecting, only to present a solution to their business problem that is not what they were expecting. Somewhere along the way, there was a miscommunication or a misunderstanding. This means I am going to have to go back and redo the work I thought I just finished. How can you guarantee to meet client expectations and use your time used most efficiently?
This is where it all begins, clear communication. This is more than making sure both parties speak their mind. Clear communication is double checking to make everyone understood where the project is going as a result of the client meeting. I’ve been guilty of not giving a client my full attention. While they’re talking I’m thinking about the answer to what they’re saying at the same time. It’s important to give full attention to what the client is saying, you can brainstorm later but a meeting requires your full attention.
The client is looking for certain triggers
I remember working with a client and I presented the solution to their problem. They looked at it and said, “this is not exactly what I was expecting.” After I sat and talked through the details and why I made certain decisions they finally understood my solution that it did, in fact, answer the problem they had. Communication is crucial because a client may not be able to specifically articulate exactly what they want so they need your help to clarify. It’s your job as the creative to bring the information out of them. The client will not remember everything, however, they will remember that I call project triggers. These are those pivotal things the client wants you to address, and if you don’t keep a record of what these triggers are no matter what you present they won’t like it until they understand how your solution speaks to each trigger.
What dependencies exist
There are some parts of the communication which involve responsibility. As a freelancer, you have a responsibility to deliver a certain set of work but there are times in which your work is dependent upon the client completing a task. For example, if I am redesigning a blog it’s my role as a designer to recreate the website in a way that makes sense and is easy use, however, it may be the client’s role to provide the content. This means to have clear communication I must particularly say “your content will drive the design of the blog and the project will not be fully complete until you’ve done your share.” It may seem unnecessary to point out something so obvious, however, I’ve been in those situations in which I was asked to create a website and the person assumed I would be rewriting each of their pages as well.
It’s important to summarize everything after each meeting both parties are responsibilities for and the next steps in the process.
Don’t try to remember everything
Do not treat your brain like computer storage.
I personally tend to take pride in remembering things and I do have a fairly decent memory however I forget things too. Don’t be the freelancer that’s in a meeting and listening to 3 different people talk and assume that you’re going to remember everything, because you’re not.
You don’t have control over what you’re going to forget.
To make sure you don’t forget anything make it easy on yourself and take notes or at the least record the phone call or record the in-person meeting and ask the person, “is it okay if I record us talking so that you have something to refer back to?” Even if you are recording still take the time to write things down. Listening actively to a client and writing things down will help reinforce not only what was said but also what the client’s expectations of you are.
Share these notes
Whatever is stated in the meeting to ensure that clear communication write all of those things down but don’t stop there, take the time to share the results of a meeting with a client. Follow up in an email and summarizing the content of what was said. Something I’ve begun to do recently that I find extremely very helpful is to create a central place for all of the notes. This can be a hidden web page on your website that acts somewhat like a change log. Every time you make an update or change you log what it is that you’ve done or if you communicated with the client you write a summary with a timestamp. When you read everything you can see the full story of how the project has evolved. This can also be a Google doc and every time there’s an update you add an entry you share the link to the Google doc with your client so they they see the flow of the project.
Sharing a summary of meeting notes is great to prevent scope creep, which is when you and the client agree upon something and they continually add more things under the assumption that you’ll do the work. If everything is written down you can see and separate new requests from what was agreed upon.
Set expectations before payment is made
Prior to any money changing hands make sure clear expectations are set and everyone is comfortable with the expectations. This means if you’re following a process and you reach the point to where you are about to invoice the person and they going to sign the contract say “I just want to double-check, what are your expectations?” There’s nothing wrong with asking the client directly what the expectations are so you can write it down and then deliver upon exactly what they said.