Managing Expectations for You and Your Clients

Laying expectations out in the beginning before conducting business with anyone will help pave the way to relationships based on mutual respect.

Establishing what is expected out of each party before a project or deal commences helps to prevent any negative backlash that can occur once you begin working together. From the start to the finish of working with someone, you need to make sure that you are communicating and that everyone has a realistic view of what is to occur. Checkpoints along the way for feedback are valuable to assess how the other party feels about the current level of progress. Preventing disappointment or anticipating any areas you are not aligned with can save a lot of trouble and hassle for everyone involved and can save relationships even when the business did not pan out as expected.



In my first consulting business we had a few clients that thought we could save them from the bankruptcy that they were building up over the course of a few years. Deep issues need deep solutions that take time. You need to be careful and realize what people will expect to have happen before you start a project with them; it is in the best interest of you both.

Sometimes when people are in the early startup stages for the first time, they may expect something different than a manager or entrepreneur who is more seasoned. Have a collaborative discussion and create some realistic benchmarks and goals that you both agree to. Everyone is living a different reality that you need to discuss to make sure you are both on the same page before starting anything.



Make sure you both have agreed on a timeline and have a plan in place if things take longer to change or any additional fees are stated if you have to put in time allotted and need more work done. This may change how the person engages with you in advance if they know how you will structure any spill over time in excess of what you agreed on.

It is also important to set boundaries for how you will communicate. How quickly you respond and what hours you answer your phone are in your control. Being punctual to respond to email may foster trust but answering your phone at 10pm may be stepping outside your boundaries a little.



There is no need to rush a project that needs to be well thought out and planned accordingly. Maybe it makes sense to chunk the project into deliverables and you go on a retainer.

Talk about your payment expectations. From my personal experience it is usually good to get some compensation paid up front before a project starts. A lot of the time clients pay late. Make sure you outline your own expectations of what is acceptable and offer as many options for how you will receive payment as possible to speed up the process. Talk about money upfront and when you are going to get paid, especially with people you know well. I sometimes forget that just because you have a great relationship with your client does not mean that they will pay their bills on time. You need to be comfortable having conversations and outlining payment terms in advance so they know. Send reminders, don’t wait.

Make sure you manage your own expectations as well, and take the steps necessary to keep your working relationship satisfactory for both parties.