Giving An Extra Mile To Clients, A Benefit Or A Pitfall?

(Published first on Amber Weinberg Design Blog

If you are asked for your worst clients, you could easily give me a handful. Most surely you will say “I’ll work with them no more, because they are hard to deal with, don’t want to pay, don’t appreciate your work,”and a thousand other things that make you almost hate them.

And most surely you want to make them pay-by not working for them any more, raising the rates for them, et cetera. But have you ever asked yourself about the other end of your clients ranking-about the good ones, the ones you never want to say no to, the ones that you are willing to give an extra mile to make them happy?

Here is the question: what is that extra mile? And how can this extra mile can affect you and the relationship with them?

The extra mile

With my eyes closed I can tell you that I have a really loved client, this one represents almost 66% of my total income last year and I cannot afford to lose him, so I give an extra mile for him. Due to the business environment where here in my country I meet all my clients face to face, most of the communication is via phone and e-mail, but personal interviews for the setup of the projects and invoicing and payments are face to face. No one here make electronic payments due to tax regulations and stuff like that.

So I’m very often in this client’s office and almost every time they had a request. They do a lot of in house design for the internal communications department, who always needs a color fix in a photo, a little fix in a file or some other few times ask for bigger fixes and arrangements, but nothing that takes more than 10 minutes of your time.

Another good client asked me to give him the codes of the Sherwin-Williams paints that match the color of the logo I designed for him. It takes a little stop in a local hardware store with a printout of their logo and 10 minutes later I had the palettes for him. He easily understands that a perfect match was hard to have between CMYK, RGB and SW colors, but he was happy that he could paint his place with the colors of his logo.

This are little examples of harmless extra miles that you can run to help a good client, but in these little favors we can find real huge pit falls.

How an extra mile affects the relationship with the clients

I had another client who was the number one in terms of works made, 100+ vignettes designed for his products. He was the one that give me my first job as a freelancer and he constantly asks me to do work for free or give him big discounts, always asking for the extra mile. I must say he asks for really long and free extra miles, things like, “design me a new logo and include the vignette for the product and also add it to my web page, and update my catalog, put it on-line and give me the files to print some copies.”

As you can see that is not an extra mile, that’s four jobs where the clients expects you to only charge him with one. Right now you must think “no way somebody will accept that!” and you are right. His constant petitions with my respective constant denials sunk the relationship with him and I was forced to take all the measures you can take with a bad client – raise the prices, reject projects and all the rest.

And even in the worst case scenario you can take action to avoid pitfalls, to make sure that the extras that you give or that the client demands don’t become a burden, but instead help you to retain this clients and have more jobs from them.

What you can do

In all the situations of your freelance career you need to take the lead, to turn the situation to your benefit. When you have a client that asks for too many little fixes you can offer him a “support plan” or something to make him realize that all the work you do has a value and if he ask for too many fixes in things that have not done yourself, it must have a price.

If your clients ask for too many extras for a job you are doing, make it clear that extra work is extra pay. Take the time to talk to your clients many times, some may ask for extra things for free because their budget don’t allow them to do all they want to do. (Caution: many times they are just cheap so be careful!)

You can politely give them a plan to do the work in stages, so they can match their needs with their budgets. Right now I’m doing a renovation for a client – with the new year he need new brochures, catalogs with new products that demands new logos and vignettes and a renovation of his web site.

When I presented the offer he told me it was too much money, I gave him the alternative of doing it in stages. Do right now what he needs more and leave the site until the end. He accepted and feels that I have given him an extra mile, an extra mile that cost me nothing, that made the client happy and strengthened the work relationship between us.

Do you give the extra mile?

Now share your experiences, do you give an extra mile to your clients? What do you consider an extra mile to be? What is your position about these extras we can give to clients? What do you tell a client that asks or demand some extras from you?

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