5 Mistakes Agencies Make That Set Clients Up for Failure

desk and glassesWe all want happy clients, and we want to see them succeed. Why? Because happy clients will continue working with us, and will recommend our services to friends and colleagues. This is something freelancers, agencies, and small business owners all strive for. 

However, you may have unwittingly set your clients up for failure by not implementing certain strategies into your agency’s workflow.

Below are five mistakes that agencies make that unknowingly set themselves, and their clients, up for failure. 

1. Excluding a Cheat Sheet

How many times have you worked with another agency and wished they came with some sort of handbook, cheat sheet, or guide? Why not make one for your agency? The way you do business matters to clients, and you’ll both have a much better time working together if you  have a short FAQ page. 

Not only will it remove some of the headache of wondering if you’re the best agency for the job, but it’s also a fun way to make your proposal stand out. How? Simply include a short “how to work with us” sheet that talks about: 

  • Ways you work best
  • What you like and don’t like
  • Funny stories or anecdotes
  • Answers to logistical questions 

Sometimes, your clients may not even need to hire you for a specific project, and you can send them a short DIY guide to help. You won’t see an immediate income boost into your bank account, but this is something potential clients will remember for years to come (and tell their friends about). 

Take action: think about creating a DIY guide, or FAQ cheat sheet to hand out to potential clients. What should it include? What main questions do you receive from clients right now? How can your agency offer even more value? 

2. Not Creating Custom Rates and Proposals

No client likes to feel like they’re one of the hundreds of names on a list of stuff you work on each day. They want to feel special and that you care about the success of their business. So treat each client individually and create custom rates and proposals for them. 

I recently started doing this with my freelance writing business and have been able to close 100% of all the deals in the past three months. I’ve also been able to make more money because I look at each client’s situation differently and price it accordingly. 

Some clients will have a higher budget, while others won’t. It depends on their industry, schedule, and other things, so it’s important you respect this and adapt. Of course, you can use a proposal template or rate sheet to save time, but don’t cut corners, by not doing the research for each client, or not offering them a custom package. 

Take action: consider taking an individual approach with the next client lead that lands in your inbox. What can you do to make them feel special and create a custom proposal? Perhaps even consider asking them what their budget is, instead of offering your rate sheet first. 

3. Forgetting to Implement a Follow-Up Schedule

After spending all that time creating an awesome proposal, landing the deal, and working on the project together, don’t leave your clients hanging. You may think you’re finished with them, but you could be doing SO much more to ensure they get the most out of the service, and keep your agency at the top of their minds.

Go the extra mile with a simple follow-up schedule. Have a follow-up email or call a month after the project ended. Then follow-up again at the 3 or 6 month mark to see if they have questions, need any help, or have concerns. Finally, send a “happy anniversary” note 1 year after completing the project. 

This can apply to a wide variety of agencies, no matter if you sell real estate or design websites. Your clients will likely need your services (or upgrades) in the future, so don’t discount how effective a follow-up schedule can be. They may not hire you again for a few months, or even a year, but you will be the first one they call, because you’ve established a trustworthy relationship over time. 

Take action: create a follow-up schedule based on the types of projects you work on. Then when you’re completing the final details, open your calendar or task management system, and enter timed entries for follow-up reminders. 

writing calendar

4. Forgetting to Celebrate a Client’s Success

In addition to implementing a follow-up schedule, another very effective way to ensure your clients thrive is to routinely celebrate their successes. Throw a client kickoff party and take your team and clients out for drinks or coffee. This is a great way to spread the word about your agency to the local community too. 

If you can’t meet up with everyone in  person, throw a virtual party instead. Give away some fun prizes, or offer discounts on future referrals or services. If a virtual party isn’t your thing, how else can you celebrate your client’s success? Maybe write a blog post showcasing their business, or use them as an on-going case study (giving them more exposure). 

Take action: write down 2-3 ideas about how you can celebrate the wins you’ve helped your clients achieve. Set a date for the client kickoff or virtual party, and work out the details of the free promotions. Think of an unconventional way to show clients that the agency is invested in their work. 

5. Not Asking for Referrals

We’re all likely to refer services and products we find helpful to our friends and family. Many of your current clients probably have contacts who need the same type of services your agency offers. But you have to reach out and ASK. Ask for business. Ask for recommendations, and referrals. Don’t be afraid to follow-up. 

We’re all busy and sometimes need a short reminder to tell our friends and family about something important. Other than that though, there’s not much else needed to seal the deal if your client has already vouched for you. Which is why referrals are so valuable! 

Take action: Send an email asking one of your best clients to refer your agency to just one person they know needs the services. Everyone usually has that one contact they can send an email to for a referral, and it won’t take much of their time. 

These are simple fixes to major roadblocks that set your clients back on their road to success. Additionally, you can set your agency apart from the rest by offering just that little bit of extra customization and service. 

Is your agency guilty of making any of these mistakes? Which one can you change and take action on today?

About Carrie Smith

Carrie Smith is a financial artist and founder of The Client Connection, a matchmaking service for clients and freelancers who want to avoid job boards and instead build quality businesses. In 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job and now works as a full-time business consultant and writer. Find her on Twitter (@carefulcents).

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Nice post, I would agree with all apart from the ‘Not Creating Custom Rates and Proposals’ bit, problem is people talk and by creating different rates it can then become is serious issue. The custom proposal fair enough, and if done correctly and the potential client heres good things the the rate should be a minor point, quality over price.

The title of the blog post is a little misleading i first read it as what clients do wrong which then make clients project fail, where in fact its the failure to acquire new clients by treating each then same and then up sell that this post is about?

All the same great post.

Alex Willis
White Label Talent Manager

Maria Brophy

Great article! Your first suggestion, including a “cheat sheet” or FAQ, sounds interesting. Do you have an example you can share?

Carrie Smith

That’s a good point, Alex. In some industries it might be better to not give out custom rates and to keep your pricing relatively equal across the board. This is especially important if you’re selling products.

I think the title explains pretty much what I was trying to explain in this post, but I see what you mean. Each point is about how to make each client feel special and to take a more customized approach with everything. Thanks for the feedback!

Steve Folland

Really good thoughts to take on board, thanks Carrie.
Cheat Sheet’s a really nice idea: otherwise how will they know what kind of biscuits I like?
I like to follow my clients on twitter and LinkedIn so I know what’s going on with them further down the line. It might be 8 months later, but they’re up for an award/wearing xmas jumpers for a day/having a bake off – a great chance to naturally reconnect.

Lori Newman

Love the ideas however, I find it best if you customize the rates by their needs but keep them pretty much the same across the board. Rates will change with each clients needs but would be the same for another client with similar needs and not more depending on their budget. So far this method has worked wonderful for us.

Thanks for the article!

Lori Newman
Newman Web Solutions, LLC

ali hk

+1 for example cheat sheet please!
…like this? http://playbook.hanno.co/


Thanks for the ideas, but cheat sheet did not work for me for long, many clients don’t have time to fill up the answers about the project/business etc, they just want their work done. (my experience, might be wrong)

Winslow D

I really love your suggestions. One thing I would love to get general feedback on from others like myself is when to concede on bad ideas just to get the job done.
I have had experiences where a client has an idea that they love and no matter how many times you try to convince them that it might be the best way to go, there is no changing their minds. We had a policy at my old agency, mention it twice and concede on the third try.

Luke Boobyer

Good suggestions. If you’re offering a creative service and not using custom proposals and rates for each client then you’re doing it wrong.

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