There’s a phenomenon I’ve seen time and time again with new clients that’s both frustrating and saddening. It commonly ties back to a lack of professional responsibility on the part of the service provider. Far too often, I have to help clients deal with the aftermath of service providers who fail to deliver appropriate results that clients have paid for — and frequently paid too much to add insult to injury.
The most obvious way this happens is when someone takes fees for services and then disappears.
However, there are also less obvious ways this happens. Whether it’s building a website that doesn’t actually serve the client’s needs or convincing them they need a fancy software that costs an arm and a leg to set up and maintain when a far simpler & cheaper option would be more suitable, this lack of professional responsibility is just as damaging.
This isn’t about calling out one person or even one type of service provider but rather an attempt to discuss how we as service providers have a professional responsibility to serve our clients’ best interests even when they may not have the knowledge to ask for exactly what they need.
Start by Asking Questions
When potential clients come to us, it’s important to ask questions and dig deeper into what they need — especially if what they’re asking for seems to not match their current business. There are so many ways clients can ask for the wrong thing, but we need to keep asking questions until we’re sure we understand their needs.
Part of asking questions is also making sure we’re doing our part to educate clients to steer them towards options that make more sense than what they think they need. So often, people hear about “that one thing” that changed everything for a colleague and think it’ll do the same for them. But they don’t realize that the colleague’s situation was far different than their own.
This happens a lot when it comes to CRM systems. People very often think they need an all-in-one solution, like Keap/Infusionsoft or Ontraport because it’s what the big entrepreneurs use. And, yes, these are good options in some cases, but when you dig deeper and hear the client really only needs to send newsletters and has one or two opt-ins with no intention of developing an e-commerce business or one with lots of automation needs, then these tools are overpriced and too complicated for their needs.
Of course, there are clients who want what they want and don’t want to take our advice, but it’s far more common for clients to listen to our expertise when we give it. So if you ask the right questions and know something isn’t suitable, your professional responsibility is only to share your opinion and expertise, so the client can then make an informed decision.
Be Willing to Turn Down Work
This is a hard one because it can be downright terrifying to turn down revenue. But if a client is asking you to do something far outside your realm of expertise, then it is often better for them — and for you — to send them to someone else. Taking work you can’t successfully complete is a time drain and unnecessary stressor that has disastrous possibilities.
Now, sticking to this professional responsibility doesn’t mean you can’t stretch yourself or learn new skills. It simply means you should do so with care and be transparent with clients about what it means for them. I’ve learned many new programs and software that were similar to ones I do know countless times. I generally let clients know that while I’ve never used this particular option, I have done similar things in the past. This allows them to make an informed choice of how to proceed.
I also like to take the learning curve into consideration as well when it comes to billing. While I likely won’t eat all of the “extra” time if a client knows I’m working with something new on their behalf, I often do reduce my bill in comparison to what I know the task would normally take.
It can also be helpful to have some deal-breakers as well to make it easier to say no when they happen. For instance, I don’t work with people who want to build a course and launch to no audience to the tune of 6-figures. This goes against all of my normal advice to clients and is generally way more stress than I want to be involved with. So I turn people away when they come to me. There’s always a chance it will work, but it’s not something that makes sense for my business to support.
Professional responsibility to serve our client’s best interests
We are not our clients’ keepers, nor do we need to take on more than our share of the professional responsibility towards getting the job done. But we do need to ensure that we help clients make informed choices even when they may not know the technical terms for what they need. Perhaps then we won’t have to deal with the headache custom coded sites with no instructions cause. 🙂