Setting Client Expectations


Setting a client’s expectations seems like a pretty straight forward thing to do. It isn’t. Some clients, if not most, will always want more than they are willing to pay. Or, they think your quote is too high based on what they want. Because a website is not a physical object they can touch, or drive, or live in…it’s difficult sometimes to understand how much work goes into designing and developing an effective site. So it’s only natural for a client to think that just adding a few things here and there, or coming up with another design concept takes no time at all. “Come on, it’s only one more mockup…”

A client may say, “it’ll only take 5 mins.” The response to that of course is, “5 mins. plus 15 years of experience”

All this goes can away if you properly (and politely) set your client’s expectations which all goes back to developing a good contract.

But before you get to the actual contract, effectively communicating what you can and cannot do can be tricky. Not necessarily because of what you are saying, but because of what they (the client) are hearing. Make sure your client understands important things like, how many mockups they will get. I used to always be apprehensive in telling a client in plain English, they get 2 mockups, any more they will be billed extra. But then I found myself doing mockups all day long doing 7,8…10 mockups until sign off. But there wasn’t even a sign off…because there was no contract, because I was willing to do whatever to get work coming in. But that’s called paying your dues. How else are you going to grow your portfolio? It’s like trying to get that first job: “We’d hire you, but you don’t have any experience…”

Now, several years later when speaking with clients, I make sure the they understand what they are getting for their budget. The contract is merely something for their reference when they can’t remember why they need to pay extra for excessive design requests.

Be firm with your quotes and your deliverables. Explain the process to your client. Once you start hearing yourself talking about what’s involved in putting together a kick-a** website, it’s easier to stand up for yourself when giving your proposal. If you start to bend, they will keep asking for more. Time off your life is valuable, so set your prices accordingly. The reason you set a limit on the number of mockups or revisions you do, is to prevent the client from changing their mind. It’s amazing how quickly someone can settle on a concept if they know they have to pay extra for another one. Let them know what your hourly rate is for after sales service and give them the source files, it’s good practice. Setting prices and terms simply makes everything fair for everyone. And yes, I realize this is business and it’s not supposed to be about being fair, but you’re not selling furniture, you’re essentially selling a service and if you’re not on a level playing field, someone is going to get hurt.

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