As an independent consultant, your drive and ambition are what make your business succeed. However, it is possible that the very ambition that helps you achieve your goals can become a detriment. Overselling is an easy mistake to make—one that can put your business reputation at risk.
When selling your services to a client, there is a tendency to want to promise them more than what they are asking for. Whether you are overpromising to impress a client, close a sale, or highlight your abilities, overselling rarely benefits anyone.
Beyond the mental and emotional stress, over-promising can place on your health, it can also damage your company, reputation, and clients.
Your Client: Clients want to hire you because they have a problem they need to be solved. This assignment may have certain requirements such as a strict budget, specific technical needs, or a tight deadline. When you set expectations too high and are unable to deliver on what you say you can do, you not only put the client's project at risk, but you put your personal reputation in jeopardy as well.
Other Clients: Whether you’ve oversold yourself on availability, budget, or ability, there will be pressure to meet unrealistic standards that you’ve set. Such devotion to a single client or project can result in unintentional delays on other work, which can cause you to neglect other clients.
Your Business: A major side effect that arises when you oversell or spread yourself too thin is a general loss of quality. Often, when people are met with tighter deadlines, the first thing they sacrifice is the standard they hold for their work. Just as you have the right to expect your client to pay your agreed fee, they have the right to expect the deliverables to be at an agreed level of quality, delivered on time.
Overselling yourself has the potential to damage your standing with your clients and lower the possibility of getting rehired. On top of that, overpromising may cause a breach of contract and your business could face losses and possible legal ramifications, seriously damaging your reputation.
Avoiding overselling is simple: be realistic and honest with both yourself and with your client. Take a candid inventory of your current obligations, including those in your personal life. Ask yourself: If I take on this project, will I be able to dedicate the necessary time to it? Do I have the qualifications to complete this project to the standards the client expects and deserves?
Don’t let the pressure to meet or exceed expectations lead you to agree to take on projects. If you have the slightest inkling that you don’t have enough time or expertise for a project, then you should strongly consider passing. If you find yourself in this situation, consider referring the client to a fellow consultant who you trust as an expert source.