Managing Client Expectations: 6 Tips for Freelancers
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 7 min read


  1. Set clear deliverables
  2. Communicate regularly and effectively
  3. Manage scope creep
  4. Provide regular progress updates
  5. Deal with unforeseen changes
  6. Ask for feedback and improve

When you're a freelancer, managing client expectations can sometimes feel like trying to nail jello to a wall. It's slippery, confusing, and if you're not careful, it can cause quite a mess. But don’t fret—this guide will equip you with six practical tips for managing client expectations as a freelancer, helping you build strong, positive relationships with your clients that last beyond the current project.

Set Clear Deliverables

The first step in managing client expectations as a freelancer is to set clear, tangible deliverables. This is your opportunity to outline exactly what the client will receive at the end of the project. It's like a roadmap that guides you and the client through the project journey, ensuring everyone is heading in the same direction.

Define the Outcome

When you begin a new project, start by defining the final outcome. What should the end product look like? A well-designed website? A fully optimized blog post? A complete digital marketing strategy? Whatever it is, be specific. This not only helps the client understand what they're getting but also gives you a clear goal to work towards.

Break it Down

Large projects can often feel daunting—like trying to eat an elephant. The best way to tackle them? One bite at a time. Break down your major deliverable into smaller, manageable tasks. This makes it easier for you to plan your work and gives the client a clear idea of the project progression.

Set a Timeline

Once you've broken down the project into tasks, it's time to set a timeline. When will each task be completed? And more importantly, when will the final product be delivered? Having a timeline helps in managing client expectations as a freelancer, as it gives both you and your client a sense of when to expect what.

Use a Project Management Tool

Finally, consider using a project management tool like Trello or Asana. These tools can help you keep track of your tasks and deadlines, and also provide a visual representation of the project's progress to the client.

Remember, setting clear deliverables is not about micromanaging every detail—it's about providing clarity and direction. It's about managing client expectations as a freelancer by ensuring everyone knows what they're working towards, when they can expect it and how they'll know when it's done.

Communicate Regularly and Effectively

Here's a secret: communication is not just about talking—it's about creating understanding. And when it comes to managing client expectations as a freelancer, effective communication is key. It's the bridge that connects you to your client, allowing you to share ideas, discuss problems, and work towards a common goal.

Choose the Right Channel

Not all communication channels are created equal. Some are great for quick updates (think: Slack or email), while others are better for in-depth discussions (like Zoom or Google Meet). Choose a channel that suits the nature of your conversation and the preferences of your client. Remember, the goal is to create understanding—so pick a channel that helps you do that best.

Speak Their Language

Ever tried talking to someone in a language they don't understand? It's frustrating, isn't it? The same goes for your clients. Avoid jargon and use simple, clear language. Explaining a complex design process? Use analogies or metaphors. Discussing a technical issue? Break it down into easy-to-understand terms. Your client will thank you for it.

Listen Actively

Communication is a two-way street. It's not just about you talking—it's also about you listening. Show your client that their ideas and feedback are important. Ask clarifying questions. Repeat back what you've heard to confirm understanding. By listening actively, you're not just hearing—you're understanding.

Be Transparent

Transparency builds trust, and trust is crucial when managing client expectations as a freelancer. Be honest about your capabilities, your availability, and potential challenges. If there's a delay or a problem, don't hide it—communicate it proactively. Your client will appreciate your honesty and feel more confident in your ability to handle the project.

Remember, effective communication is not about talking more—it's about creating more understanding. It's about ensuring that both you and your client are on the same page, working towards a common goal, and managing expectations every step of the way.

Manage Scope Creep

Ever find yourself doing more work than initially agreed upon, but without extra pay? That, my friend, is scope creep, and it's a notorious challenge in managing client expectations as a freelancer. But don't worry, it's not an unbeatable monster. Here are a few helpful tactics to keep it under control.

Define the Scope Clearly

Think of the project scope as a roadmap—it outlines what you will do, how you will do it, and when you will do it. Be as specific as possible when defining the scope. Include details like the number of revisions, deadlines, and deliverables. The clearer your scope, the easier it is to spot and manage scope creep.

Get Everything in Writing

A verbal agreement is as good as the paper it's written on—oh wait, it's not written on any paper! That's why it's important to put all agreements in writing. It provides a concrete reference point and can help prevent misunderstandings or forgotten details which often lead to scope creep.

Learn to Say 'No'

It's tough to say 'no', especially to a client. But sometimes, it's necessary. If a client asks for something outside the agreed scope, don't be afraid to decline. You can explain why it's not feasible or propose it as an additional service with additional fees. Remember, your time and effort are valuable!

Regularly Review the Scope

Scope management isn't a one-and-done thing. It's a continuous process. Regularly review the project scope to ensure everything is on track. If you spot potential scope creep, address it immediately. Better to nip it in the bud than to have an uncontrollable monster later.

Scope creep can be a headache when managing client expectations as a freelancer. But with clear definitions, written agreements, the courage to say 'no', and regular reviews, you can keep it under control and keep your project on track.

Provide Regular Progress Updates

Providing regular progress updates is like keeping the lights on during a road trip—it helps both you and your client see where you are, what's coming up, and if there are any roadblocks ahead. Let's see how you can effectively share updates while managing client expectations as a freelancer.

Establish a Routine

Instead of randomly sending updates, establish a consistent routine—be it daily, weekly, or bi-weekly. This not only keeps your client informed about the project's status but also demonstrates your commitment and reliability. Plus, it gives your client something to look forward to!

Be Transparent

While it might be tempting to only share good news, it's important to be transparent in all your communications. If there are any delays or issues, let your client know. They'll appreciate your honesty and it can avoid potential misunderstandings down the line.

Keep it Brief and Focused

Your client is busy just like you. So when providing updates, keep them concise and focused. Highlight the key points—what's done, what's next, and any issues or concerns. Also, avoid technical jargon. Explain things in a way your client can understand.

Encourage Questions and Feedback

Progress updates should not be a one-way street. Encourage your client to ask questions, give feedback, or share concerns. This makes them feel involved in the process and can provide valuable insights for you.

Regular progress updates are an integral part of managing client expectations as a freelancer. By establishing a routine, being transparent, keeping updates concise, and encouraging feedback, you can build trust and foster a positive working relationship with your clients.

Deal with Unforeseen Changes

Just like a sudden rain shower on a sunny day, unforeseen changes can catch us off guard in the world of freelancing. How you handle these changes can play a significant role in managing client expectations as a freelancer. Let's explore some strategies to navigate these waters.

Stay Flexible

Unforeseen changes are part of the freelancing game. Staying flexible allows you to adapt to these changes quickly. Remember, every change is not a crisis, sometimes it's just a slight shift in the plan.

Communicate the Impact

When a change occurs, it's important to communicate its impact on the project's timeline and budget. This helps to reset your client's expectations and prevents any surprises later on.

Update Your Work Agreement

If the change is substantial, consider updating your work agreement to reflect the new tasks, timeline, and budget. This ensures that you and your client are on the same page.

Stay Positive

Change can be stressful, but try to stay positive. View changes as an opportunity to learn, grow, and showcase your problem-solving skills. Your positive attitude can also help to ease any client anxieties.

In conclusion, while unforeseen changes can be challenging, they're not insurmountable. Embracing flexibility, communicating the impact of changes, updating work agreements, and maintaining a positive attitude can help in smoothly managing client expectations as a freelancer.

Ask for Feedback and Improve

Imagine you've just finished a project. You're proud of your work, but are you certain your client feels the same way? One of the best ways to ensure you're managing client expectations as a freelancer is to ask for feedback and then act on it. Here's how you can do it effectively:

Invite Feedback

Don't be shy about asking your clients for their thoughts on your work. You might say something like, "I'm always looking to improve my services. Do you have any feedback for me?" This shows that you're open to learning and growth.

Listen Actively

When receiving feedback, listen actively. Resist the urge to defend your work and instead, focus on understanding the client's perspective. Remember, feedback is not a personal attack but a tool for improvement.

Act on the Feedback

Feedback is only useful if you take action on it. If a client suggests you could improve your communication, work on it. If they mention that they loved how you handled a certain task, remember to do it again next time.

Follow Up

Once you've made improvements, follow up with the client. This could be as simple as saying, "I've taken your feedback on board and made these changes. I hope you'll see the difference in our next project."

Asking for feedback and making improvements is a continuous process. It's a powerful tool in managing client expectations as a freelancer. Not only will it help you grow and improve, but it will also show your clients that you value their input and are committed to delivering top-notch work.

If you're looking to improve your client management skills as a freelancer, be sure to check out the workshop, 'How to Make a Client Choose You' by louisbever. This workshop offers valuable insights and tips on how to successfully manage client expectations and build long-lasting, professional relationships.