Holding on to a client’s business while fending off inappropriate requests for services he isn’t paying for is a business skill most entrepreneurs and freelancers learn the hard way– by experience. As we noted in our previous post, your desire to build customer loyalty by going the extra mile for your clients can open the door to client abuse. Clients who bend your ear to mine your expertise for free advice or who request additional services outside the scope of your agreement are a common problem for entrepreneurs and freelancers — and can become a significant drain on your time and income if you haven’t decided how to handle such requests before they occur.

In business, your time, experience and expertise are commodities for which you have a right to be compensated. Keep this firmly in mind when asked to provide services, including friendly advice, beyond the scope of your project agreement. To protect your interests — and your income — use the following guidelines:

  • Learn from the experiences of others. Seek out business blogs, podcasts and forums that address client-business relationships. Make note of how other business people handle sticky client issues and think about how their methods might apply to your business.
  • Imagine possible client requests and decide how you will handle them. Use this information to create business policies that can be applied across the board to all clients. Having a standard response prepared in advance makes it easy to nip potential client abuse in the bud.
  • Where appropriate, incorporate policies into your client agreements. Clients are less likely to balk when the “rules” are spelled out up front.
  • Stick to your guns. We all run into clients who want special treatment or a discount. If you give in to a bullying client once, you set a bad pattern for future relationships.
  • Keep your cool. Emotions have no place in business deals. In dealing with clients, the trick is to be personable without taking things personally. You’ll make your point and gain your clients’ respect by remaining professional.

To be continued