meeting with team members

Have you seen the recent Taco Bell commercial where two teenagers appear to be on a date? When the girl in the commercial gets close to the boy in the car, he thinks she wants to kiss him when really she’s leaning over to see the new loaded taco burrito.

The “couple” in the commercial had mixed expectations since they were both anticipating different things. With freelancing and offering services, you want to make sure you communicate effectively with the person on the other end so you both have similar expectations and can work together.

1. Keep everyone on the same page

When you agree to work together, make everything clear from the start. While explaining your services and how you’ll complete a project together, be sure to include your payment terms upfront as well.

It sets the tone from the beginning and leaves no room for surprises. Also, include the payment terms in your contract so everyone is on the same page. You’ll have everything in writing so you can reference it if necessary.

You can also discuss payment methods you offer right from the start. Electronic payments can work to everyone’s advantage. They are convenient and can get you paid quicker. Though you may have to offer a variety of options, you can strongly encourage one way over another or at least state your preference.

Also, keep turnaround time in mind. Whether you use a proposed timeline or just state how soon someone can expect products or services from you. It’s a critical step.

Be sure to establish when you can start as well as when you can realistically complete the work. It provides one more layer of clarity to avoid any misunderstandings about how you will work together.

You might even want to ask how soon they want something from the beginning. One time someone explained a job to me in great detail. It sounded like a fit, but when they said they needed it finished the following week, I knew I couldn’t get it done that soon.

If you’re in a place where you think you can meet their deadline, you might want to ask for more money. If you want something mailed to you faster, you pay more. So if someone expects you to produce faster than usual, you can charge more.

It’s something to keep in mind. If you don’t charge more, they may expect you to work like that on a regular basis.

2. Be clear about how much free help you offer.

I recently met a website owner who constantly gets questions from readers that require long, detailed explanations. It would be too hard for her to answer every question especially if it entails such a lengthy response.

It also wouldn’t be appropriate to send a vague answer that would leave the person with more additional questions than answers.

While it’s normal for prospective clients to obtain some information via questioning, you want to avoid them attempting to overly pick your brain by telling them about the services you offer.

Sometimes people do require more information before working with you. Give them a way to find answers to their FAQ outside of asking you directly. Decide what you’re willing to do for free and where you draw the line.

Set guidelines from the beginning. If you have this mapped out in advance, you can readily offer a 15-minute consultation, a free checklist or perhaps links to blog posts on a website.

The website owner decided to tell her readers that if she can answer a question in a paragraph, she will gladly do so. If her help requires any more than that, she’ll have to send her rate sheet. She provides free information and updates on her website, as well.

This owner explains the situation upfront. This provides clear guidelines and set expectations that her time is valuable and others need to pay if they require specific expertise.

Set some boundaries so you have something to fall back on when you sense that someone isn’t going to hire you.

3. Make sure people are a fit for what you offer from the beginning

Though this might take time to refine, have an ideal client profile. You can more readily attract the right type of client and not waste your time on leads that aren’t truly a fit.

The goal for my podcast service is to attract clients that are looking for a cost-effective, long-term public relations strategy. Unlike other strategies, appearing on a podcast can provide exposure time and time again.

After meeting a nice podcaster at a conference, I asked him about his audience. After briefly telling me some basic demographics and topics he usually covers on his show, I followed up a week later.

He mapped out criteria and said he would gladly accept any of my guests, but they have to have a high level of integrity and outlined other requirements. I immediately respected this person and knew that they had a similar mindset.

Though he didn’t know me, I too like to work with people who aren’t polluting the internet with bad products or services that don’t really benefit people.

I realized that my ideal client has to have a basic understanding of what an interview can do for them and appreciate podcast leverage.

Many of my guests like being on a podcast because they reach a new audience with just the effort of answering questions and telling stories. They get the benefit of reaching potential clients without having to run a podcast themselves.

They can also avoid paying for a pricey PR firm. Jot down who your ideal client is. If you have to hire an expert to tweak your copy or present yourself in a certain way to attract that client, this can save you many headaches in the long run.

The Bottom Line

There are times when we misread people’s intentions when it comes to a working relationship. In order to avoid any confusion and not waste time in the future, use the ideas mentioned and set some clear expectations from the beginning.

Karen is a Nationally Syndicated Personal Finance Writer who sharpens her skills at US News Money. You can also find her placing clients on podcasts and reading about home office organization, productivity and habits.

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