3 Things you HAVE to do to keep your clients from getting antsy

Originally published 7/6/18 on ErinFlynn.com updated 6/4/21

Having been a web designer and a client, I’ve seen this scenario from both sides.

As a designer (or other creative), you’re plugging away at a client’s project, oblivious to the fact that your client is starting to freak out and believe you’ve run off with their money.

As a client, you’re waiting, and waiting, and waaaaaaaaaaaiting to hear back from the person you paid to get a job done. And you’re hearing nothing.

This happens FAR too often.

And the result? You get a nightmare client (or if you are the client you become one).

Luckily, this can all be avoided with a few simple steps, that take very little time to implement.

Subscribe on YouTube

Create a timeline (and leave buffer room)

How long will the project take? Map out the amount of time the project will take, and schedule it in. A lot of creative entrepreneurs don’t do this, overbook themselves or forget about that vacation they’re going on, and what should have taken four weeks is now taking eight.

No beuno.

Be realistic about the amount of time you can dedicate to the project, account for weekends, vacations, and anything else that will effect the timeline, and get everything in your schedule.

Then add an extra 50% to that time estimate to account for delays or catching the flu. If you think a project will take 4 weeks, schedule it for 6. If you get done in 4, your client will be thrilled, if it takes the 6, you’re right on time, and if it takes 8, at least you’re not an entire month behind schedule.

Communicate this timeline to your client early, and make sure they know when to expect deliverables from you.

Send a weekly update (a simple email is fine!)

This is the easiest thing to do, and yet no one does it.

A quick update lets your client know you’re working on their project, and haven’t fallen off the face of the earth.

Whether you use a project management system (totally recommended) or update via email, send an update! It takes all of two minutes and it puts your clients’ mind at ease.

Here’s a template you can use:

Hi ____,
Here’s an update on what I accomplished this week on your project:

  • Brand moodboard (approved)
  • Initial logo designs

Next week I’ll need the following from you:

  • Your choice of logo to tweak

Once you do that, I’ll start working on:

  • Logo tweaks
  • Website layout

Have a great weekend!
-NAME

This simple message keeps your client in the loop, and reminds them if you need anything from them for the next stage of the project. It takes very little time, but makes a huge difference in creating a great experience for your client–and preventing the “Oh no, my designer disappeared!” feelings from creeping in and souring the entire project.

Communicate when things are off-schedule (your client shouldn’t be the one having to check in)

Things don’t always go according to schedule. Life doesn’t work that way. That’s why we include buffer time in our projects, to allow ourselves the flexibility of taking a sick day (or week), or things just taking longer than anticipated.

But when we get too far off schedule, and can’t complete the project within the timeline we communicated to our clients, we needs to be the ones to let them know.

Your client should not be the one checking in.

A great place to let your client know things are running a bit behind is in the weekly project update. That might look something like this:

Hi ____,
Here’s an update on what I accomplished this week on your project:

  • Brand moodboard (approved)
  • Initial logo designs

Next week I’ll need the following from you:

  • Your choice of logo to tweak

Once you do that, I’ll start working on:

  • Logo tweaks
  • Website layout

We are about one week behind our projected schedule due to us both catching nasty colds the past few weeks which has delayed both work and approvals. I’ll do my best to make up some time, but as of now, the completion date estimate has changed to DATE.

Have a great weekend!
-NAME

Clients are normally very understanding and as long as you communicate with them and let them know what’s going on, you won’t run into many issues.

If you are running severely behind, it can be hard to tell clients, but they will appreciate the honestly, instead of wondering why things are taking so long, and feeling frustrated that they are the one having to constantly follow up.

When the client is the one following up, they feel as if you are not making their project a priority, and that you don’t care when, or even if the project is completed. That is not a feeling you want your clients to have!

Take action!

Communicating with your clients is the most important thing you can do to keep your clients happy.

Create a clear timeline (with buffer room) and communicate it with your clients, so that they know how long the project is expected to take, as well as what will be happening at each stage.

Give your clients a quick weekly update. This two-minute message lets your clients know that you’re working on their project, as well as reminds them of anything they need to do on their end, to keep the project moving.

And when things take longer than expected, let your clients know. Your clients should not be the one checking in. It can be hard to tell clients that there are delays, but it is much better if you let them know and are open with your communication, instead of forcing them to follow up.

If you’re not following these three steps, make them part of your business process today.

Want more copy+paste emails? Grab 125+ email templates for sticky client situations here!

125+ Email templates - Say What?!

About Erin Flynn

Erin Flynn is the founder of Successfully Simple™, a hub for creative entrepreneurs who want to work less and live more. Erin’s mission is to help female creative entrepreneurs ditch the busywork and redesign their businesses around what success means to them. Find her on Instagram @SuccessfullySimple