Weaning yourself off over servicing your clients

Overservicing clients is when you do too much for them. More than they’re paying you for. One of the things I notice about my lovely clients (and myself sometimes) is the tendency to over-service. You might recognise this in yourself too.

How does this overservicing come about?

Sometimes this is when the client has a restricted budget and you might offer a smaller job to fit with their budget. But then you end up doing the piece of work that you wanted the client to pay for, but they didn’t have the money. Because that was what the client needed, but couldn’t/wouldn’t pay for.

If you run a workshop for someone, you might want them to pay for stakeholder interviews first, but they couldn’t afford it. You end up just phoning a couple of people anyway so that you can run the workshop well. Or if you make dresses for a living, you might end up doing two fittings, to make sure that they come out right.

Other times we can find ourselves overservicing clients because we want to do a good job. Or because the work is interesting in itself, and you end up working late immersed in your project. Sometimes we justify overservicing clients by telling ourselves that we’re learning a new skill, or work that we can reuse with other clients. Or because we like the client.

And of course, we sometimes overservice because we don’t have enough other work on to keep us busy. Instead of spending that time where it’s needed, on marketing to get more work in, we do more than we have to on the client work we do have.

What can we do about the tendency to overservice clients

Of course having a pride in your work and doing a good job, learning new skills and enjoying your projects are all good things. I don’t want to stop you doing that, as these are all hallmarks of a successful business.

But it’s too easy to spend time on client work because that’s within our comfort zone. Eather than the more difficult tasks of developing online content, chatting up new clients on Twitter, or picking up the phone to nudge the people who might become clients in the future.

For many business people, these are much more difficult things to do and involve real courage -whereas writing a more detailed report is an easier option.

The key to avoiding overservicing clients

The key to avoiding overservicing clients is to be clear with the client what they should expect in the first place, and then planning out what work you’ll do for them in detail and scheduling it in. If you quoted for designing a new website with particular functionality, and the client has agreed to this, then stick to what you’ve contracted to do. Even if it’s a tempting idea to put in some other features as a freebie extra.

But what about those extras?

If you have some extra ideas of what would be good for the client when you’re halfway through the project, then suggest these to the client, with a price. She can decide if she wants the extras. Maybe she’ll say that she wants it all now. Or perhaps she’ll want to pay for them in 3 months when she has some more money to spend. But if you do extra work, without the client agreeing to it, she won’t notice or appreciate your diligence.

Using my three-point pitching process can help as well, as you’ll have already identified the extra areas the client might want. If she can’t/won’t pay for them, you know that you’re not going to do them.

Having clear boundaries avoids overservicing clients

If you have a packaged service, like mine, where you include extras (my business coaching clients can email me and phone me in between meetings) you need to be clear where the boundaries lie. For me, clients can’t expect me to answer the phone or email outside of working hours. And they know that I’ll press the red button if they call me at the weekend. And I tell them in advance when I’m going to be on holiday, so I’m not even tempted to check emails when I’m away enjoying myself.

If you tell people precisely what they are going to get for their money, then most clients will respect this. And the small minority who don’t (there’s always a few who will try it on) will have to accept this.

Invest your time in yourself and your business

If you don’t spend all your time overservicing clients, you can spend more time either enjoying yourself or working on your marketing. Both are important for your business. Investing in downtime means that your brain will be fresh for clients, and doing more marketing means that you’ll have more clients.

Here are some ideas for getting going with your marketing, now you’ve decided not to spend every minute of the day working on client projects.

And while you’re reflecting on how your business could get into better shape, maybe check out this article on the top problems my clients face, and see if there are any other moments of truth for you.

For some more help

Do you see yourself in some of this?  Would you like some help on how to get more organised with your marketing? Or how to spend less time working with clients but be able to earn more money? Maybe you want some help and advice with your business?

Why not treat yourself to a session with a business coach – it’s better than a spa. Here’s how it works.

Some more great tips: 

Bootstrapping – the art of the possible

Make your customers happy by meeting their needs