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Setting Client Expectations: The Deep Dive

 Today’s Can We Talk is a conversation about, well, miscommunication.

Soon we’ll dive into the topic of demanding clients’ respect (You’ll have to tune in for that one next week!) For now, though, we need to look at a potential source of disrespect: the misconceptions that your clients have in regards to your work.

Your clients are fully-capable adults that are probably very informed about their own fields. That doesn’t mean that they’ll automatically understand what you do. It can lead to confusion and mutual frustration, causing even the most functional, comprehensive client-agency relationships to sour.

But how can we wade through all of that misunderstanding and come to a point of agreement?

It can be difficult breaking down what you do, and why it’s expensive, for people that will probably never truly understand. And just as in the majority of instances with children, “because I said so” isn’t going to cut it as a response.

Luckily, you have somewhat of a way to “read” clients’ minds—mainly because they all complain about the same damn things.

Some of the “usual suspects” that make clients squirm.

  1. Scope creep
  2. Acceptance
  3. Client/ Agency Roles
  4. Content Collection
  5. Budget

First, make a list of all the project management tasks you will carry out that can be planned. Here is a common list.

Project Management Tasks You Can Plan

Sound familiar? I’d be really surprised if you haven’t run into a client that griped about one—or more—of these subjects. You might have even run into these issues on multiple occasions.

A lot of these misconceptions arise from some really sneaky ad writers. They have convinced people that you can actually build a website in under an hour, and for pennies. You and I know these TV ads to be false, but the Average Joe running a business can’t distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to computers.

Remember: The majority of the misconceptions that clients form have nothing to do with you, your agency, or your skills. Your clients, like you, simply want what’s best for their business.

Most people are trying to make smart financial decisions. When they’ve been fed false or misleading information and then receive a completely different narrative from you, they’ll do what they can to sort out the truth. The root of client misconceptions usually isn’t malicious—so don’t come in responding to their questions with your guns a-blazing.

All of the ideas we’re chatting about today will be fleshed out in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, be thinking about these Client Misconception Do’s and Don’ts to assess your own communication skills up to this point!


  • Be patient with your clients.

Put yourself in their shoes, and pretend that you’re the one asking a question about their company that they would think is extremely obvious, or maybe even a little bit rude.

  • Maintain a positive, empathetic mindset

It will regulate your tone, both spoken and written.

  • Perfect your processes.

If you have all of your processes laid out, you will be very unlikely to be caught with your pants down on any one subject. Use them as a guideline to demonstrate your worth to skeptical clients.


  • Ask clients which websites they like.

This is a recipe for disaster, especially in the early phases of getting to know a client. Furthermore, it doesn’t really help clear up misunderstandings, inform the clients, or create a good impression of your own creativity. 

  • Treat your clients as if they’re stupid. 

Treating someone as if they’re less intelligent than you because they don’t know as much about computers as you is an excellent way to lose clients quickly. 

  • Come into client interactions unprepared. 

You have to have solid answers and explanations readily available for walkthroughs and meetings. If not, you’re going to come up with something that’s ripe for getting holes poked through it.

I’m excited to continue this conversation with you—and if you feel like you have a misgiving on the topic of client misconceptions, please let me know!

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