Ethical Marketing: What to Do If a Client Asks for Work Outside of Your Expertise

It’s impossible to be an expert in every marketing channel. If you’re a social media manager, you probably aren’t qualified to charge thousands of dollars to build a website. If you’ve spent your career as an SEO professional, you’re probably not the best option for managing a $20,000/month Facebook ad spend.

So when a client comes to you requesting work outside of your expertise – but something you could “probably figure out” – what should you do?

Ethical Marketing. What Are the Consequences of Committing to Work Outside of Your Expertise?

Really, if someone is offering you a fat paycheck to do something not technically within your abilities, what’s the worst thing that can happen if you say yes? After all, don’t the gurus tell us to “fake it until you make it”?

  • Lose Your Client’s Trust

Your client obviously trusts you if they are asking for you to do more, different work for them. But let’s face it, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to complete a new project outside of your expertise to the quality of a true expert – and your client is likely to notice substandard work. A single project gone wrong can erase months or years of rapport building.

  • Ask Yourself If It Aligns With Your Morals and Values

Morals and values are somewhat subjective, so it is impossible to say with any objectivity that taking on work you don’t know how to do is inherently “wrong”. However if you are faced with this sort of dilemma it’s important to question whether or not accepting would compromise your own morals, ethics, and business values.

Some people work only to receive a paycheck at the end of the month, but most marketers want to see their clients succeed and thrive. Your client can definitely do better for their money than paying your regular rate for work that don’t know how to do.

  • Make It Harder for Everyone in the Industry

Marketing as an industry has a reputation for snake oil. This is partially because a lot of people fundamentally do not understand what marketing entails, but also partially because many marketers over promise and under deliver. When you deliver poor quality results because you committed to work you didn’t know how to execute, it leaves a lasting impression on your client. The next time they engage with a marketer, they may come into the relationship with distrust, or undervalue the work because they have had negative results in the past.

Ethical Marketing. What Should I Do If My Client Wants Work I Don’t Know How to Do?

So if a client offers work that you don’t know how to do, what is the best thing to do?

Option 1:
Have an Open Dialogue About It With Your Client

Your client is not going to be mad – and in fact, may grow to trust you even more – if you are honest with them about your capabilities. Turning down projects that fall outside of your expertise shows them that you are working in their best interest.

Option 2:
Outsource It (Check Your Contract)

If you regularly utilize contractors to help you complete projects for this client, consider hiring someone who is an expert at this task. Your cut of the payment will be lower, but the work will be completed to a professional standard.

Option 3:
Build a Network of Professionals You Trust and Establish Referral Fees

Many contract and freelance marketing specialists will be happy to pay a referral fee for the business you send their way. This will help you maintain your trusting relationship with your client, allow them to get quality results from an expert, and you still get a little kickback.

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