I’m hoping that you’re reading this post because you’re a proactive entrepreneur that wants to avoid making unnecessary mistakes ahead of time, but I’m ready to concede to the fact that you’re probably reading this because you messed up – big time. Most business owners will know just what it’s like to lose a client, but not all of them will have learnt from their mistakes. Today you can do just that, as I highlight the list of avoidable ways that you can lose a good client.
#1 – Lack of Preparation
You can potentially lose a client before you’ve even begun, simply because you’ve failed to put in the effort to research their business and requirements ahead of time. Just jumping into a sales call without any idea of who it is you’re speaking to, or what it is that they want, can leave yourself looking stupid when they ask you a simple question that you should be able to answer.
It’s also not unusual for a client to request that you bring your portfolio with you, or something to that effect, which will help them to make a decision on whether to hire you over your competitors. That’s why it’s essential that you check their requirements thoroughly before you attend the call ’empty-handed’.
The same can be said for freelancer websites, where the client might ask you to submit examples of your work in your pitch. If you’ve not prepared a decent portfolio beforehand, it may be too late to prepare one in time for that particular project, and it’s unlikely that they’ll hire you without one.
Preparing yourself in advance can save any potential embarrassment and anxiety, as well as drastically improve your chances of acquiring the client. It might require more up-front work, but it’s definitely worth it in the long-run.
Wondering how you can start building an awesome portfolio on steroids? (The portfolio, not you). If so then check out this article I wrote on How To Get Perfect Testimonials From Clients, as well as this very-useful post on The Best Way To Showcase Your Client Testimonials.
#2 – Neediness
As an entrepreneur it can be really difficult to find new clients and put money on the table, at least it is in the beginning, so it can be a common tendency to start sounding desperate when you pitch your services to a potential client. For a client, this can be a huge red flag.
Reason being that when you start to beg and chase your client, they will begin to question why you need this project so badly. I mean, is it because you struggle to get clients? If so, why is that? Is it because you’re really bad at your job? Or because you just want to grab the money and run?
Either way, you can probably see where I’m getting at. It’s a quick way to lose a client.
In your sales pitch you’ll just want to briefly explain to the client what you offer and how it solves the issues they’re currently facing. Once you’ve then outlined the costs of your services, just wait for them to come to a decision. Don’t do what many people do at this point and talk themselves out of the deal.
Your mindset should be that you’ve got plenty of other work to be getting on with, regardless of whether they take you up on your offer or not.
Depending on what they’ve said at the end of the call, you can follow-up in a few days or after a week, just to see if they still need help with said project. If they reject your offer then you can always ask them why. If it’s anything that you can comfortably change, then it’s up to you to submit an improved offer or just walk away from the project entirely – and assign your focus elsewhere.
Struggling to convert your leads into sales? Trust me when I say that you’re not the only one. Check out this post which explains this one helpful tip that can improve your confidence when selling, dramatically improve your sales conversions and start pulling in bigger & better clients.
#3 – Overpromised & Underdelivered
I understand that finding new clients can be stressful and that it can be tempting to go above & beyond in your pitches to woo them into a sale, but now you’ve given your new client false hope that you could do the (somewhat impossible) job and do so in a timely fashion. Now after missing the latest deadline, you’ve realised that your false promises have come to truly bite you in the @$$, and that an “I’m sorry” email just isn’t going to cut it.
There’s nothing wrong with telling a client beforehand that the work will likely take longer than they original anticipated, or that you believe an aspect of the project would be best done a different way. If deep down you know you’re not capable of doing the work then just be honest with them, you’ll probably find that they’ll respect you a lot more for doing so.
There is a difference between not being capable of doing something, and just thinking you can’t do it. The difference tends to be a little thing called ‘Imposter Syndrome’, which is the irrational fear of messing up or not being good enough. If you would like to know more about it and improve your confidence, then check out this post on How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome.
If though you feel like you were genuinely being realistic with the expectations of the project, and you still failed to deliver (on time), then it may be worth looking into the possibility of outsourcing some work. Missed deadlines are a sign that you might be taking on too much work, and delegating some of it can help to relieve stress in times where you may be unavailable for work (i.e. holidays & sickness).
By delegating work to other freelancers or staff members it gives you the freedom to take on more of a managerial role, whereby you can oversee each aspect of the project and ensure that it gets completed on time, and to a good quality.
If you do decide to outsource (some of) your work, then you’ll definitely be interested in learning the Top 10 Tips for Outsourcing Success, written by Keith R. Crosley, over on The Balance: Small Business.
#4 – You’ve Gone Rogue
The original job description didn’t suit you so you’ve just gone balls-to-the-wall with what YOU wanted to do instead. Not only is this highly unprofessional but it shows a complete lack of respect for the client, as well as a good indication of how poor your level of communication is.
As mentioned already there’s nothing wrong with suggesting your own recommendations to the client, based on your knowledge and experience in the field, but only if you’ve done so before the project has begun. Effective communication with your clients is essential if you want establish a good business relationship with the client, as well as potential repeat business and referrals.
If you know that the client is requesting something that you don’t like, and they’re disregarding your suggestions, then it’s up to you to either suck it up or just walk away completely. Again it must be stressed that this should be done prior to agreeing the deal with the client. If midway through the project you bring up a new suggestion, be prepared to accept that the client might reject such request. If so, then just roll with it.
#5 – Late. Late. Late.
It’s customary in a new project for yourself and the client to arrange meetings and deadlines, of which it is unacceptable for you to be late for either. I don’t care if you’re often late meeting up with friends and family, when it comes to business there’s no tolerance for this.
As an entrepreneur you will need to learn how to manage your time effectively, and account for unforeseen events that may impact the quality and quantity of your work. Such events will become less frequent over time, as you’ll begin to adapt to circumstances and develop your business to a point where you can delegate work effectively in certain situations.
There will come times though whereby cancellations and delays to meetings will have to be made, however it’s how you deal with these instances that matter most. The first thing you should do is to notify you client well ahead of time, so that they can amend their schedule accordingly. You should also clarify how you’re going to atone for this ‘event’ and, if applicable, how you’re going to prevent this from happening again.
#6 – Ghosting
Failure to communicate at all is a big no-no, and it’s pretty immature too. Ghosting is a sure-fire way to lose the client and ensure that you ruin any realistic chance of growing your business. In the world of social media, the power of word of mouth is as strong as ever. As soon as word gets out about how poorly you treat your clients, you’ll have burned many bridges with potential, high-profile clients you weren’t even aware of.
I understand that many people do suffer with poor mental health, as I do, and that it can become unbearable at times dealing with a client you’ve completely lost respect for, however there are much better ways to deal with it than to cut off all communications prior to project completion.
If you’re stuck with a nightmare client then you need to understand that it’s probably your fault. This is happening because you failed to carry out effective due diligence and planning to avoid taking on a client like this, or worse yet their actions are very much justified based on your actions during the lifetime of the project.
Either way you need to do whatever it takes to communicate effectively with the client and complete the project to a good standard.
On the other hand if you’re just ghosting clients because you just don’t like talking to people or taking instructions, then I’m afraid the entrepreneur life just isn’t for you.
#7 – Can’t Take Feedback
I’m not sure I know of anyone who is sane that enjoys having their work (negatively) critiqued, but that’s all just part of being an entrepreneur. Just know that not everyone shares the same vision as you, and that it’s impossible to convince some people to change their mind. There will come times where some clients were expecting something ‘better’, and I’m sure many of those clients will have had unrealistic expectations to begin with.
Regardless of whether their comments are justified or not, it’s worth taking a breather before responding kindly to their feedback. Avoid getting into a fight over who’s right or wrong, and instead just focus on completing the work to their requirements – in line with their feedback.
To limit how many revisions a client can make, you can predetermine this in a service agreement that both parties sign before taking on the project. This can save you the huge headache of receiving change after change, and can also help to make the process much clearer for the client ahead of time.
#8 – Hiding Expenses
Now this one can heavily depend on what was agreed prior to starting the project, as you’re well within your right to charge more when the client makes additional requests that are outside of the original project scope.
However, it’s been known for some freelancers to initially hide or not mention additional fees, only to bring them up down the line – to the client’s annoyance. The client will often have a set budget to work with when taking on a project, and for you to bring up additional fees after the project has begun, just looks unprofessional on your part.
Save yourself the headache by taking some extra time researching the costs beforehand to ensure that you’ve accounted for every possible expense that the client needs to pay for. If you’re unsure about some costs then just be upfront about it with the client, potentially providing them with a number of options or even a general price range.
#9 – Seeing Red
As mentioned earlier you’re going to come across some clients that are just complete Tuesdays, but that doesn’t mean that you should mirror their anger and rudeness. If anything you should just accept the fact that you didn’t do your due diligence well enough to see this coming and avoid it.
A great way to avoid being stuck with nightmare clients, is to include a thorough take-on questionnaire for the client to fill out before starting the project. This questionnaire will request all of the necessary information regarding the project, and will prove to be a good deterrent for a lot of toxic clients, as they will tend to ignore the questionnaire and try to begin the project without it, or move onto the next sucker who’s willing to work with them. #DodgedBullet
In any event you should remain calm and avoid showing any anger towards your client, especially in writing, as this can quickly result in you getting outed as a horrible person or business to work with, which is never good news if you’re trying to put food on the table. Even if this is a client that you want to lose. Just be calm and soldier on.
When you lose a client it can be often feel like the end of the world, but it’s just the necessary wake up call you needed in order to rectify your mistakes going forward and improve your services.
Issues with a client can be avoided if you put the time and effort in before a project begins, by getting as much information as you can from the client, as well as clearly clarifying the process, costs and deadlines to them beforehand.
If you implement the suggestions that I’ve mentioned within this article then it should be the last time that you lose a client.
Do you have any questions or feedback on this post, or even lost a client yourself? I’d be keen to hear your experiences in the comments below!