As a business coach for more than 25 years, I have worked with companies from a variety of different industries. And each one with its own unique challenges. One that I see in the service business quite often is the phantom deliverable dilemma. So today, I wanted to go over how to get crystal clear on your businesses deliverables and how to avoid over- promising and over-delivering.

How to Define Your Deliverables

On the surface, this seems pretty simple. "David, I am a graphic designer. So, I design things for my clients." Sounds pretty straightforward, but in reality you may end up doing graphic design, editing, and maybe even writing copy. None of it was explicitly promised, but if you aren't careful, it's a slippery slope.

Begin by starting off with a written list of deliverables from the client's view -- what have you promised them? What results have you promised them? Next move to define all the key internal results/output you have to produce to meet on your client promises.

A few examples would look like this:

  • Completed tax return:

    • Get client financials

    • Have client sign engagement letter

    • Set up client billing

    • Prepare tax returns

    • Submit tax returns to proper department

  • Business brochure design:

    • Get sales copy from client

    • Get any photos/graphics that they would like to use 

    • Get general layout/idea from client of what they envision for project

    • Create three variations, client to pick one 

    • Three edits to dial in on design

    • Prepare file for print and email

Once you have it written out, putting together your scope of work for your client and contracts will be much easier and straight forward. 

Phantom Deliverables

Before you fire off that contract, take some time to think about what the client might "expect" you to include in your list of deliverables. Most business owners have a laundry list of items that creeped into past projects that they can use here.

If you are working on a tax return for example: Will you do research to find the clients EIN if they don't have it on hand? Will you help them track down and organize their financials? Will you help them reconcile their books for the last quarter to do their return properly? These are all things that your client may ask and if you aren't careful you may end up doing a lot more work than originally planned.

If you are a graphic designer, will you edit their copy for them? Will you create filler copy if they don't have enough to fit the page count? Will you take photos of their product for their brochure? All things that could come up on a project if you aren't careful.

Use Phantom Deliverables as an Opportunity to Upsell

Outlining your deliverables and identifying your phantom deliverables doesn't mean that you will never have to chase down an EIN or take product photos for a brochure. What it does is put you in the driver seat. It allows you to clearly define what the customer gets for a set price and allows you to upsell and charge for the additional tasks that they may need to get the project to the finish line.