Managing client expectations: the virtues of a contract

- March 18, 2019 3 MIN READ

There are two things people remember about working with a business – the beginning and the end. You can give your client the best middle, but they won’t remember that. They’ll remember how they started the journey with you and how they finished. Given we only get one chance to make a good impression, it pays to put your best foot forward.

This starts before they have picked up the phone or typed an email to you. Everything you put out in the marketplace is an opportunity to connect with your next client. Quite often, your next client is asleep; they do not even realise they need you. They may not realise they have a problem and it can be solved. Some call this marketing but if you think of it as training your new client to be the best one possible, you can get started right.

By educating them with blogs, sharing your thoughts, raising their level of knowledge, participating in Facebook and other social media groups, you can open their eyes that you are the solution.

Once they wake up and realise, they need you, the next step in education and training your client is to onboard them correctly.

That’s where a solid contract comes into it. it is vital your terms and condition are spot on, so the client knows what to expect from you and what you expect from them. Business is a relationship and contracts help you navigate the good, the bad and the ugly.

While the business world is hung up on finding the ideal client, the perfect avatar, the ultimate business bestie, you can end up chasing your tail trying the find the perfect client for you. What business should be focusing on is training your new client so you can teach them how to be a good client.

When we start working with someone new, our relationship with them is a like a diamond in the rough. They have come to you because you have the solution to their problem. But sadly, along the way, these burgeoning relationships can take a turn for the worse: your lovely new client doesn’t:

  • Pay their invoice on time
  • Not respond your emails so work is not done in time
  • You miss a call and they think you are ignoring them
  • You make a mistake and they get cranky
  • You have a misunderstanding about some aspect of the job, and they want to end it

As hard as you try to do the right thing, you cannot stop another person from making an issue, being unhappy, complaining or not paying you. A contract is your platform for negotiation. It will not stop all of the above happening, but it will set out clearly to your client and for you how you will manage it.

A contract is something that needs to be specific to your business. There are a lot out there that are generic and that can cause many problems because the language is not relevant for your business or the issues you may face.

Any size business should have contracts in place when starting a new client to set out terms and conditions, delivery deadlines, milestones, scope of work, what happens when things go wrong and payment terms.  A contract is the framework you work under together. Delivering products or services to a client or customers is a relationship; having a contract formalises it legally.

The person with contract is the person with the power. If you onboard your new client right, then they will understand the terms you work under and can ask for amendments. It is up to you to consider whether you will or not.  By having a contract in place, you are able to self-advocate when things go wrong.

In this age of outrage, people take to social media to vent because many do not know how to negotiate or how to give feedback. A contract is your ticket to resolving issue before they get out of hand. Small business is open to criticism and unhappiness; so many go into business with their hearts on their sleeve believing the best in everyone.  But things go wrong. A contract does not have to be a big scary legal document; it’s a tool to protect both sides and not leaves things up to chance.