My team and I learned everything we know about our business the hard way — everything from managing team members, client expectations, and choosing the right technologies for our projects.
When we got our very first clients, we were looking to impress. We wanted to land a couple of early quick wins to get us kickstarted. However, in one particular case, what was supposed to be an easy 4-week project, took us three times that time to complete.
If you are a young service-based company (in any industry), proper management will save you time, money, and face. Our early experiences taught us some hard lessons about resource and client's expectations management. Here are several takeaways from a time we were trying too hard to impress and score a win.
Up and coming bands are often asked to perform for free. Their would-be clients promise them exposure instead of money. As a young service-based company, you will face similar situations. While it could be a genuine way for you to enter the market, I believe that significantly discounting your rates isn't the way to go.
Working for low rates might set a precedent that can be difficult to get rid off. Working for long hours on low wages could even have a discouraging effect on you or your team.
The good news is that you can avoid all those problems and impress your client by providing value. The best way to form trust and a long-lasting relationship with your client is to deliver value. Clients who are more interested in results than money are worth hanging on to.
Properly planning your deliverables and hitting your milestones on time are the first and most essential steps towards scoring that early win. Your client will be happy to work with someone efficient and dependable. However, if you want to impress, you should go the extra mile and give your client something they did not expect. You could provide them with something as simple as a small bugfix to their existing website.
Always give your clients 120%. Your clients will always be grateful to work with someone genuinely interested in helping their business. You must always provide this extra bit of value, no matter what stage your business is in.
Your client is probably an individual who does not have much expertise in your field. You must hold your client's hand throughout the entire process to make sure expectations are aligned.
You're probably using exciting new tools and are employing modern agile practices, and you want to impress your client with all that.
You should always explain your process in the first or second meeting. Make sure to explain each step in your workflow and why it is essential. You might even want to walk them through a case study you've written which explains your process.
Setting up and managing client expectations will save you time and frustration down the road. Set up a delivery schedule and explain the type and reasoning behind each deliverable.
Furthermore, don't expect your client to have memorized the details of your workflow. The client must fully understand the purpose of the current deliverable and what sort of feedback is expected from him. Make sure the client focuses on the right stuff so you can collect useful feedback. So, every time you submit a deliverable, recap on why this phase is essential and what the next steps will be.
Your first wins must be short and quick. You must gain popularity and start building your portfolio as soon as you can. You cannot achieve that by providing a long array of services from the get-go.
Your team is surely more confident in certain areas over others. For example, you might be great at building landing pages but not much so in developing mobile apps. Your graphic designer might be great at designing logos but does not have much experience in UI design.
You may go horizontal with your service offerings if you want to handle many projects and learn as you go. This approach may stretch you out too thin but will gain you extensive expertise as you invest in the research required to complete the tasks.
While this is not a wrong approach at all, it may hinder you in the early days. If you're handling a task that is outside your scope, you may not be able to provide that extra bit of value to your client. You may not be familiar with the best practices you need to deliver exemplary work.
It would be best if you stuck to what you do best. Do your thing, and do it well. Your clients will be much more impressed if you deliver one excellent job in a timely fashion. Your early wins should be quick, sure, and straightforward.
You will eventually expand your team and start offering other services. You might even find a group of fantastic freelancers with whom you could work. If you've reached that point, then you can probably handle the responsibility of managing a large project.
Establishing trust in your company is very difficult early on; especially if the majority of your clients are overseas. To get the ball rolling, you will need to fight tooth and nail to score your first wins.
If you're an entrepreneur with little experience in service-based industries, your try-hard attempts to impress clients could go sideways.
One of our earliest projects faced massive delays because we did not understand how to score quick wins. We made three mistakes in that project that we learned from.
We thought we could build client relationships by offering more for less. Trust in your brand comes from the value you provide and not by offering your skills for a discounted price.
Since our client came from a similar background as ours, we assumed that he understood everything. We had only explained our process once and trusted that our client understood everything as he nodded in approval. Your client is probably handling a lot of responsibilities and problems. You cannot expect them to have your entire process memorized by heart after your first meeting. Walk your clients through each deliverable as you make it, and explain it's importance towards the bigger picture.
Finally, we took on more responsibility than we should have. Tying ourselves up with different teams and mismanaging the project caused a significant delay in our deliverables.
While the advice I gave in this article by no means should be held up as golden rules, I'm sure they will help you identify potential problems ahead of time.