Reputation Building: Exceed Expectations

In Monday’s post, I let you know that I’d be focused, for the next five posts, on methods to build your reputation. That’s because reputation is a key part of building your successful business.

I’m not just pulling these methods out of the air.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of copywriters and other creative types. I’ve seen traits to emulate. And I’ve also seen behaviors that drove me nuts.

Once I launched my content marketing business, I swore up and down that I’d do my best to do the right thing. And a simple right thing you can do is exceed expectations.

There are a bunch of ways to do this – I’m sure you can think of some pretty easily. But I’m building a strong foundation by concentrating on three key principles, and no doubt you can too.

It’s essential, if you want to exceed expectations, to be interested in what matters to your client.

In my past, I worked with freelancers who concentrated on their little piece of the puzzle, their words or design, and completely ignored their place in the larger situation.

Their key failure: they failed to get into my shoes, consider my needs, or bounce ideas off me to try and gain extra insight into what was really important.

But it’s so easy to avoid that error. Just ask a few questions.

  • Mr. Client, what’s the most important part of this project?
  • How does my work fit into the greater scheme?
  • What are you trying to accomplish here?
  • Will my copy be used for additional marketing campaigns?
  • Does my copy need to fit more than one kind of document?
  • Will a designer need extra time for layout, or a print shop for printing?

After you’ve asked these questions, you’ll have a stronger sense of what matters to the client. That lets you deliver something extra that matters to your client.

An example: I’m in the middle of a project where my copy is being added to an existing document. Turns out that it’s a document that’s been touched by five or six writers over time. After understanding how my copy was being used, I offered to edit the document for clarity and voice – at no extra charge.

Cost to me – about an hour. Benefit to the client – significant. They jumped at my offer.

Little gestures like that go a long way in generating goodwill. It’s easy to go overboard here – so gauge effort vs. benefit before you offer to do something special.

Finally, and I can’t stress this one enough, you must overcommunicate.

This is a huge failing I’ve seen in many freelancers. There’s nothing I hate more than a freelancer going radio silent.

I’ve run into this recently with a designer I’m using for a mission-critical project. He goes head down, doesn’t respond to email, and won’t answer his phone.

I know he’s working hard. I know he’s determined. But not knowing what’s going on drives me nuts, especially when there’s a short turn-around time. The same is true for your clients.

Your clients don’t have a window into your work day. No doubt you’re busy, no doubt other tasks need attention, but at the end of each day, just drop your client an email explaining where you are and how you’ve progressed. It will make a real difference, trust me.

And let me know if you’ve come up with other ideas for exceeding expectations.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: August 2, 2012

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