Clients Want Control, How Much Should You Give Them?

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

The relationship between client and business owner/freelancer can sometimes be a tricky one. There are a few common threads between many clients you might have trouble with. They know what they want. They think they know the best way to get there. In reality, it’s down to a sense of control they need from their services. So, how do you give them the control they want and how do you give them that sense of control without getting trampled over?

Make it clear you listen

Finding out your clients’ needs is a big part of keeping them interested in the business. But a lot of service providers don’t truly listen, they just wait their turn. Learning to practice active listening can make you a lot more engaged in your conversations with clients. Then you should consider proving it to them that you do listen. For instance, you can write some notes of the conversation after and send it to them in an email, bullet pointing actionable needs of theirs and asking if there’s anything you missed. This helps clients feel like they’re really shaping the service they get in return.

Choice and the illusion thereof

Clients think they want a lot of options. More often than not, that isn’t really the case. The paradox of choice is a real thing that occurs when someone has so many options they lose sight of what they actually want. Especially in design fields, like graphic design or interior decorating, there are choice-presentation techniques you can use to help narrow down the service you offer in a way that helps you actually get results. Using pyramid questions to narrow down preferences, for instance, or creating a hate/like pile. This offers options and control to the client but it doesn’t just turn into an endless cycle of indecision.

Give them direct access

If you’re working on documents for the client, such as a press release, business policy, or market plan, then they want to make sure it’s going in the direction they need it to. In that case, don’t be a barrier to their access that they have to ask politely every time they want to see the latest draft. You can use a white-label solution to offer them a portal where you can share documents and data with them. This makes them feel like they’re much more deeply involved in the process and allows them to offer feedback without having to be solicited for it.

Don’t forget your boundaries

The most important thing is that you have the boundaries of the business set up before you start offering control to your clients. For instance, when it comes to your payment methods and pricing strategies, it’s a mistake to leave them up for discussion. Similarly, another mistake is leaving the levels of service you offer up to them. Some clients will try and take control of what you do and for what compensation, if you’re not careful.

There is a fine line between offering clients access to a more controlled, customized service and letting them take control of your business. You have to set your boundaries in advance and find which choices and illusions of choice really improve the services you offer.

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