Managing Client Expectations

Is there such thing as an “impossible” client? An impossible client is one that has an ability to make all communication complicated. They ask for something specific, then when you deliver it, have somehow changed their mind about the direction. They may argue that charges made on an invoice are incorrect, after the initial accounting agreements were set up. All of these bad behaviors will inevitably get in the way of your communication and ability to deliver high end products to them.

Rest assured, “impossible” clients can be managed with these five simple steps taken at the beginning of your working relationship.


    Many clients will hire you in a dire time for their company and expect you to begin work before a proper contract is in place. Avoid this situation with all costs. When you create a client agreement, clearly outline payment schedules, deliverable timelines, and working hours. Do not skip this step, you will often refer back to this agreement throughout your working relationship.


    When a client tears your work apart, changes direction on a project at the last minute, or shows no consideration, you may be tempted to join a pissing match with them. A better plan is to let your skill speak for itself and continue your course unfazed. Most likely, they are facing troubles within their organization, don’t let that effect your concentration and work ethic.


    Setting communication timelines that work for both you and the client will help open the communication channels. Along with setting a scheduled communication time, it is imperative your client designates a point of contact that will be the one to make all business decisions for their company. Once you know when you will be communicating and who you will communicate with, the next step is to choose a communication channel that works best for the team. For example, do they want to communicate only through email, text message, or any other app that is available? Once these processes are in place, all you have to do is stay the course.


    Setting realistic expectations can be a delicate process since you are reassuring clients they are going to be prioritized, that they’ll receive consistent quality, and that they will be handled with care. All the while, you must be careful not to promise things you can’t deliver. It is important to know your limits and not over promise. Regardless of the project, there can be obstacles—so be transparent and share those with your client. Choose flexible deadlines—If you anticipate the project being complete Friday morning, set the deadline as Friday afternoon to give yourself some wiggle room. Always maintain open communication with your clients, and everyone should remain on the same page


    Sometimes after all attempts are made to mend a client relationship, there can be no resolve. It is ok, it is time to move on. Maybe your agency has outgrown this client—over time, growth is expected and encouraged. Perhaps the relationship is simply not a good fit culturally—this is also okay. Hanging on to an old relationship will hinder opportunity costs to onboard a client that will be a better fit for your company. If your firm does decide to cut a relationship, be sure to do so with empathy and kindness—it’s a hard moment for everyone. Consider having an off-boarding plan for them and even another agency that may be a better fit.


Each and every client will have a unique set of challenges. By following this basic guideline you will collaborate more efficiently with one another. The goal is to reduce your stress and eliminate the chance of your client making unreasonable demands and providing a better client experience.