Whether you’re a fledgling agency or a freelancer who calls the local coffee shop their office, trying to balance the amount of work you put into each client can be difficult. You know you shouldn’t do work you won’t be paid for, but if you over-deliver you’ll impress them and they’ll recommend you to their friends and colleagues.
Sometimes though, consistently over-delivering can make you seem like a pushover and massively increase you and your team’s workload. Over-delivering can cost you time, money and future opportunities, so follow these tips to make sure you aren’t doing it.
1. Draw Up a Project Plan for Client(s)
Before you start working on a project you think you might go a bit overboard on, draw up a quick guide of exactly what you’re going to do. Working to a specific guide is a great way of making sure you’re not exceeding expectations, as it’s all there for you to follow and check against.
There are a number of ways to make your own project plan. Some people like to work to a specific step by step guide, ticking off every little task as they go. This is a good way to keep yourself on track but can be a time drain. Other people prefer to work to a looser guide that dictates a general plan. Find a plan that works for you and reigns you in. The key is adapting it to your own work schedule in a way that doesn’t see you agonizing over one project without direction. Imagine a little you over your shoulder giving direction if that helps.
If you employ staff you can also implement this plan with them, letting them adapt it to fit their style. With everyone working to one general plan there’s less chance of somebody going rouge and over-delivering.
2. Establish Exactly What a Client Needs!
An angry email from a client who expected you to go above and beyond can trigger a string of over-delivered projects. If your productivity and time management is being disrupted by the constant moving of the goalposts, set clear parameters with your clients about what they want and stick to them. A client can’t suggest you haven’t done enough if you’ve done exactly what you agreed to. Likewise, you’ll be less inclined to go overboard with effort if you know exactly what you need to do to complete the job.
This is a great tip for people who work by the letter of the brief. If you have a mindset that they might want more, it’s a great way to quell that self-doubt.
3. Set Clear Parameters in Your Invoices
Follow the invoice. Like establishing exactly what you’re going to do for a client, use what you put in your invoice as a guide for your work. Invoicing a client can be intimidating when you’re first starting out, especially if they think you haven’t worked to the degree they were expecting.
Outlining clearly in your invoice what you did and matching that to the expectations is a good way to get over that fear they may come back expecting more for their money. If you’re not sure how to do this, you can always use templates for your invoice to make sure they are professional and follow a consistent style that helps you manage your work and productivity.
4. Tight Deadlines
A tight deadline might not be good for your blood pressure, but it’ll stop you over-delivering. If you’re the kind of person who can’t stop themselves from going back to a piece or project even though you’ve spent hours on it, training yourself to work to strict deadlines can really help.
The benefits of tight deadlines have been much researched, such as how they build confidence in your abilities. A defined cut off point can have a great impact on the feeling that you’re not doing enough or not good enough. If you’re out of time, there’s nothing more that can be done about it.
5. Get More Clients
If you’re spending too much time on one client and find yourself consistently over-delivering for them, maybe it’s time to get more clients. Having more clients to work on will force you to realize when a project is finished and it’s time to move onto the next job because you don’t have time not to. Like deadlines, this is a bit of healthy self-imposed pressure to help shift your mindset.
There are a number of ways to find new clients. You’ll see a huge change in your daily schedule once you start adding new names to your to-do list. This might mean a couple of months of stress while you adapt, but at least at that time, you won’t be over-performing for your original clients.
Working with clients is a completely different mindset to get into. We over-perform for a number of reasons, to make ourselves more likable to clients, to quell our suspicions we’re not good enough or because we can’t stop ourselves once we get going. Don’t sacrifice time or opportunities though, and try to change your self-management skills.