As a freelancer, contractor, or full-time worker you’ve availed yourself to meet a deadline with a specific task at some point. Was the task fully completed to the expectation of the client and on time?
I’m sure that you would say “yes” to this. In fact, I would venture a guess that you would definitively answer “yes.”
If I asked your client the same question, how would they answer?
Would they answer with the same conviction?
When working full-time, there’s often a level of complacency with deadlines and the quality of work. It’s not that the quality is worse or that dates aren’t important. It’s just that when working full-time you see your “client” (namely your boss) on a regular basis and your boss sees you sitting in your chair every day.
This gives the perception that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. And if a date slips, your boss is there to crack the whip until it’s done. Or if the quality of the work isn’t there, the boss is there to crack the whip.
When you are a freelancer or contractor and you work remotely. Your client doesn’t see you every day. In fact, you may never meet your client. So the work and deadline are all the client has.
This phrase “under promise and over deliver” is thrown around quite a lot. Especially in the freelance world.
I think that this is one of the worst statements, advice, or mantras, out there.
The thought behind “under promise and over deliver” is to tell your client that only a certain amount of work can be done, but then going above and beyond that and delivering to them more than what they asked for.
Don’t get me wrong, I would agree on the fact to give more to your clients or deliver the project early. However, the idea around this concept is to do it intentionally.
For me, it seems a bit disingenuous. If you are intentionally holding back on saying what you will deliver to your clients, you’re basically lying to your clients.
I’ve heard freelancers go as far to say that they will tell clients that it will take twice as long or that they can only do half the website, just so that when they finish early with more they look like a hero.
How would you feel if you were constantly getting the wrong information even if at some point the return was higher than expected? What if this happened more than a few times in a row? How can you plan around this for all the things that you have to do that depends on this?
I’m all about setting expectation early on with clients. Having an open line of communication with your clients is critical. I know when working with the right kind of clients as well, the relationship and trust you have with them go beyond that of this one project. It goes into testimonials, referrals, how they talk about you and your brand when you aren’t around.
If you over deliver once, or even twice, then the client will be overjoyed. However more than that, then they will start to wonder if you are lying to them and start expecting that what you say to them isn’t the truth.
Ways to Over Deliver
Instead of lying to clients, how about doing things that go above and beyond the average freelancer or agency.
Things like sending out a thank you card at the end of a project.
Add in a few zero line items where normally you would charge them for something, but since it only took a few minutes to do, you didn’t.
Offer some insight into their business that you are seeing from the way their website is working or laid out.
Hold educational webinars or classes where you give clients some value as well as the opportunity to ask some questions.
See a pain point in your clients every day and help them make it less painful or eliminated altogether.
As a freelancer, you have a unique perspective on your clients’ business. Even though you are working with them, you are an outsider. You see things that often times your client is too close to.
When people are too close to something, it’s hard for them to recognize it let alone reach a solution to it.
You will look like a hero if you do your job well and be a human too.
It doesn’t mean that you can’t exceed the realistic expectations around the work whether that’s timeline, deliverables, or results. But setting those expectations at a realistic level and not to over promise is the best way to be able to over deliver.
If you finish early, or you get more sales than you thought, these are all great results that really over deliver for your client.
Holding back and saying that it will take 8 weeks to do the website when it really only takes 4, will come back to bite you in the end.
“Under promise and over deliver” really plays into the stereotype of freelancers that a lot of people have. It plays into the idea that freelancers are flakey, shady and unreliable.
Be an asset to your clients
It’s really that simple. You can easily stand out from among the crowd by being perceptive to your client and their business.
If you are a designer and you know that the color of the buttons on the website should be different because the current color will turn away folks, then offer that up to them.
If you are a developer and you see lots of manual processes that you know can easily be solved with a few bits of automation, then offer that.
These are the things that clients remember.
These are the things that clients talk to their colleagues about you.
Next time someone mentions under promise and over deliver to you, ask them about specific examples they have in mind. Ask yourself if it feels a bit disingenuous. Ask yourself how you would feel if someone consistently told you false information only so that they look better.
I would love to hear from your ways that you over deliver in the comments below.