As a contractor, building and repairing homes is just part of your job, taking time to communicate with the client and develop your business will go a long way.
DO: Discuss and agree on scope of the project
Make sure to be upfront with your client right from the get-go. If you don’t, you may find that what you initially thought was a five-day project will take three weeks or that after two weeks have gone by without sending an invoice, your client expects a showing of some kind. Have a written contract with a clear scope of work and timeline in place before beginning work. Be sure to look at the wording of your written agreement carefully. Contracts often have special clauses for specific types of projects or industries so make sure to read it carefully so there are no misunderstandings down the line, as misunderstandings can lead to disputes. A nonrefundable deposit is usually appropriate for most projects, but make sure it’s not more than 1/3 of the total cost of the project (some industries require higher deposits).
DON’T: Get too friendly with your client
It can be easy to develop friendships with your clients, especially when they’re a nice person and you’re getting along well! While this is a great situation most of the time, in some instances it can be a professional liability if they ask you to deviate from your work plan without good reason or overstep boundaries by suggesting changes that go beyond what they contracted.
DON’T: Let poor communication slow down progress of the project
If you have a concern or question about the project, raise it immediately. There’s nothing worse than spending days on a task to find out later that you weren’t supposed to do it after all. Likewise, if you don’t understand something your client is saying, ask for clarification before moving forward so they know their instructions were understood and completed correctly.
DO: Keep accurate records of everything you create during the project
This includes emails, invoices, deliverables, and any other information that is relevant to the project. Should there be a dispute about payment, you have records of what was agreed upon in writing. Likewise, if your client decides to use some piece of work created for their project elsewhere (such as on their company’s website or in a marketing campaign) you have proof of the work created for this particular project.
DON’T: Accept a deadline that is impossible to meet
This can be a tricky one, as you want to be able to make promises to help you win business, but the golden rule is to under promise and over deliver. It’s definitely okay to give your client a range of dates at the beginning and narrow down later. Be sure to give yourself enough time to complete the project so you can meet your agreed upon deadline(s) so they don’t have to push back their own internal deadline due to a delay on your end and vice versa. If you find that you’re having trouble meeting deadlines, set up a regular meeting (at least once every 1-2 weeks) with your client or another person responsible for managing the project until the project is completed.
ALWAYS: Be honest, professional and fair with your clients
Word travels fast in this business! The last thing you want is someone else bad mouthing you behind your back to potential clients! By being honest, professional and fair with your clients, you will instill trust and confidence in them. It’s always a good idea to tell your client what makes you unique – such as affiliations, special knowledge or experience. You can even give examples of your past work if they look like they need convincing!