Todd Van Fleet and finding the 110%

See how managing expectations and then surpassing them can help you achieve creative excellence and get rehired by every client, every time.
Todd Van Fleet and finding the 110%

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The English language contains several phrases that reference doing more than you were originally asked to do. 

“Go the extra mile.” 
“Go above and beyond.”
“Give 110%.”

What these cliches don’t do is tell you how you’re expected to exceed expectations and what the limit is. Is there such a thing as giving too much?

In the podcast this week, photographer and designer Todd Van Fleet shared his trick for retaining 100% of his clients. Rather than just completing the task given by his client, he takes it one step further, giving them what they want before they even know they want it.

For example, he was recently hired to create a design for the company’s gift cards. Though they only intend to use a digital mockup of the card for their emails, Todd’s about blow these expectations away. He plans to set a blank card up in a cool location, taking a photo that will later feature the new design superimposed on the blank card. They won’t just get a flat image, they will get a marketing resource that will encourage more people to buy their gift cards.

When I heard this, I was stunned. Throughout my years as a freelancer, I’ve become adept at meeting expectations. I try to perform better than clients might have expected, but I deliver what I’m asked to. Like Darryl said in the podcast, I got comfortable with taking orders.

Like many freelancers, I suspect, I instead focused my efforts on being the go-to girl. When clients thought of their next project or task, I wanted to come to mind with a rush of surety. “Oh, Emily. She’ll be able to get this done.”

And it’s worked. I’ve built a reputation of doing good work and being reliable, which has helped me develop long-term relationships that sustain my business today.

Where I’ve failed is in creating healthy boundaries that give me the chance to refill my creative juice tank, as Todd put it. I haven’t managed expectations well enough to truly give my best to my clients, so I’m often failing to meet my standards, even if I meet theirs.

Even as Todd’s advice offered some clarity on my own processes and how I’m working on them, it also stumped me a little. How can I upsell my creative services as a writer? I know it doesn’t look like writing an ebook when I’m tasked to create a blog, but what can it look like?

I’m still pondering this question (I’d love to hear suggestions if you’ve got ‘em!), but here are some ideas I’ve generated so far:

  • Including SEO extras, such as meta descriptions, or marketing extras, such as content for promotional social posts, with the work I deliver.
  • Creating infographics or other graphics, where applicable, to strengthen the content
  • Recommending additional content that can expand or complement the piece I’m working on.

At this point in my career, I’m not “just a writer.” I have a lot to offer and I can use these skills to wow clients without sacrificing healthy boundaries. More importantly, you can do the same. As you consider ways to upsell your creative services, here are some things to consider:

  • Try something new - New might mean something you’ve never even considered before or just something you haven’t applied to your business. This is a great opportunity to see what you can do. The client doesn’t expect anything else, so it’s okay to fail, learn from it, and try again next time.
  • Keep healthy limits - You shouldn’t do unpaid work just because. Go in with a plan and choose something that is worth the investment if it leads to more work, but not painful if it doesn’t.
  • Don’t be afraid to offer feedback - Once you’ve built rapport with the client, it’s okay to upsell by gently pointing out how you can help them improve parts of their brand. Just be sure to build trust first so your suggestion doesn’t come across as critical or salesy.

As an entrepreneur, you have unlimited potential. You wouldn’t be here, building your own business, if you didn’t. How will you use it to strengthen your creativity and services?

Get the full story from Todd here, where he discusses how he upsells his services, what you can do to feed your creativity, and the many benefits of creative ADHD.

You can connect with Todd online and on social media here:



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Emily Finlay
Emily Finlay
Emily Finlay is a freelance copywriter who thrives working with a great team and moonlights as an amateur home baker. Throughout her career, she’s had the pleasure of working with clients of all sizes, from local businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Aunt to eight nieces and nephews, she loves freelancing for the time it allows her to spend with her family and friends. When she’s not puzzling over the perfect word, she enjoys taking long walks, geeking out over her many interests, and trying new decorating techniques for cakes and cookies.
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