what-to-do-about-client-mistakes

What To Do When You Make a Mistake

10 minute read

When you’re a business owner, as much as we all love to be perfect and feel like we have control over everything, we just don’t. Mistakes are inevitable, especially online. Sometimes it’s not even your fault and we’re going to be talking about that as well because sometimes you get blamed for things that happen on the internet that you don’t really have control over.

PSST: if you need some freelancer #inspo we got you covered, boo! If you haven’t been following along the last couple of weeks, definitely go check out the last few posts in the series. We have talked about scope creep, setting boundaries with clients, how to take personal days, and even how to get recurring work from client projects!

Today we’re going to be talking about what to do when you make a mistake. 😬

When it comes to how you manage your work load, client expectations can get out of control. You might miss a deadline. A site might go down due to something you did. You might not say the right thing. You might wait too long to say the right thing. In the end, you’re not going to do everything perfectly (gasp!) and you need to learn to handle when that happens.

Don’t Panic

When you make a mistake, do not panic. I know it is easier said than done, especially when a website is down or things on your website aren’t appearing how they should. It’s so easy to panic like, “Oh my gosh, it’s 6:00 PM and a website went down and I’m out at dinner.”

I actually had a mentor (who was also a website designer) tell me she did NOT believe in emergencies. Isn’t that crazy? She did not believe in emergencies when it came to the internet. Even if a site went down!

I am not saying this policy is for everyone because, personally, I like my websites to be live all the time. But there are some things that count as emergencies on the internet and there are things that just don’t.

Early on in your relationship with a client, you need to educate them on what constitutes an emergency.

Define “What is an emergency?”

Is a typo an emergency? Probably not (unless the typo is like, a profanity.)

Is a down website an emergency? Probably, especially if the client is losing sales or traffic.

Troubleshooting Step 1: If your site is down, don’t panic. Visit downforeveryoneorjustme.com and make sure it’s not just you! Sometimes things like servers might go down in a certain place, but not in others. It could just be your internet connection.

Troubleshooting Step 2: The next thing that you should do is ask yourself, “What’s the last thing that I did?” Normally, whatever’s going on is related to the last thing that you did. (For more troubleshooting info, check out the video at the end of this post!)

Troubleshooting Step 3: Contact support. Make sure to include relevant and helpful information for a fast resolution. Things like: Which website is it? What pages are looking weird? Do you have a reference of what your pages looked like before? Sometimes it’s really obvious and sometimes it’s not.

Own Your Mistakes

The best thing that you can do when you make a mistake just first and foremost is own it – own the responsibility. Don’t try to cast off the blame.

If you made a mistake and it is your fault, don’t try to cover it up! If you know you added code to a page and then the page went down when you ask for help explain exactly what you did so you can get to a solution fast. It’s going to be more productive for everyone.

When it comes to a client project where you made a mistake or something is going on, make sure that you have proactive communication. Tell the client that something has gone wrong and you are working on it! Let them know you’re looking into it and it’s a priority. That’s all they want to know.

You should also take the time and educate the client on the issue because you also don’t want it to seem like things are your fault when they aren’t.

Issues happen. Even the biggest servers go down sometimes. Integrations break.

When you’re clear on the cause, educate the client so they feel secure on the stability of their online business…and you don’t consistently carry the blame when things go wrong.

Present Solutions

Even if you don’t know what is causing the problem yet, present short-term and long-term solutions when you reach out. Often time clients just want to know what the next step is going to be for them. They need to know that you are going to work on the issue and help them get the result they are looking for.

If you are intimidated by client communication or need help finding the right words, check out our post on how to have great client communication.

Make it Right

If you really messed up in a way you can’t fix with a backup or troubleshooting, figure out a way to make it right. It’s just a matter of integrity. It won’t happen a lot, but sometimes you will just be in situations where you have to make it right.

Most often an apology and offering ways to make something right for the client is all it takes to keep their trust. If you are honest and upfront about what is going on and do everything you can to let you client know you are in this with them, they will respect you and you may get a glowing recommendation, even with a misstep on the record.

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

― Albert Einstein

Create a system for preventing future mishaps

If you have a version of your page that you love, save that page as a template. If you mess up, or your client goes in and makes it all crazy and weird looking, at least you have your pretty version as a backup.

Make sure that when you like something, you take screenshots of it when it’s the most beautiful that it can be.

TL;DR: When you make a mistake, you’re going to not panic. You’re going to own it. You’re going to present solutions and you are going to have systems to make it so that it does not happen in the future.

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