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Marketing / Business relationships

Client relationships: When to take on something new

If you are new in business and keen to develop new client relationships, it is tempting to take on something you’ve never done before. Or existing clients may ask you to do something unfamiliar. But when is the right time to take on something new?

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Before taking on any unfamiliar work, it is always best to find out what’s involved. This way you can make an informed decision about whether or not to provide the new service.

Dealing with existing clients

When you already have a client relationship and they already have confidence in your abilities, it can be a great opportunity to take on something unfamiliar and learn new skills. Working on new projects for existing clients is how I learnt to use different database programs, plus I learnt how to develop Internet based shopping carts. It is also what launched me as a blogger.

I spent time exploring, learning and practicing and then applying what I learnt to the client job. If the client was patient in allowing me to learn I wouldn’t charge them my full rate until I felt I’d come up to speed – this was with their knowledge and agreement, of course.

Dealing with new clients

I wouldn’t recommend providing a service you know nothing about for a new client, as if it doesn’t work out you stand to lose the client before the client relationship even develops. In this case, it is best to pass the job on to someone else who already has the appropriate skills. After all, referrals are good to build your credibility and build a network of support people around you.

"I wouldn’t recommend providing a service you know nothing about for a new client, as if it doesn’t work out you stand to lose the client before the client relationship even develops."

New business operators should always start out with what they know well and then build up their skills over time. I learnt how to use a desktop publishing program by producing my own newsletters, and website development n the course of building my own websites. Once people started asking me how I achieved those things, then I would begin offering that service to others.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business relationships section.

Working out what your client really wants

A client approached me last year seeking to develop an Excel database. Originally it started off being a simple project but grew more complex as the client thought of further requirements that had not been discussed initially. This then proved a difficult task because we didn’t have the knowledge or experience required to achieve what the client wanted.

The lesson  here is the client does not always know how a job needs to be done – even if they think they do. It is really important to ask them what they envisage is going to take place after you have finished the job. What do they want to achieve with what you do for them? This enables you to start with the end in mind. It’s a bit like building a house – if you don’t have a vision of what it will look like in the end, how are you going to know where to start and what to do?

I’ve got a few clients who are happy to allow me room for learning and growth, because we have built a relationship of trust and understanding over several years. But if I felt that what they wanted was beyond my capability or time availability, then I would suggest that someone else assists me with the job.

In conclusion, my view is the decision to take on new work should depend on whether it is a brand new client asking you to take it on, or an existing one that you already have a good client relationship with. I think the latter carries less risk.

What do you think? Let us know by adding a comment.

Kathie M. Thomas

is the founder of A Clayton's Secretary, a Virtual Assistant Network with members in many countries. Dedicated to teaching others about business on the web, she is a multiple award winner, with 30 years' experience in her field.

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