Freelance in 40 Days [Day 25]: Uh Oh, I Just Made A Mistake

Posted: November 9th, 2009

Photo by Katey (Flickr)

Photo by Katey (Flickr)

This is Day 25 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today how to deal with the occasional mistakes made in freelancing.

No Freelancer Is Perfect

Sometime in his career, there comes a time when the freelancer has a momentary brain lapse and makes a mistake in his work. Even when we strive for perfection, it is inevitable, even for the most experienced of the litter.

Freelancers are human after all.

Luckily mistakes aren’t career killers and freelancers learn very quickly from them. Handle them correctly, too, and you can actually come out of it establishing more reliability with your clients. That is, of course, if you don’t make it a habit of making mistakes with them.

So let’s get started with the steps to remedy a mistake made.

1. Contact Immediately

Whether you are notified by the client or notice the mistake on your own, its important to get in contact with the client immediately. Handle this with a phone or Skype call, if at all possible, since you can gauge the client’s reaction and calm him down (if necessary) to explain the situation.

2. Honest Explanation

This is crucial. Be completely honest and upfront and explain what the mistake was. Don’t skip essential details either. More importantly, do not sugar-coat it and make it anything less than it is or you appear dishonest. Then follow this up with an explanation of how you will correct the mistake.

3. No Excuses

It is almost a natural instinct to give an excuse for anything we did wrong. Nothing damages your credibility more, however, than making an excuse even if it’s true. An excuse says, “it’s not my fault” when you are actually at fault for any mistake you make. Client’s can see right through excuses anyway.

So if your beloved pet dog dies and you weren’t in the right frame of mind that day, keep it to yourself.  All that is really necessary is a “Hey, sorry I messed up. Here’s what happened…”

4. Fix The Mistake Quickly

This may cost you some time and/or money, but do what you have to do to correct the mistake as quickly as possible. If it will take more than a day to correct, let your client know and give him a timetable for the correction. The less time you take to fix a mistake, the more the client will be willing to forget about it.

5. Check Back With The Client

Once the mistake is fixed, call or email the client and let him know. Most of the time, he will be satisfied that you admitted the mistake and handled it in a timely manner. This often reassures a client that you can reliably handle adverse situations as well.

If you sense any dissatisfaction or lingering doubt they may have, though, it won’t hurt to offer for free a service you provide to smooth him over.

One Step To Prevention

Here’s a bit of expert advice if you are a web developer, designer, programmer or edit a client’s files or database in any way… make it a habit to always create a backup of of the work you are about to edit before you begin to edit it. There will come a day when you will need that backup and only have to restore that instead of having to follow the five steps above.

Your Homework For Today

Let’s keep the mistakes to a minimum. If you make one, keep this tutorial handy and relax. You’ll get through it.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

1 Comment. Join In!