Great Expectations: How to Satisfy Clients and Keep Your Sanity

By Melissa Duko, September 28, 2017

I’m about to break what’s been engrained in you since your first job: The customer is not always right.

Giving a customer carte blanche to “act a fool” is bad business.

When you give into their demands, it causes a domino effect. It costs extra time, extra resources, and extra money for little to no ROI. More importantly, while you’re running in circles to please them, you’re neglecting your valued customers.

So, what’s the solution?

By managing the expectations of your clients from the start, you can prevent their unruly behavior from snowballing. Here’s how.

Set Up a Planning Meeting

Whether a client requests one or not, it’s imperative for you to set up an initial planning meeting. During the meeting, you’ll go over goals, details, and timelines. Expectations will be put in writing and any required contracts or documents will be completed.

Wedding photographers are always encountering clients with crazy over-the-top expectations. They use planning meetings as a way to set reasonable expectations and reign their clients in.


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Planning meetings are also a great time to introduce your team who’ll be working with the client. And meetings don’t have to necessarily be face-to-face. You can use phone, Skype, or email to go over FAQ, pricing, and examples of work.

The best part about a planning meeting: you’ll be able to look for red flags and hit ‘escape’ before it’s too late.

Watch Out for Red Flags

Avoid taking on clients who raise red flags. They only cause heartache and pain. Learning how to spot difficult clients within your industry is a skill that grows with experience. However, there are some common traits across the board like:  

Are Vague With Needs and Wants. If they can’t express what they need or want, it isn’t going to work. You aren’t a mind reader. Whatever you attempt to propose won’t be right, and they won’t have any guidance to give. Skip the headache, and move on.


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Want Grand Scale, But Are Cheap. Clients that want to create a Google experience but only pay a penny aren’t just unrealistic, they’re cheap. They’re going to make you go over budget and expect you to foot the bill. Don’t waste your time spinning your wheels. Decline and move onto the next client.

Related Post: 5 Difficult Clients We’ve All Had to Deal With

Expect Communication 24/7. Your office hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but a client demands responses all day and all night. Don’t open that Pandora’s Box. They clearly don’t respect your office hours or your personal life. And the likelihood of you being properly compensated for all of those extra hours, slim to none.  


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Once you identify a difficult potential client, cut them loose and don’t look back.

Always Under Promise and Over Deliver

Part of managing client expectations is delivering excellent customer service and a quality product. While it may be tempting to promise 110%, can you honestly say you’ll be able to deliver that every single time? No.

Be sure to set healthy boundaries between each set of deliverables. Always under promise, and over deliver. So, when you do deliver a knock out above what you promised, your clients will be wowed.


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And if circumstances occur where you meet your promised goal, but not 110%, the client won’t be disappointed. Win-win.

Manage Rate Expectations

Always manage rate expectations from the get-go. It’ll help with push back when a client suddenly claims, “I didn’t know it was going to cost this much!”

Before you start any project, breakdown the cost for all deliverables, including materials and labor, and put it in writing. If you’re taking on the type of project that could go over budget, don’t eat the cost. Work in those numbers.

Related Post: How to Make a PPC Account Transition Smoother

For example, let’s say you’re rebranding a website. The client wants to pay a flat fee. But you know there’s the chance that once you get in there, you may not only be rebranding the website, you could potentially be rebuilding it, too.

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When you create your rate proposal, breakdown the cost for rebranding, and also include the cost for rebuilding (e.g. bringing in a coder). Explain that you need to get your hands on the website first to see what you’re working with.  

Hopefully the client is agreeable. If not, refer to “red flags” above.


Wrangling unruly clients isn’t easy. But by following these tips, you’ll be able to satisfy clients and keep your sanity. Remember your services are valuable. Don’t let any client push you around and tell you otherwise.

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Melissa Duko

Melissa Duko

Melissa Duko is the Senior Editor and Digital Specialist for eZanga and its ad fraud management platform, Anura. She brings to her role more than a decade of journalism and editing experience. A graduate of the University of Delaware, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, concentration business and technical writing, minor Art History. She also has a Master of Science in professional writing for the public and private sector from Towson University. She isn’t afraid to admit that her love for Starbucks is at gold member status. (Since 2011!) More Articles by Melissa Duko