How to lose a client in 10 days (freelancer etiquette)

5 min read
Tyler Kastelberg
Founder & CEO
Published on
January 7, 2021

Freelancer etiquette matters, and by avoiding a few common pitfalls, you'll be well on your way to building a successful, freelance career!

First - a familiar movie narrative ...

You work hard to build a resume full of degrees from top universities and job experience from top real estate brands. 

Your name is synonymous with some of the most high profile buildings, and you’ve even been cited in case studies about your projects.

Your sample work is flawless, and you come highly recommended. 

Now is the perfect time to lose your clients.

I’ve put together this article using personal experiences from the early days of Bullpen and stories from some of the top real estate companies. A few of these will shock you (like Day 9), but some are easy slip-ups.

Employers, don't fret. The below stories are from Bullpen's early days. We've made changes to make sure these faux pas are a thing of the past.

Day 1: Book a meeting, then without warning, don’t show up

One of my biggest pet peeves is when service providers ghost an intro meeting. Running a business comes with time constraints, and if I’m taking your meeting, it’s because I’m seriously considering becoming your customer.

If you’re running late or need to reschedule, send your client a note before the meeting.

One of my favorite meeting scheduling tools is calendly. It makes rescheduling meetings quick and painless.

Day 2: Lie about your skills

This is tough. I’ve hired employees with great pedigrees and experience who fell flat once they joined the team. Despite their stellar interview skills, they didn’t have the ability to actually solve our problem.

Why is this tough? Sometimes freelancers and consultants don’t know what they don’t know. Be transparent with your skills. It’s better to lose a contract than win and not be able to solve your client’s problem.

Day 3: Win a project, then farm it out to someone else

I’ve seen freelancers win work then try to farm it out to a team of lower-cost, international freelancers. Spoiler alert - this never ends well.

When you advertise your skills to win work, you need to do the work.

PS: Farming out jobs after winning them on Bullpen is against our terms of service

Day 4: Don’t set expectations for pricing and turnaround time

The easiest way to lose a future client is to bill more than they expected for a project. The solution is simple. Set expectations about pricing and turnaround time on a project from the start. If you experience scope creep, be continually communicative.

Day 5: Never take notes when you speak with them

I made this rookie mistake in my first job out of college. When speaking with your client (or boss), take notes profusely. It’s very difficult to remember all the parts of a conversation, and you’ll be able to reference the notes later, rather than calling back your client to re-explain the task.

Day 6: Miss your deadlines

Timelines are important in most businesses, but in the real estate industry, one day can be the difference between winning and losing a deal. Keep your deadlines and over-communicate if you feel like you might miss them.

Day 7: Constantly follow up to drive them crazy

I saw a linkedin post recently where a company posted about a candidate who followed up with them 20 times over the course of two days about an open position. It’s not diligent - it’s annoying. Don’t be annoying.

Day 8: Undercut your hourly rate and double the time you spend on projects

Dishonesty is the easiest way to lose a client. Don’t lowball your hourly rate in order to win a client, then pump your hours to earn more money. Your clients aren’t dumb, and they’ll catch on to this quickly. Remember what I wrote about setting expectations? Make sure you are transparent about your hourly rate and the time it takes to complete a task. Better yet, pitch a fixed hour project if your client seems uneasy about hourly billing.

PS: This is also against our terms of service, and we’ve banned people who have attempted to win work in this way.

Day 9: Tell your client “you act like you’re a big shot when you’re not” (yes, this actually happen)

The freelancer was removed.

Day 10: Ghost them

My stomach curls when I hear about clients who have hired someone, completed some work, then never hear from them again. If you’re going to end the relationship, do your client a courtesy by letting them know via email.

Conclusion - How not to lose a client (consulting etiquette matters)

The best freelancers provide a high quality of service with top notch professionalism.

At Bullpen, we have a conduct team that makes sure both freelancers and employers have a stellar experience on our platform. In fact, our algorithm rewards freelancers who have continual good etiquette feedback from their clients.

As remote work continues to become more relevant, virtual etiquette is becoming more and more important. Take a look at Zoom Etiquette and Best Practices from Pitt and Seven Rules of Zoom Meetings from the Wall Street Journal.

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