10 Ways To Protect Yourself From Client Issues
Whether you’re dealing with stakeholders, subject matter experts, internal clients, or external customers, some issues are bound to arise during work and the project implementation. Usually, these issues can just be smoothed over by listening more closely to what the client is saying or by preparing and educating the client as to how the process works. There are those times, however, when communication breaks down and issues develop into something more serious.
Here are some recommendations for making sure that you are not the cause of a serious problem and you have yourself and your organization covered.
1. Keep a trail of agreements, emails and documents
From the start of a project, prior to the kickoff meeting and through final delivery, save all related documents and emails. Organize them in a meaningful way so the right document is easy to locate. Should you ever need to search through these archives for proof that the client requested something or should you need to figure out where a mis-communication occurred, you’ll have your paper trail for reference and protection.
2. Use sign-off sheets for deliverables
The sign-off sheet is a simple document signed by an authorized client representative stating that a deliverable is approved. It confirms that the result of your work meets the established requirements, and that the project can move forward. Provide your clients with a sign-off sheet with each deliverable. At the end of a project, the sign-off sheet provides final approval and acceptance. If issues develop at a later date, these signed approvals can be invaluable.
3. Assume that email is not private
Did you ever write something less than positive in an email? It only takes one humiliating experience like this to realize that emails are public documents. It’s always best to keep things professional in your working relationships. Don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want the world to see.
4. Back up daily after each stage of work
Recreating lost work feels like Groundhog Day and is a waste of time and energy. Therefore, make archives after each completed stage of work. Store data not only in the general database of your company, but also on your personal computer. You can also connect an external drive for the archive, and copy all the data to it too. In the event of a failure or failure of one of the devices, your archives will still be saved.
5. Always take an advance payment before starting work
Pre-billing and down payments are also very important. When clients pay up front, it shows that they are genuinely interested in the project. Many freelancers charge 30-50% upfront and demand the rest after the project is completed. In some cases, you can get paid earlier by offering an early payment discount.
Another way to convince customers is to provide an additional service for free. For example, 3D renderers may provide additional renders, and writers may offer additional fixes in exchange for early full payment.
With prepaid, you won't have to worry about late payments. This way you can focus on getting the job done and doing your best.
Provide some incentive to encourage clients to pay you upfront whenever possible. But whatever you decide to do, be sure to specify it in the contract. This can save you a lot of unnecessary troubles.
6. Protect your copyright
When concluding a contract for the implementation of the project, be sure to discuss your copyrights with the client, and fix everything in writing. Make sure your client is familiar with this document and agrees to its clauses. When showing unfinished renders to the client, watermark them. But make sure they don't get in the way of him getting a good look at your work.
7. Use simple words
Your clients may be less knowledgeable about the subject than you are. They may have no idea what you are talking about as they nod and smile blankly. Use concrete examples to show them what you mean.
If you’re proposing something new, show them a mock-up of the look and feel of a course and use a prototype for interactions. This saves time in the long run, allows for an iterative design process and builds clear lines of communication.
8. Develop expert communication skills
Tip 1: You can avoid some of the most critical client issues by using your most effective listening skills. Even though your head is spinning with ideas, keep them at bay so you can attend to what your client is saying. Then repeat what he or she said to confirm you’ve understood. The letters that make the word LISTEN also spell SILENT. (Cute, huh?)
Tip 2: One under-used communication skill is sketching. While in discussions, don’t hesitate to represent ideas and concepts with simple stick figures and diagrams. Visuals are a powerful way to promote understanding. There are many books on this topic. One of the first that I read was "The Back of the Napkin" by Dan Roam.
9. Balance creativity with practicality
Remember that there is a budget underlying each project. Often your most creative ideas will be the most expensive. Keep the budget in mind when you propose ideas and be particularly cautious to avoid offering more than is possible to clients.
10. Develop respectful relationships
Business is really about solving problems for people, serving others and building relationships. Check your biases and assumptions at the door. Respect your clients regardless of their status; this can help you avoid unpleasant consequences in the future. So treat them with compassion and care.
If you have any more tips, please add them in the comments below.