Conflict resolution skills are a must for any freelancer. It arises when you least expect it.It has the ability to turn the sweetest of jobs into a nightmare of epic proportions.Here is a possible generic scenario.
You have gone in and pitched your services. You have a great feeling.You believe you have a connection and a clear path to the desired outcome with your project.You have shown your client a few models and you have had a wonderful conversation and he has asked you about possible tasks and based on this you have given him a price.
You get started.
This is where things take a turn. The client comes up those changes, the designer working with the client comes up with other changes and the client’s manager has other “little “changes that he believes you should implement.
The communication is coming but it’s fragmented and these “little “changes will cost you valuable time and possibly money.
The question is how do you balance a good working relationship with your client and also ensure you are not giving away hours and hours of free work for the sake of client satisfaction ?
This is what Conflict Resolution is all about.
The conflict between you and your client is brewing. The conflict between you and your project is brewing and the distance between you and job satisfaction is increasing with every message. You are now officially in the nightmare scenario. Is this the reason you decided to work for yourself and run your own company? FUCK THAT !
Chances are you are looking at getting out of it by simply sending a resignation email over irreconcilable differences with this night mare of a client? STOP! Hold that thought! Breath and keep reading.
OK to reiterate, looking at the scenario above how do you keep all parties happy and slay all your dragons without having to spread your cheeks and take it from your client like you are fresh meat for Bubba?
Here is something to note.
Oral agreements are prone to change depending on the selective memory of the arguing party.It is important to know if the client is simply trying to get what they want without paying market value (your price) or they are simply forgetful.
The most important thing is to write stuff down.Any time you are having an oral conversation you should grab a piece of paper and pen. if the piece of paper is from the client get him to simply sign the paper saying he agrees with what you discussed.
The other way to do this is to simply send an email at the end of every conversation with all the points and ask him if you have missed any thing. It’s a bit sneaky but it creates a paper trail and this is important when ever you are on a project. The absence of a paper trail will lead to he said she said and major headaches.
Some clients are skittish when it comes to signing contracts …normally I would claim this to be a red flag but with the method above you can work with these projects as well.
Once you have a paper trail you have a basis for any stern discussions you may have with your client in the future
Now you have fragmented communication coming from various parties within the organization then here is what to do. You have to identify the person with the purse strings. This is normally the person who gave you the go ahead to start the project initially. Now gather all your emails from your various parties within his organization and list all the changes being requested and also calculate a time and price list for these changes.
Send him or her an email asking for a chat to update them on the project.And table both the initial spend and project vs the revised projects with changes and ask him/her if he approved this extra cost. Now a couple of things are going to happen both to your advantage. He or she will either say yes in which case your list of prices and hours just became an official invoice or say no and thus those changes are moot and irrelevant. There is a third option which means you have to become a bit more creative. This third option is that he or she is aware of the extra changes requested but expects them to be done within budget.
This is where step one comes into play you have emails and notes you have transcribed and this client can not boldly deny that he signed or confirmed them by email and this allows you to revert to the original agreement and say “I do not believe this was discussed in the initial brief” and you can drop the line in like “you do know these extra changes will cost extra time and money on your part and will likely affect your proposed delivery date.” At this point he or she should be conciliatory and offer terms ( some extra money , less work… etc etc) since they have been caught with their fingers in the cookie jar and you now have the right to say YES or NO depending on how you feel.
I think you know the rest from here. I have empowered you! Go forth and resolve your conflicts like pros.