This website was almost called “Claire Creates”. I create databases. I create websites. I create cakes. Wait…cakes? I hear you ask. Yes…I bake cakes for family & friends…sometimes quite complicated ones. This week’s request: a Mat Leave cake.
Having sampled previous offerings, the requestor was able to offer very clear specifications for this project…chocolate cake that can feed a multitude. In fact, the very Chocolate Sheet Cake I had produced many times before.
I saw parallels between this request from my friend and requests that consultants face:
* A client who doesn’t know me doesn’t know what I’m capable of, so doesn’t know I can bake, so doesn’t ask for that service. Key learning point: advertise ALL of your capabilities.
* When a client is thinking of asking you for something, it helps to have a portfolio of past projects to show them (with the right permissions/anonymisations in place of course).
* Having a clear list of requirements is a must. “Chocolate cake” is a start, but there are a lot of variations unaccounted for: round or square? Nuts/no nuts? Covered? Decorated? Size? Fresh cream/frosting?
* When is it due? Agreeing a date for your deliverables can require negotiation but there’s often a hard deadline as in my case this week…not much point bringing the cake in a day late so I have time to pipe beautiful decorations onto it is there?
* There’s often a recipe/procedure to follow but it’s your take on it/your flair that the client is looking for.
* Return clients expect the same results they have seen you produce in the past. Consistency is key to building your reputation.
* Yes, you’re capable of bells-and-whistles but it’s not appropriate to apply those to every job. This is a bit of a tricky one. I’m someone who likes to over-deliver and add at least one “bell” to every project i.e. go beyond what was expected. On internal projects where it won’t effect the timeline and might only cost me to be a bit late home, I’ve squeezed it in. Did the client ask for it? No. Did they pay for it? Not really applicable in this case. Were they delighted to get it? Of course. If I only deliver the bare essentials of what is asked for next time, will they be disappointed that there are no extras? Probably. Key learning point: over-stretching yourself isn’t a good long-term business strategy for you or for your client.
Oh, and here’s how the cake turned out…