Category: customer service

How to say “No” to clients

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While it seems to go against every fibre of a freelancer’s being, there are times when you have to say “No” to a client or project. Knowing when to say “No” is the trick, and it can actually help you to grow your business and be more successful. It will also earn you respect from clients (and self-respect).

So, when should you say “No” to a client or project?

  1. You cannot help the client or provide them with value.
  2. The client/project is not good for your portfolio.
  3. The client/project is not in your niche or not your type of client.
  4. The client cannot afford you rates or there is a time restriction.
  5. The client wants more than you can or will provide.
  6. You do not understand what the client wants, or the client does not understand what you provide.
  7. The client is rude or there is not a good fit (personally or professionally).
  8. The client is not ready to hire a professional (it’s too early in the process).
  9. The client is not ready to proceed at this time.
  10. It’s an ego project – only one person cares about the project.

You might also want to say “No” to leave time for passion projects, or personal time. Leave time in your schedule to do what you want, so don’t overbook yourself. Book those passion projects in your calendar so that you have a reason to say “No” when the time arrives.

There are several good ways to say “No” to the client that will save the relationship for future work.

  1. Be polite. You might want to work with this client down the road, so let them down as politely as possible.
  2. Be honest. Explain why saying “No” makes sense, and it makes you look good.
  3. Suggest an alternative. Propose another service provider (referrals are great for building relationships) or another solution.

When do you say “No” to your clients, and how do you do it? Let me know –

David Gargaro

What makes a good client?

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I read an interesting blog post on the characteristics of a good client. I wanted to share the list here, as some people might think that they are good clients but leave a lot of room for improvement (while some clients go above and beyond the call of duty).

A good client:

  • Communicates expectations clearly (it is very important for getting the job done right the first time)
  • Allows a reasonable amount of time for the work (i.e., does not expect you to complete every job within an hour)
  • Is available for questions (by phone or email is fine)
  • Pays a fair amount for the work required (good clients know fair rates)
  • Pays in a timely fashion (payment within two weeks is great for me)
  • Has high integrity (such an important trait, but I don’t meet too many clients who are not honest)
  • Allows the service provider to do their job (not a problem, although some clients will change the project in progress)
  • Seeks an ongoing relationship (clients want to work with people they like and that do good work)
  • Gives credit where credit is due (this is rarely an issue for me, as I believe in making the client look good)
  • Is committed to quality (quality is very important, and good clients want quality over price and time)

What makes a good client for you? Are you a good client? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Are you being honest with your clients?

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Have you been dreading telling your client that a project will take longer than quoted?

Are you spending hours trying to figure out how to complete something that could be solved with one phone call to a client?

Do you fear telling your client that you cannot take on that high-profile project because of time issues?

Are you hesitant about telling the client that you found a serious problem with their material?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then it’s time to come clean. Honesty is important in every relationship, and this applies to the client-service provider business relationship. Be honest in what you can or cannot do. They will respect you more for saying that there is a concern before it becomes a serious problem. They will come to rely on you for your honesty – as opposed to doubting your ability to do the job reliably.

Be known for telling the truth. Give your clients the facts, and let them make an informed decision. The relationship will be that much stronger. And, in the case where you are fired for being honest, you are probably better off.

When was the last time you had to be brutally honest with a client, and how did it turn out? Let me know –

David Gargaro

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How to adjust your rates based on client value

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There are many different formulas that can help you to determine how much to quote on potential client projects. One method involves figuring out how much you want to earn per hour (e.g., $100), and then multiplying by how long you think the project will take (e.g., 40 hours), and then adding a percentage to cover unforeseen consequences (e.g., 10%).

So, 40 hours x $100/h = $4,000, and then add 4000 x 0.1 = $400, for a total of $4,400.

Using a strict formula will help you to provide a quote to potential and existing clients. You set a number that you want to reach, and then the client will either accept or reject the quote, or ask you to amend it according to their budget. Then you determine whether to amend the quote or reject their counteroffer.

However, most formulas don’t consider the value of your client to your business. Think about this:

  • How much have you earned from this client in the past?
  • How much do you expect to earn from this client in the future?
  • Is the total future business worth reducing your quote below a certain threshold?
  • How much do you enjoy (or detest) working on these types of projects and with this client?

Would you cancel a project that is $100 below your threshold when the client is worth $50,000 in future business? It sounds ridiculous, but consider what is involved when you turn down work and how that affects future assignments. I am not saying to accept all low-paying jobs, as you need to earn a living and get paid fair value for your work. But before you reject a project for a relatively small difference, consider what the project (and client) is truly worth.

Need help with calculating rates based on value? Let me know –

It’s not always about right and wrong

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Some people view the writer-editor (or editor-client) relationship as adversarial. The editor is supposed to find what is wrong with the document. They should fix all the errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, consistency, etc. The editor must convince the writer why something is right or something else is wrong.

Some issues are right or wrong. Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors are “wrong.” However, editing or revising a sentence does not mean that the original sentence was wrong. The new sentence might read better, or might be more appropriate for a particular audience. The original sentence could have been unclear as it was written, even though it was grammatically correct.

Editors must remember that the writer (and client) might want the sentence to read a particular way for a reason. They might want to make their point in their own words (unless there is an obvious mistake). So, the edited sentence might not be “right” in this case. But that does not mean it is wrong, either. It’s just a matter of choice.

The client (writer) might not always be right, but they have the right to choose the words they want.

Need an editor who wants to help you write your best content? Let me know –

David Gargaro

How do you respond to phone calls and emails?

marketing man person communicationSome productivity experts say that you should only respond to clients’ emails and phone calls at specific times during your business day. You can also use an answering service and email rules to move your emails to the appropriate folders, so that you can review and respond as desired.

Of course, this tactic does not work for every business. You would not want technical support answering emails only twice a day. Nor would you expect plumbers or electricians to answer phone calls at specific times of day. Every business is different and their clients require different levels of response times to their phone calls and emails.

I know that other writers and editors play the efficiency game because most emails are not urgent. They can run their businesses effectively by responding to emails at specific times of day. They treat emails like time stealers, because they interrupt their projects and interfere with being productive.

My business is different. I have several clients who rely on immediate responses to their questions and projects. I don’t consider it a waste of my time or interfering with my business… because it is my business. I can continue working and view an email and then decide whether to stop working to respond to that email. And I’ll answer phone calls right away, unless I am out of the office or away from my desk.

Decide for yourself how to treat emails and phone calls. Do what works best for you and your clients. Don’t let others who don’t know your business dictate how to treat customers or run your business.

What kind of relationship do you have with your clients, and what do they expect? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Staying in touch with clients

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I try to make it a habit to contact current and past clients at least twice a year (and more often for some clients). There are several obvious benefits, and some not-so-obvious ones:

  1. It lets them know that you are still open for business and available for work.
  2. It enables you to remind them of the past work you’ve done for them, which should be a good reason to work with you again.
  3. It puts you on their mind when they are looking for someone to help with current and future projects.
  4. It shows that you care about them and the success of their business.
  5. It enables you to determine what your clients are doing.
  6. It makes it easier for you to schedule new assignments into your calendar.
  7. It enables you to determine whether your contacts are still with their current companies.
  8. It ensures that you pay attention to the health of your business, which depends on maintaining regular client relationships.

How you decide to stay in touch is up to you, as well as how you remind yourself to stay in touch. Some people use software or personal planners – whatever works best for you is the best method.

Leave a comment if you can think of more benefits of staying in touch with clients –

David Gargaro

How to manage more than your deadlines

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My work life revolves around deadlines. It’s necessary to manage our deadlines to ensure that work is done on time. Some people use software to track projects, while others prefer a paper-based system. The point is to manage your deadlines so that you help your clients to stay on their deadlines.

What’s better than being on deadline? Completing projects ahead of deadline. It’s good to be early, but it’s better to do the job right AND complete your projects ahead of deadline. Your clients will truly appreciate it.

How can you add an extra layer of customer service? Contact your clients when it looks like you will be late before you reach your deadline. Even better, touch base with your client to find out where they stand when it looks like they are going to be late on their end, which will consequently make you late. They’ll appreciate that you are on top of things, paying attention to all aspects of the project, and they’ll give you an extension (in most cases) before you ask for one.

Being aware of client deadlines is another way of providing customer service, staying on top of your deadlines, and showing the client that you care about the work. If you care about them, they will care about you. And if you can still make your deadlines when they are falling behind schedule, they will come to love and depend on you for future projects.

FYI, project management software is good for providing you with reminders of where you are with your projects. But being truly committed to your work and your clients will keep you involved, which is more important.

Need help with managing your deadlines? Let me know –

David Gargaro

Are you committed to truly solving the customer’s problem?

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Some time ago, a potential client approached me to rewrite and improve the content on his home page to help attract more customers to his website. He asked me to review his website and provide recommendations.

I checked out his website, which is set up in a catalogue format to sell products to consumers and businesses. His home page had very little text outside of a brief company description. Some promotional materials and banners contained minor spelling and grammar errors.

I told the client not to waste time on rewriting the home page. In fact, I told him to remove the few lines of content (outside of the banner and promotional content), as his customers would not read any of it. I explained that his customers would be most interested in buying the products and using the accompanying services. I also told him to spend his resources on modest website improvements and increased marketing efforts (such as Google Adwords and SEO strategies), which would help to attract more relevant customers and increase online sales.

He appreciated my advice and followed through with my suggestions. I received no direct business from the client, as he did not need rewriting (and only minor editing, which he could handle based on a couple of notes I provided). I addressed the client’s problem, and directed him to spend his resources more effectively.

I could have taken the business and spent time rewriting and editing his website. Instead, I chose to listen to the client’s actual request and helped him to address his real problems. I fulfilled my responsibility to the client by not providing a service that he didn’t need, and instead directed him to solve his real problem. I made no money, and in fact gave free advice . I might get business from the client down the road, but that’s not the point. I helped a client to solve the real problem.

So, how dedicated are YOU to solving the client’s problem? Let me know what you did –

David Gargaro

How to communicate with clients for greater success

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I came across some great information on communicating with clients for greater success. It is important to be clear in your communications so that your clients understand your points, which means that you will have greater likelihood of achieving your goals, whatever they may be. This information came from a seminar presented by Rick Spence (make sure to read his work – he’s very good). The tips are laid out in an easy-to-read top ten list. Enjoy!

10 rules for communication for greater success

  1. Identify your target audience, and then figure out what you want to say. (Who are you talking to? What do you want to tell those people?)
  2. Customize your message to your target market. (Don’t say the same thing to different groups of people – clients in different industries, general public, and CEOs respond to different messages.)
  3. Introduce yourself and your message. (You don’t just start talking at people without telling them about yourself first. It’s polite.)
  4. Be yourself – speak and write as naturally as possible. (This is so important! Too many people try to write like someone else.)
  5. Use the word “you” in your messaging, as most people want to know what’s in it for them. (People care about their needs, not your needs.)
  6. Use strong, simple language to ensure both comprehension and persuasion. (Keep it simple so that your message comes through.)
  7. Tell stories instead of just relaying facts and figures. (People react to emotional messages more than factual messages. They like to read about what happened to other people more than the numbers behind the story.)
  8. Stay on message so that each message reinforces the previous one. (Consistency is key – all content should be on point.)
  9. Encourage feedback in all of your messaging. (Interact with your audience and ask for their input. They will be more engaged.)
  10. Repeat your messaging as often as possible. (Repetition is the key to being remembered and to people buying whatever you are selling. Let’s not kid ourselves – we are all selling something.)

Do you have suggestions on communicating for success? Do you need help with your communications? Let me know –

David Gargaro