Losing a great client

4 mistakes that crippled a relationship. 

This summer I dove into a promising freelance web management project. It wasn't a high-paying gig but it was interesting, challenging, and beautiful. But, I got eager and lost perspective. I didn’t deliver the best of my value. And mistakes started happening.

#1. I agreed to future availability

I'll never again agree to a project with an undetermined kick-off. Doing so consigned my schedule and hampered flexibility. Promises I made months before kick-off, were not as certain once the project got going.

#2. I didn’t budget enough time to impress the client

I aerated my normal budgeting model to make an early impression with the client. I undercut myself because I was insecure.

Avoid the favor budget. You’re mortgaging your reputation if you don’t properly account for what’s required to do considerate work. Accepting a low-budget project will not immunize you from high expectations.

#3. I allowed guilt to justify scope creep

As the project progressed, I allowed the scope to change unchecked as contrition for tardy deliverables (see #1). Don’t expand scope out of guilt or to make up for prior mistakes. You’re only compounding the risk that new requirements will be overlooked, implemented wrong, or executed with underwhelming results. Also, the burden to your team’s efficiency and creativity can be suffocating.

#4. I communicated at the wrong times

In an effort to save time, I limited client communication to just reporting significant progress — which totally backfired. I was also late to answer long emails. (I think there’s an inverse relationship between the length of a client email and how long it should take you to address it.) The client became increasingly nervous and interpreted sparse email as avoidance. Call it “saving time” all you want — if you’re tempering communications with your client you are avoiding them.

Accepting a low-budget project will not immunize you from high client expectations.

What I tell myself

In the end, a site was delivered but it never launched. If I get paid it will be at a big discount. I lost time, a portfolio notch, and a talented cohort in future opportunities. Losing a great client has caused me to reconsider everything. Primarily, the words I use. Here is what I’ve been thinking to myself lately.

Rethink your pitch. Rewrite any hyperbolic bullshit you’ve strung together to sell yourself. If you’re injecting flair to your language out of competitive survival, stop.

Staring down the problem. Own your fuck ups.

Become more. Sharpen your communication by sharing your thoughts and writing more. Listen more to your instincts, as well as those around you. Look at yourself first when projects hit speed bumps… or totally fail.

Boundaries keep everyone safer. Know your limits and make them known.

Thanks for reading :)