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How to Stop (Most) Freelance Project Criticism before It Starts

by Laura Spencer

on April 23, 2013

in Freelancing Life

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Most freelancers dread criticism, and why wouldn’t they? Criticism often means an unhappy client and an unhappy client can lead to all sorts of other problems. Not the least of which is problems getting paid.

I haven’t received tons of criticism in the past, but when I have I admit it’s stung a bit.

What if you could drastically reduce the amount of criticism you got from clients? Would you do it?

Of course you would. That’s why I’m going to share a tip for reducing client criticism that took me years to learn. Like all tips, it’s not guaranteed to work 100% of the time. But it does work a lot of the time. If you like this post you may also like Rejection, Itâ??s NOT Personal.

How to Head Off Criticism

Criticism may seem inevitable, and in some cases maybe it is. But I’ve gotten a lot of good results with the following technique.

To use this method, it’s helpful if you have a written agreement in some form. A contract is best, but you should at least have an email describing the project terms.

Next, you need to make sure that you have checked your work carefully. Compare your work to the original agreement and make sure that you’ve fulfilled the project requirements. This tip definitely won’t work if you’ve been sloppy or careless.

If the client has legitimate grounds for criticizing your work, then it’s a sign that you’ve been sloppy. Naturally, you’ll run into trouble if that’s the case.

The real key to stopping criticism is this:

  1. Explain how the project met the client’s request when you deliver it.
  2. Use the client’s own words.
  3. Be as specific as possible.

For example, if the client ordered a young and trendy graphic design, accompany your deliverable with an email explaining specifically how you met the client’s requirement. You could say something like, “Olive green is a very trendy color this year and I’ve used one of the most popular new fonts in this graphic. The images also reflect popular youth culture by showing x.

(Since I’m not a designer I’m actually not sure what color is popular this year or what the trends are, but you get the point. I’m sure your email would be much more effective.)

Too often freelancers deliver products with a brief email that reads something like this: “here it is.” I’ve been guilty of this too. In my experience, however, when I use this technique I’m much more likely to get positive feedback on the project.

Why It Works

You may be asking yourself why this simple technique leads to more satisfied clients.

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think that the reason this tip works is threefold:

  • You’re showing the client you paid attention to his or her request. Communication is one of the key causes of most relationship problems. That’s true whether you’re talking about a marriage, a friendship, a client relationship, or some other type of relationship. When you add to that the fact that many clients feel that freelancers don’t really listen, you can see why repeating the client’s words back to them can be an effective demonstration that you paid attention to the client.
  • You’re reminding the client of your original agreement. Repeating the client’s words back to them in the delivery reminds the client of the original agreement. Over time, most clients tend to forget exactly what was agreed upon. And sometimes there are unspoken expectations on the part of the client that were never actually a part of the agreement in the first place. This is just another reason why it’s important to get the original agreement in writing.
  • It makes your delivery more objective. Like it or not, many clients base their acceptance of a project on how they feel about the project when they receive it. Even when there’s an agreement, many clients default back to this when they receive project work. This is especially true if there is no agreement. Unfortunately, this type of project acceptance is very subjective. By reminding the client of the original agreement, you remove some of the subjectivity from project acceptance.

Your Turn

How do you minimize client criticism of your freelancing projects?

Share your tips in the comments.

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About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Lauraâ??s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.