Here at CareerPreneur Partners, we regularly hear from career professionals who are starting new independent practices and need assistance. With the start of a new business, come new challenges. A common theme in our industry is managing clients.
We are often asked:
“How do I locate the right clients for me?”
“Do I need a client services agreement?”
“What do I do if a client pushes back during the process?”
Improved client management comes down to three things: defined service structure, clear expectations, and formal processes.
A defined service structure includes specifics around your services and the unique value that you offer. Clients are looking to engage with career professionals who can offer them career or job search assistance. If your website or marketing materials do not clearly outline services, qualifications, and the value of the investment – you are not likely to attract right-fit clients or close sales.
Clear expectations summarize what you can offer the client and what you need from the client in return during your work together. Often, career pros create and share a service agreement with clients to clarify responsibilities, requirements, and timelines. A lack of service agreement can lead to push-back, potential liability issues, or service abuse.
Finally, a formal process ensures that you have what you need to perform at your best for each client. This may include a well-defined intake process, delivery timelines, and an appropriate compensation model. Without a formal process you may find yourself working too long on projects or devoting unpaid time to clients. These issues reduce income potential and cause unnecessary stress.
Here is a longer breakdown of some tools and processes needed to support client management:
- Targeted demographic. Consider the type of client you wish to serve and tailor your marketing messages accordingly. Understand what qualifies as a ‘right-fit’ client for you. You might decide to serve all levels and types of professionals or you might narrow offerings more exclusively (e.g. new graduates). Regardless, knowing your service demographic and their unique needs will support business success.
- Clear service offerings. Clarify your specialized service offerings. These might be exclusive amenities like resume writing or a range of career and job services, including career assessments, career coaching, and job search strategies. Align offerings with client needs and promote the value you afford. Clear services and value will eliminate the ‘busy work’ of addressing questions over and over.
- Service agreement. Ensure expectations are clear by creating and providing each client with a service agreement. Clients need to know their role in the service process and what they can expect from you in return. Service agreements eliminate push-back, abuse, or things like ongoing/endless resume edits.
- Payment structure. Figure out your value and price services competitively. Research the industry to get a good understanding of what to charge and implement a way to share cost details with prospective clients. Invest in a method for collecting and processing payment (PayPal is a common platform).
- Booking procedures. Save time and lessen redundant administrative work with distinct booking procedures. When clients are ready to proceed, make it easy for them to select appointments, pay for services, or complete required homework. Develop a method (spreadsheet) for tracking clients. Create email templates for things like schedule selection, payment options, and service confirmation. Keep track of payments and delivery dates.
- In-take process. Identify the information needed from your clients to best serve them. If you are writing a resume, consider a questionnaire to help capture content. If you are providing interview coaching, request specific details from your clients in advance to mock interview sessions. Standardizing requirements will keep services on track.
- Service wrap-up. Finalize services clearly and distinctly so clients are aware that your work together has come to a close. Thank them. Ask for referrals. Wish them luck on their journeys. Provide additional resources or suggest alternative and additional services that you feel would further benefit them.
If you find yourself struggling with any aspects of client management – reach out to let us know (firstname.lastname@example.org). We offer customized, affordable, one-on-one coaching. Or take advantage of our complete Drive Your Success training program.
— Adrienne Tom is an 8X certified career professional who has been offering career services to clients for the past 10 years at Career Impressions. She is also the co-founder of CareerPreneur Partners.