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Ever notice how Amazon packages routinely come earlier than expected?
They’ll tell you the package will arrive on or by the 27th, and when the package shows up on the 23rd, you are pleasantly surprised.
Amazon sets themselves up to be the hero by correctly setting your expectations upfront and then beating those expectations.
If they don’t get the package to you by the 27th, you are still happy because they’ve met your expectations.
What’s the opposite of that?
I once worked in a restaurant where the owners told the host or hostess to never say the wait time for a table was more than 45 minutes.
This shortsighted policy led to angry customers—who waited over an hour to get seated on busy nights—walking out with a bad taste in their mouth from their expectations not being met.
Setting and meeting expectations is crucial to your freelance business, but it’s often an overlooked area.
Not meeting the expectations you’ve set is bad enough, but not defining them can be just as bad.
Without setting expectations, your client gets lost, and this can be particularly harmful in those crucial first moments and days between agreeing to work with you and the project kickoff date.
If you drop the ball at this early stage, it can lead to buyer’s remorse and taint the working relationship.
How do you avoid that? By telling your new client exactly what they can expect during the project—both the good and the bad—and then meeting or exceeding those expectations.
One way to deliver those expectations professionally is via a Client Welcome Packet.
A Client Welcome Packet is a document you send to new clients (in either digital or print format) where you state your policies, tell them how best to work with you and describe your process in as much detail as possible—so there are no surprises during the project.
What to include in your Client Welcome Packet
Divide your Client Welcome Packet into three main sections:
- A section to welcome and validate your prospect’s decision to work with you
- A section to clarify your policies
- And a section illustrating your process
Remind and reassure them why they are working with you
You’ll want to welcome your new client by reassuring them they’ve made the right decision by hiring you.
Immediately after making a decision to buy, questions start to pop up in your client’s head about whether or not you are the right person to deliver what you’ve promised.
By reassuring them, you’ll put them at ease, and you’ll have a better chance of earning their trust—which will pay off during the project when you are trying to gain buy-in from them.
In this section, you’ll also show them you’ve been listening all along by restating the project objectives and reminding them why choosing you was the right decision to achieve those goals—perhaps because of your extensive experience in solving problems like theirs.
Make your policies crystal clear
“Tell the customer precisely what to expect – even when what to expect isn’t very fun.” – John Jantsch
After you’ve welcomed them to this new working relationship and reassured them, you’ll want to manage their expectations by spelling out all of your policies:
- Your availability and work hours
- When and how to communicate
- Key points of contact
- Payment info
- How to best work with you
- Revisions, deadlines, and penalties for non-compliance
When clients start acting up during a project—whether it’s not following your lead, paying late or asking for a million revisions—it’s likely because you haven’t done enough to set the expectations clearly or highlighted these areas of concern for your client.
Let’s say you’ve got a new client. You sent a proposal, they liked it and signed your contract. Somewhere in the proposal or contract, you’ve stated your policy is three concepts and three rounds of revisions on a logo design.
If after delivering the logo design, your client starts asking for a ton of additional revisions, you’d be tempted to label your client as a difficult client. After all, you’ve told them your policy, right?
But if you’ve buried that policy somewhere deep in your contract, it’s possible your client missed it.
Your areas of concern are not what’s top of mind for a client when they are thinking of working with you.
Your Client Welcome Packet gives you another opportunity to reiterate those areas of concern at a time your client will be more receptive to hearing them and more likely to follow them later on.
Chances are if you’ve included your revision policy in the original proposal and then mentioned them again in the Welcome Packet—along with the cost for additional revisions AND a breakdown of exactly what a revision is—your client will not ask for a million revisions.
It’s when things are unclear that clients start making assumptions and bending or breaking the rules.
Teach them what they need to know about your process
Lastly, you need to help them understand your process. Walk them through the different phases of your process so they have a way of pinpointing where they are in the overall process during the project and don’t get lost.
If they’ll need to know any software to be able to work with you, here is where you let them know. This is a good place to link out to a quick overview that shows them how to use the program.
For example, I present design concepts for review on an online whiteboard called Conceptboard, so I link to a 5-minute video showing how to use the software.
Or, maybe you use Basecamp for your projects. This is the place to let them know they’ll have to get acquainted with the program.
Client Welcome Packet template
Set expectations when you get new business and you’ll be more likely to earn your client’s trust, avoid getting into sticky ‘Client From Hell’ situations, and save time trying to get a lost client back on the map.
To get a jump start on creating your Client Welcome Packet, I’ve included the template I use for new clients. I use this base template as a starting point and modify it to fit the particular project or client I’m working with.
Check it out and get started setting the right expectations from the get-go!
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I inform my clients in my proposal, of how I work and what to expect etc, but there may be improvements to be had which I hadn’t thought of, so I’ve downloaded it. Many thanks
Ian!! YOU ROCK!!!! Thank you for sharing this – the pearler for me is “…That means we won’t accept any design comps from you…”. I may have to tattoo that entire section on my forehead. Or at least include it in their welcome pack 🙂
Thanks again, really appreciate you sharing this!!
Thanks so much for this article and the template to get me started. It’s always easier to edit than to write from scratch. 😉
I am in the architectural business and i have been working in my small office now for about 8 months. Potential clients walking in and having to be lost but looking for information while i am trying to chase a deadline is not cool. I feel like i also get into a mood that ends up chasing that potential client away unless i know this will be big money. You get clients that sound like they were just bored and did not know something,one was too scared to negotiate my price down so she lied and said the husband will do the plans later on this year, only to see her send a builder to come do the talking for her and actually manipulating the forms of payment. Direct handover no deposit.i had to follow her tune, i believe this will definately save me time and alot of energy. This will probably play a role in my administration aswell because i am growing but i am not prepared yet to employ. How do you employ someone and let them understand the basis of no clients means no money-meaning no salary for them,i am scared of taking that next step before my marketing is crisp.
Thanks for the welcome guide Ian. I’ve a fantastic tool now at my arsenal and the credit goes to you 😉
Cheers, Hammad! Thanks for reading.
Great article! I’ve downloaded your template, but haven’t opened it or rea it yet. Looking forward to it. It always seems my biggest error or fear is just prior to closing the deal. I snag a potential client and then try to get the conversation going and I’m not sure if I jump the gun and scare them away or not. Any articles or tips on that?
Hey Megan. Do you follow up with them? Do they tell you NO or do they just disappear? If so, this might help: https://millo.co/5-email-scripts-following-client-unresponsive-plus-examples
I LOVE this! This is getting implemented into my business immediately. Thanks, Ian!
Thanks, Patricia! Hope it helps!
Thank you so much Ian for this valuable resource. I always love your practical and useful advice. You writing helped me to gain confidence as a designer.
That’s so awesome to hear, Minhaj! Thank you for reading.
This is fantastic. Its definitely the place where I find the most issues happen – when clients assume things or are confused and because I have outlined in my contract I assume that they have read them.
I downloaded your welcome guide and it has some fantastic ways to explain things to clients. Thanks again
Thanks, Nicole! Glad I could help!
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