Anyone who exchanges time for money needs to get the most out of every working hour. Few things sap your time (and energy) like dealing with conflict or misunderstandings. The best way to reduce confusion in your working relationships is to get clear about the scope of the project from the beginning. You need to approach initial discussions with your client as a forensic investigation and scrutinise what they really want, not just what they say they want. It may be tempting to skip this phase because it’s only a little job or the client is in a hurry or you just want to get stuck into the work or [insert favourite excuse]. But when you sit down with your prospective client and talk through their expectations and culture, it allows you to formulate a blueprint for the job that will make your performance more efficient. You can focus on what is important to the client and what they need to move ahead in their business. A blueprint provides the following advantages. It:
- provides clear guidelines;
- enables you to choose whether the job is the right fit for your skills and personality;
- gives you a written record to refer to if things go wrong or the scope of the job/ personnel changes mid-stream.
During your discussions, cover issues such as:
- What does the client expect? Resist the urge to over promise. You don’t want the organisation thinking you are going to produce miracles (overly high expectations) or create substantial change in a short amount of time as opposed to having strategies in place over the long term.
- Who is making the decisions and how does this affect your ability to deliver on outcomes? Understand what the organisation’s (decision makers) responsibility is.For example, you can make recommendations following a review of the organisations procedures and financials on how the organisation can improve efficiency or increase profit, etc., but ultimately, it is up to the client to make the decision to follow through with the recommendations.
- What are the deliverables? Are the tasks/outcomes broken down into segments /intervals /stages /deliverables /tasks? Are they measurable? Are they dependent on other people within the organisation taking action?
- How does your work fit into the bigger picture? Understanding what the overall objective is, as opposed to taking on the engagement to perform a set of specified tasks. The more you understand the overall objectives of the organisation, the better you can tailor your services to those objectives.
Once you have had these discussions, it is vital to put the agreed points into a written agreement. Ideally these items will provide the basis of your consultants agreement that both parties will authorise. The beauty of putting your blueprint into written form is that it helps you to efficiently deliver outcomes to the client, and this means you can build and protect your reputation as a standout performer in your chosen field.