I usually charge for small projects up-front. Meaning if you want me to write you a letter or one press release or a small two-page website, I take payment right away to put you on my schedule. I just don’t want to be chasing people for $200, etc.
Anyway, I had this one guy who really didn’t want to do that. Thought things would go wrong, that I’d keep his money and deliver nothing, etc. I take great care to project an image of trust (being a BBB member, have easy to find contact info, etc), and we eventually worked it out. He paid, I scheduled him, he gave me the info I needed, and I did the job about two weeks later (as scheduled.)
I spent the better part of an afternoon on this project – it was a short e-mail letter, and I made two versions. I reread what I crafted, was pleased with my efforts, thought the client would be pleased at getting a second version, and sent it off.
He hated it. Flat out hated it.
Now, I’ll admit up front this is not a common thing. In fact, it never happens. Over the past five years, I can count the number of unhappy clients on one hand and still have fingers left over.
His reasoning for hating it wasn’t so much what I said, it was the fact that I mis-interpreted the scope of his business. I send a pretty detailed questionnaire (which he filled out), but there were a few answers (plus the business name) that definitely led me down the wrong path. In short, I probably took them too literally. It’s not a big deal – it can definitely happen in this business.
Figures it would be this guy, huh? The one who originally thought things would go wrong and he would get screwed out of his money. Well, things went wrong. He was pretty unhappy.
So what did I do? I didn’t wait for him to ask – I offered him a full refund. No questions, no problem, no “I spent all day on this.” I asked if he wanted me to fix it, or would he like a refund. I even steered him towards a refund, because it’s been my experience that on the odd chance I completely miss the mark with my work, it is best to shake hands like gentlemen and offer a refund.
I could tell from his e-mail response that he was surprised. Pleasantly surprised. He took the refund, which I was all too happy to give.
The story still has a happy ending. I kept my good name, I felt good about how I do business, and there’s a client out there who might feel a little better about trusting true professionals (even when they botch it! 🙂 )