Doesn’t it feel great when you complete a major project for a client on time and without any huge hang-ups? Of course it does. But what do you do with clients who come back from the dead? Just so that I don’t get in trouble with the law or scare any clients away, a dead client is simply one with whom you do not currently have an open contract. This article will discuss the best practices for the occasion when past clients come back to you and ask for more work to be done.
Assess the situation
Before you can take action and address the client’s request, it’s important to assess the situation. Below are a few possible reasons that clients might come back to you after their contract is fulfilled and completed.
This is, by far, the best reason for a dead client to contact you. You obviously did a great job the first time, and they are excited to begin a new project with you. The best thing to do if you are in this situation is to contact the client as soon as possible, set up a meeting time, draw up a contract, and get to work. There is nothing better than a good repeat customer: you already know how to work together so starting another project should be a great experience.
THEY WOULD LIKE TO MAKE A CHANGE TO THEIR PROJECT
This is a difficult situation to be in for many new freelance designers. After the project has been completed and paid for, the client returns and asks for revisions or changes to be made. In hindsight, one thing you could have done to help this situation is have a client approval process/form where the client signs to approve all the work is completed and satisfactory as per the contract. If you haven’t had your client fill out such a form, however, there are a few other steps you can take.
First, you need to get to the root of the problem your client is facing. If its a simple fix, it might be worth your time to just do it quickly, get it off your plate, and generate some goodwill with the client. If the revision is more complicated, you may want to consider kindly reminding the client that adding to the project scope will cost extra money. Usually when this happens, I write up a contract and charge the client on a per-hour basis instead of a per-project basis.
This is by far the worst situation that could happen. The client comes to you with a problem concerning the project you completed for them. Whether they are dissatisfied with the cost, the end result of the project, or something else, it is hard to satisfy an angry client who feels like they didn’t get the final product they were expecting.
What you should have done
We’ve already discussed what to do if a client comes back asking for a brand new project to be commenced and completed. Those are the easy situations to handle. But what about the clients who are angry, dissatisfied, upset, or dissappointed? Here are a few things you should have done the first time around in order to avoid these headaches in the future. The following suggestions will make it easier on you, the designer, and your clients as well.
- Make sure you have a contract in place that describes in detail what you will accomplish, what the client will accomplish, how long it will take, and how much it will cost.
- Include the client heavily in design decisions and make them feel like an integral part of the process. Ensure they are pleased with the results throughout the design process.
- Use a client approval form as a follow-up to the contract. When you complete the project and the client is satisfied, encourage them to sign the form signifying their approval and satisfaction with the project as-is.
- Kindly explain to the client (and include in your contract) that more work above and beyond the agreement will result in the need to draft another contract and will cost more money.
Your turn to share.
Have your clients ever come back from the dead? What do you generally do to ensure good client relationships before, during and after the completion of a project? Share your thoughts and tips with the community here.