Gig Business

Creating and Managing Your Clients’ Expectations

By Brian Jenkins

Empowering entrepreneurs to find their place in the market doing what they love is one of the great strengths of the emerging gig economy. A new era of small business owners, innovators, and service providers are unleashing their products on to an open sea of commerce. 

But within this gig revolution, many entertainers and performers are quickly discovering that beyond a great product, they need business savvy and skill to stay afloat. 

One of the most underestimated and often ignored keys to business success is the importance of creating expectations and then meeting them. Motivational Speaker and GigSalad Member Jessi Beyer told us:

“Many gig-based entrepreneurs are so happy to get a gig that they don’t take the time to read the fine print and iron out the details.”

The disconnect between expectation and reality can happen to any of us. We forget to outline travel needs, how many electrical outputs are required, what the exact arrival time is. By not clearly communicating what is needed and what is to be expected, we set ourselves up for a tough gig. 

Managing expectations is a critical aspect of any contract or agreement, and could be the difference between frustrated customers and five-star reviews. Creating, clarifying, and meeting expectations must be the priority of every business leader. 

Set clear expectations from the start

Morgan Taylor of LetMeBank states, “Honesty is the best policy. Only guarantee what you can actually deliver or even promise slightly less than what you intend to achieve.” 

In a rush to get the gig, many performers or providers will overpromise on what can be reasonably accomplished.

Don’t be afraid to be very clear on what services you can and can’t provide. Taylor went on to share, “If you’re competing against other firms for the work then you don’t want to under-promise much. Over-promising might secure the work but failing to deliver or compromising quality increases chances you won’t retain the client.”

Perhaps this scenario sounds familiar. Eager to book their first wedding, a string quartet answers a bid request and quickly offers a competitive rate and promises they can play any request the bride has. As the date approaches, the bride finalizes her list and the songs now require a sitar, a Balalaika, and a ukelele. This piece is the key to the perfect wedding, and you promised any request. What is left is all too often bad reviews and ruined memories. 

Lead Digital Marketing Strategist for, Ciara Hautau cautions, “You don’t always have to say yes. Don’t just say yes to please the client, be sure that the yes has substance behind it and you truly believe the direction you’re taking the client in so you don’t lead them down the wrong path.”

Utilizing booking agreements, over-communicating in threads and emails, and educating your client are all fantastic habits that ensure clear expectations. 

Be clear and consistent in your communication

A little louder for the folks in the back! Clarity, clarity, clarity. 

Lawyer Nance L. Schick gives these tips to a clear agreement: 

  • Draft a contract detailing the scope of work, timelines, and costs
  • Have the client review the contract, and give an opportunity to ask questions
  • Ask questions that might seem stupid
  • Discuss terms that might seem obvious
  • Risk insulting someone’s intelligence for the sake of clarity

Leave no room for doubt and don’t assume everyone is on the same page. Provide specific and precise details like: 

  • What time you will arrive onsite for the event
  • How long it takes you to set up
  • Infrastructure needs, such as access to power or dressing rooms 
  • How many breaks you may need
  • Precise performance time, length, and details like the setlist or balloon options
  • Post-event details like how pictures or videos may be delivered
  • Exact payment process and structure

Once you feel comfortable with these details, offer the quote. From there, keep communicating! Provide the client with a timeline for critical moments such as:

  • When the contract must be signed
  • When deposits and payments are due
  • When event specific details (menu, setlist, face-painting options, etc.) must be decided
  • When you will personally contact them

Send the client a text, email, or phone call in the days leading up to the event. This not only provides another opportunity for clarity but also communicates that you’re excited to be a part of their moment. Remember that while you’ve done tons of gigs like this one, this is could be your client’s only big event – reassure them that they’ve chosen the right person for the job by staying communicative.

Meet the expectations and then exceed them

Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.” Once you’ve clarified the expectations and details, do everything you can to meet them. Even this baseline effort will set you above any doubts or misgivings your client may have had about booking you. Few things communicate professionalism and credibility better than meeting clear expectations. This will result in good reviews and happy customers. 

If you want more than that, however, strive to exceed expectations. Find the extra 10% that your client won’t see coming. Develop original art or a song for their event. Memorize the birthday boy or girl’s name to make their day special. Give away free merchandise. Create a custom cocktail for the Bride and Groom. Follow-up with a thank you card, text, or email. You can have more than customers, you can create fans. Fans market for you with social media, referrals, and repeat business. Jessi Beyer states:

If you clarify what your client wants and then meet and exceed their expectations, they’ll be more likely to give you a glowing review or referral, which can result in a chain reaction of multiple gigs for you.

When you set, meet, and exceed expectations for clients, you’ll be seen as a professional that the client wants to highly-review and recommend to others. 

  1. Dan Greenleaf January 16, 2020

    Excellent article. One thing I realized early in my career as a professional Santa. A prospective client was laying out the order of what she wanted Santa to do: hand out gifts, chat with the children. read a story, then pose for photos. My my experience had taught once the gifts are handed out, the children are gone – they want to play with their new toys.

    The light bulb came on. I realized the client does one Santa visit a season. I have done dozens of them. I am the expert on how these should be organized and it’s my responsibility to educate the client.

    Usually, once it’s explained, the client realizes you know what you are doing and agrees to the plan. If they insist on their ideas, fine. You do what they ask and make it work the best you can.

  2. Kristy January 22, 2020

    So, what would GigSalad’s action be, if a bride expected music from “a sitar, a Balalaika, and a ukulele” when the bride had hired a string quartet? Would GigSalad stand by the string quartet? I hope so.

    • Megan Price January 23, 2020

      Hi Kristy, we hope that all of those fine details are worked out before the booking ever takes place. We stand by whatever is included in the booking agreement, so please be specific when sending a quote. But again, the point of the article is communication is key and those details should all be discussed well before booking.


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