Customer Service and the Freelancer

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At 12:05pm on 4/23/2017, Customer Service and the Freelancer, presented by Adam Sewell, at the 2017 Wordcamp Conference in Raleigh, NC

Customer Service and the Freelancer

How to stay sane while you are working with people. THere is always a stigma within IT that people won’t know what to do. So, how can you offer great service while handholding your clients


What is customer service?

Anticipating your customer’s needs, its how you interact with your customers, its not an afterthought, its an integral part of your day to day service. It’s their UX with your business. Good customer service leads to good and continued business.

Everything in life has a beginning, a middle, an end. The customer support has a beginning- the first time you meet somebody. Make them feel welcomed and appreciated. This includes your attire, your office environment, etc. Dress the part. be professional. be polite. Act like your clients pay your bills and put food on your table, because they do. This will set the tone for the remainder of your interactions.

The Beginning: initial meetings

Have an onboarding and interview process. Use a questionnaire that you and the client fill out together. use this to set goals for the project. Have a process and inform the customer of that process. Use this opportunity to interview the customer as well. Not all customers are a good fit.

What are non-monetary red flags? Attitude. Their past experience. What was the last person you worked with? Why did you part ways? Generally its a lot about what their feedback and values are. If the employees are stressed out, how will that affect me? When an IT/web developer is a part-time psychologist, they’re constantly be talked down of f the ledge. Sometimes its important to revisit the contract.

The Middle: Communications>

Ignoring a customer is the absolute worst thing you can do for your business. If the client wants the background red, you should really do that. Don’t set bad customer service. Set their expectations.

Ensure that you’re both on the same page. Write everything out, both verbally and written. Always have a contract. Always have a contract. Always have a contract. Contracts should lay everything out. Lay out payments, terms of support, definitely what your scope is.

Payment structure is important. 50% up front, 50% when it launches. There’s skin in the game when its working. under 10k, 50/50. Over $10k 50/30/20 is a good system. Always have the employer pay up front for hardware. If its a local business, its best to have it up and running in your town BEFORE payment. If you like the client, you’ll usually work with them more than ones you dislike.

A simple email to tyour customer will help keep them in the loop and will ensure them you haven’t forgotten them. Explain the contract if you have to. “We have completed this product. We need you to approve this product so that we can continue.” If you email and it doesn’t work, call. If you call and they don’t answer, visit. The contract should note the amount of turnaround time for approvals, and a line noting “we are a small firm. If you cannot achieve the turnaround time on approvals, our team will have to move on to others projects. Failing to meet approval deadlines may require additional time to get your project back to the front of the schedule. This WILL affect your final completion date.”

Try to return calls and emails within 24 hours. Even if its just to say I acknowledge your request. THe more your habit improves, the more they will be in the loop. this will make them feel more important. Communicate with the clients. Let them know you’ll be out of contact for several days. You will see their response, but may not respond.

Talk to your clients. Don’t expect them to know everything. Communicate.

You need to make yourself available, within reason, to your client. set times for this and keep your allotted times. But, set limitations in your contract. This will keep your work life and home life separate. This will keep you sane. IF you’re work, work, work all the time, you’ll get burned out.

The ending

Have an offboarding process. Verify with your client that their goals have been met via their questionnaire. Give the client training on how to proceed after you’re out of the picture. Factor these 2 hours into your price. Give a small presentation on what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve created, based on the initial paperwork. Consider training at 1/2 price. Either give an itemized set or choose to itemize.

Itemizing labor is tremendously difficult, but all costs are easy. Ensuring that they know what the client receives is the important thing. Hourly rates for web development is roughly $150. Clients are given a flat rate on design work.

“Here is a flat rate of ____ . I have allotted 55 hours @ $150 for this project. Anything beyond this will be charged at an hourly rate.”

Once you have completed a project, follow up call with the customer. After 1-2 weeks, contact the customer via phone, and just ask how things are going. Use this as an opportunity to get feedback to tweak your processes. Consider this as an opportunity to ask for a referral.

Do things that other people don’t do. Consider sending something home made to your clients.


There is so much information put out there about growing a business, about SEO or marketing in general. One area that doesn’t get much love is customer service.

You can get the clients in the door, but then what happens? You want to do a great job but at the end of the day you’re stressed out because things are all over the place. The client wants this or that and it was never discussed.