All clients come to the table with a set of unspoken expectations, some of which they may not even be aware of. Because these assumptions will inform every decision they make, it's important to bring them into the open and prioritize them early on. This will help you decide whether you and the clients are a good fit — and it will make the job go more smoothly later on.

One of the most useful tools I have found for clarifying expectations is what I call the "priority triangle": quality, schedule, and cost. I want to make sure the clients understand that every decision will require prioritizing these three elements, and that they'll usually be able to control only two of them. Do they really want...

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