Day 4 – Freelance Conflict Resolution, Step 2: Create Client Accountability


Welcome to Day 4 of the Conquering Client Conflict course!

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Just like a typical business or service provider, freelancers (like you) offer skills, talents and expertise for a fee.

To present yourself as the best hire among your target audience, you pull out all the stops to promote yourself. You build a website, create social networking profiles, and post regular blog entries. You make yourself available to inquiries, present work samples, share testimonials from former clients, and demonstrate your skills in tutorial videos — the whole enchilada. All of this is meant to surface your freelance work as the best solution to prospective clients’ needs.

Once a project is underway, your client asks for all the assurances you can give. They want to know you will be able to deliver what they require — and what you promised — to the letter, according to the agreed upon rate, and to their satisfaction. Clients are often quick to point out any observed discrepancies. If they feel that they are not getting the right results or are getting less than they bargained for, you’ll be held accountable for all the results you promised them.

That’s all well and good, we’re professionals and we expect to be accountable. But what about client accountability?

Client accountability is a must

Clients typically view projects with one-way accountability. This means you, the freelancer, answering to all their aforementioned specifications, and aiming for their satisfaction with your work.

However, you have the responsibility of ensuring that every project you begin will have two-way accountability. This means not only that you strive to meet your client’s requirements, but that your client also has a responsibility to provide what you need in order to effectively complete the project.

Successful projects are always the ones where two-way accountability is established — and that’s why you should make client accountability a component of every job.

How can you enforce this?

That best way to encourage client accountability is to use the alliterative duo of educate and enumerate.

Educate your clients about the crucial part that they have to play in the successful completion of the project.

As skilled, insightful and revolutionary a freelancer as you may be, there is no way to clinch the desired end results if there is no open and efficient collaboration between yourself and your client. You need to be clear that the client must make X happen in order to achieve the outcome Y.

Here are education examples of client accountability during an ongoing project:

Prompt responses to emails. Questions, clarifications and confirmations must be effectively addressed and concluded through email to ensure that all details of the project are provided.
Approvals of submitted work. Clients should express their approval of all submissions at the soonest time possible so that if revisions or replacements need to be made, they can be done and re-checked immediately as well.
Payments on the agreed-upon schedule. As a freelancer, getting the correct payment for services rendered is crucial to your continued operations, so every project must be promptly paid for once the results are completed.
Availability for steering calls/meetings. Any discussions that need to be facilitated must be completed promptly so that all details and arrangements can be attended to.

Enumerate the consequences of failing to accomplish their own responsibilities during the process.

The work will be stopped, which will result in [insert consequence here]. Without their cooperation, input, and vital information, you won’t be able to meet the parameters of the project, so you have no choice but to halt the work. This itself is not the consequence – the downstream repercussions are. Will a stop-work cause your client to miss a deadline with their client? Will they not be ready for a trade show? Will they miss a revenue goal?
The schedule slips. Delays in communication and collaboration will cause the project to miss the set deadline, creating hassles for both parties. Again, this is not the consequence – what will the client lose if the schedule slips? That is the consequence.
The client will be let go. The client’s refusal to coordinate properly means that you won’t have everything you need to get the job done, so the logical conclusion would be to turn down the work or to bill for work-to-date, deliver the finished bits, and fire the client.

With effective two-way accountability, you will be in a better position to meet all your client’s needs — and they, in turn, will walk away with exactly what they sought you out for. That’s certainly happy, conflict-free news all around!

Homework Assignment – Post Your Work To The Comments Below!

Now that you understand what two-way accountability is, and how it strengthens both the project and your position with the client, answer the following items in the comments below:

1) Is two-way accountability a new concept for you? Do you currently assign clear responsibilities to your clients?

2) Tell me about a project that was harmed by a lack of client accountability.

3) Imagine the 3 most important things that you need your clients to be accountable for in order to have a successful project. How would you communicate that to your client? Post your answer below.