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This question is a slippery one because depending on who you ask or what side of the equation you’re on, the answer can look a little different.

Of course, the client will likely assume you are responsible. They’re hiring you to get them to a result that was promised. 

However, if you’re a coach or other professional where you’re not offering a completely “done for you” service then you can’t guarantee an certain outcome.

Chances are there are actions outside of your control that your client needs to do in order to get their desired results. You provide the service or deliverable, but your clients need to do their part as well. You can’t be held completely responsible for what comes after you’ve done your part. 

But as we know, things in the entrepreneurial world aren’t always so cut and dry.

I like to simplify things and consider myself responsible TO my clients but not necessarily responsible FOR them. 

Let me explain.

I do my best to create the deliverables and set up processes, but if the client isn’t doing their homework and essentially not holding up their end of the deal, then I can’t be held responsible for the lack of results. 

But of course, clients want to know what they’re “going to get” when they hire you. They want to be promised something. 

So how do you balance this equation to make sure that both you and your client are satisfied with the results that is being created? 

Here are the 3 steps to follow that will help you create the balance you need.

Step 1: Only work with the clients you know you can help

This one sounds obvious, but can get tough, especially if you’re fighting the urge to help everyone out there. But the reality is, you can’t help everyone and not everyone is a good fit. 

Here’s a good example. When you’re in negotiations with a potential client and you’ve put together a package that you know would be great and they baulk at the price or some of the deliverables that are included and they start to ask about something a little less. 

It can be tempting to say yes and negotiate your package down, especially if you are short on your revenue goals that month. 

But what if you know that cutting things out or changing your package won’t get them the results that they want? By negotiating and settling for something lesser, you’d be fighting an uphill battle trying to get the same results with much less ammo. 

In this situation, it’s perfectly okay to let the client know that your package is firm.

It’s your responsibility to only work with clients that you know you can help in a way that allows you to do your best work, even if that means saying no to certain prospects.

Step 2: Set expectations and boundaries from the get go

In any business relationship, it’s important to have specific expectations and boundaries, and they start even before the engagement begins. 

The way you schedule consultations, the way you structure your calls, and how you propose projects, these are all examples of expectations and boundaries that will shape your future work.

Setting expectations early on is important because you’re only working with the information you have right now from a potential client.

As you go deeper and start working together, they might need or ask for more things. So you want to have those set boundaries in place before any scope creep can happen. 

From the very beginning, set boundaries for how things are delivered and what happens if they need to add things to your package so there isn’t any confusion later.

Pro tip: Make sure you’re using terms your client understands when setting expectations. Listen to what the client is asking for and always use their words. You may think you’re agreeing to the same thing, but if the definitions and vocabulary aren’t clear, you could have a different understanding than your client, leading to issues later down the line.

Step 3: Ask for feedback and take it into account

Feedback is a double edged sword. Good feedback can make you feel on top of the world, but it can also feel like a knife in the gut when someone points out a flaw or something you could have done better. 

But asking for feedback is one of the best ways to help you understand your clients’ expectations. This will help you determine disconnects in your marketing where clients come to you expecting something other than what you really deliver. 

You can ask for feedback at different points during your interaction or at the very end, in either case be sure to give clients an opportunity to give very honest feedback during your journey together.

To do this, ask questions that allow clients to highlight the positive such as: “What were you really excited about and why would you recommend this program?” 

Then allow them opportunities to explore what was missing for them like: “What could have been done a little differently? What would have made your experience even a little better?”

These questions will show you where you can make improvements, and future clients will benefit from that feedback (and surely sing your praises!)

As a coach or service provider, you are responsible to your clients TO help get them the results they are paying you for. But it’s so important to do the prep work before starting to work with someone to ensure that you can get them the results they envision. So only choose clients you know you can help, and make sure your boundaries and expectations are firm.

With these things in place, you will increase the chances that both you and your client will walk away from the experience completely satisfied.