Communication is essential in every facet of life, and this is especially true when it comes to handling your clients as a freelancer. In fact, good client communication is one of the biggest keys (if not the biggest key) to successfully realizing the goals of your projects and building a positive reputation for yourself in your industry.
If you’re a freelancer, the quality of your work and the reputation you’ll gain for your performance are both entirely in your hands.
You can convey to your clients that you’re confident in your abilities and in control of any project you’re working on by adhering to their requirements and communicating with them at every step of the way.
Clear client communication minimizes the risks of misunderstandings, errors and delays, while setting your clients’ minds at ease by helping to instill trust in you and your services. Here’s what you need to know about good client communication, and why it’s so important, particularly with freelance projects.
Here’s Why Client Communication is Important
There are dozens of reasons why clearly communicating with your clients is essential to completing high quality projects that meet their expectations. Proper client communication:
- Ensures a smooth and easy process from start to finish, free of miscommunication, frustration, and unnecessary delays.
- Allows you to present yourself as a knowledgeable professional who has a handle on the tasks you choose to take on.
- Helps you to manage your clients’ expectations of you and to meet them wherever possible.
- Sets the pace and tone for the project at hand.
- Allows you to suggest viable alternatives to parts of their planned project that may not produce the desired outcome.
- Gives you a reputation for being upfront, honest and transparent about your abilities, prices, work ethic, and professional boundaries.
- Allows you to effectively communicate project goals and KPI’s to any outsourced team members or VA’s (Virtual Assistants).
- Enables you to gauge your clients’ needs and requirements accurately and to handle them with empathy and diplomacy.
- Gives you a chance to spot red flags and politely turn down customers that might be overly controlling during the realization of their project.
- Allows you to find out exactly when, and how frequently your clients would like you to contact them with updates about a project.
- Facilitates friendly, pleasant and comfortable interactions and a strong working relationship between yourself and your clients.
It’s common knowledge among freelancers that it’s significantly easier to retain and work with existing clients than it is to generate new ones. Proper client communication will help you retain your clients, encourage them to build realistic expectations of your skills and abilities, and keep them satisfied with your work.
Inadequate communication could unfortunately drive your clients away and leave your business back at square one.
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10 Tips for Successful Client Communication
1. Develop a Client Onboarding Protocol
You can set your clients’ expectations early in your projects and ensure that all parties involved have clearly defined goals and expectations by creating a client onboarding process for your freelance business.
Developing a client welcome packet is a great way to ensure that the experience your clients receive is consistent, predictable and reliable, no matter the project at hand. This is a great way to welcome clients to your portfolio while giving them a chance to explore your process at their own pace.
Handing over a welcome packet will clear up any common questions that your clients may have, but may not have had the time or knowledge to ask you during your initial project consultation.
2. Stay Transparent at Every Level
Transparency is the key to maintaining good client communication practices and building trust between yourself and your clients. You should remain honest and transparent at every step of the projects you work on, from providing pricing guides to supplying your clients with working timelines and delivery dates.
Be honest about potential delays and communicate directly with your client when you need additional time or resources to complete a job.
3. Communicate Often
Your clients will always appreciate an update from you, even if no major developments have arisen from your work just yet.
You can provide timely updates at regular intervals by letting your clients know that you are hard at work on their projects, and that you are on track to reach the next milestone or deadline as discussed. Experts recommend sending these updates once a week.
Promise to keep them updated in the future, and as always, be sure to let them know immediately about any issues or delays you encounter as well.
4. Use Approachable Language
It’s best to avoid high-powered legal or industry jargon when keeping in touch with your clients.
Use plain, professional language instead, and welcome any questions they may have about your process or correspondences. You should make a point of predicting and answering your clients’ questions preemptively where possible.
After meetings with your clients, send them a message summarizing what you discussed and supplying valuable information about the next phase of your project.
Tell them exactly how you plan to proceed and give them the opportunity to request changes to the plans you discussed with them previously within reason.
5. Stay Professional, But Relatable
There are very few people who appreciate cold, robotic interactions. Of course, you need to remain professional at all times when handling your customers, but work to ensure that they feel comfortable interacting with you.
Establish a respectful human connection with them and you will be better able to forge and maintain a mutually beneficial working relationship.
6. Remain True to Your Mission and Personal Working Style
Your mission as a freelancer should be clear in everything you do, and that goes for client communication as well. Your written correspondence with your clients should include essential phrases and terms that reflect your personal work style and ethos.
Consider using terms like “advanced”, “personalized”, “trustworthy” and “cutting edge” in your communications to convey your best qualities and capabilities.
7. Use the Right Communication Mediums
Some communication channels are better suited to specific situations than others. You will need to consider how best to deliver news and updates to your clients. Some popular communication methods include email, instant message, phone call, text, personal letter and fax.
The trick to choosing the right communication channel usually lies in your client’s individual preferences. Some clients might prefer a quick update in the form of a WhatsApp message, while others would appreciate a more professional medium such as email.
If you aren’t sure which channels your clients would be most comfortable with, don’t hesitate to ask them when and how they would like you to get in touch. This shows that you want to connect with them in a way that they’re most comfortable with too.
8. Create Personalized Contact Schedules
Speaking of maintaining contact with clients, you can take more steps to ensure that you communicate effectively and regularly with them by creating a contact schedule with their input.
Sit down with each of your clients and ask them how often they’d like updates and progress reports, which times of day suit them best, and the preferred methods of communication, as mentioned above.
You may need to step out of your comfort zone to meet their needs if they would like phone calls on a weekly basis, and you prefer to correspond via instant message. But on the plus side, this could help you grow your interpersonal communication skills and become a more accommodating freelancer.
9. Let Your Clients Take the Lead
You might be the expert in this scenario, but your clients are paying you to complete a task according to their specifications. This means that you need to be conscious of how you communicate your expertise, and how controlling you are over the projects you take on. If you’re too pushy or assertive, you might risk driving your valued customers away.
Be present and attentive during communications, but let your clients take the reins for the most part. Don’t interrupt when they’re speaking and allow them to give you a clear idea of what they expect from your working relationship.
Ask questions if you feel there is anything they’ve mentioned that you would like clarity on.
10. Keep Track of Your Performance
If you set any goals or expectations in terms of communications, it’s crucial that you stick to them. If you have a virtual assistant, provide them with feedback and let them know how they can improve their performance.
If you’re the one communicating with clients, assess your own strategies and be honest about the areas you need to address to perfect your communication strategies.
How to Improve Your Client Communication
If you’re struggling to optimize your client communication approach, your first step to resolving this issue should be to diagnose the problems you’re having.
Is your communication process hindering clear communication?
Are the communication channels you have chosen less optimal than you thought they would be?
Are the clients you are working with difficult to communicate with?
Figuring out what’s hindering your ability to communicate clearly will allow you to develop strategies to improve your approach.
Dealing with Challenging Clients
If you suspect your clients are the source of your challenges, it’s a good idea to weed out potentially incompatible clients from the get-go. This guide will help you spot red flags and find clients you can work with on a more harmonious level.
The truth of the matter is that clients who aren’t willing to follow your process aren’t likely to feel satisfied with the end result of your efforts. You might encounter regular disagreements with them during your project, and in many cases, you might not agree on a path forward at all. In these cases, it’s best to turn these clients down respectfully altogether.
Maintain firm boundaries and clear communication from day one with every client you work with. Clarify that you will not compromise on your process, and that you have the expertise necessary to complete the task satisfactorily.
You’re the expert, not them!
If you let a client dictate the flow of your process and control you from the start of a project, this trend will only be exacerbated as time wears on.
Practice Active Listening
Once you’ve selected the right clients, you need to listen actively to their requirements to produce work that makes the grade. Anyone who communicates with clients needs to remain focused on the conversations and take notes if necessary.
You need to be completely involved in client-professional discussions to communicate effectively and understand what they expect of you. This will go a long way in ensuring that your client feels respected and valued during your interactions.
Taking notes during your initial meetings is a great way to create a clear and accurate picture of what your client wants you to achieve.
Remain Consistent at All Times
Consistency is an unspoken golden rule of effective communication.
Your first communication with a client establishes the tone of the professional relationship and sets future expectations for both parties involved.
Keep all future communications aligned with your original tone so that your clients do not feel confused or misled by your correspondence. You should maintain a regular communication schedule.
If you started out updating your client on their project once a week, maintain that update frequency throughout the duration of the project. They should be comfortable with the amount of information you offer them about the task’s progress.
Be Polite and Professional
This may go without saying, but it’s essential to use good manners and etiquette when dealing with your clients. Basic courtesies like saying “please”, “thank you” and “kind regards” in your client communication will work wonders with keeping your professional relationship amicable.
Keep client communications between business hours (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday) unless they state otherwise.
If your clients reside in different time zones, check the time in their location and ensure that it’s an appropriate time to contact them before doing so. Nobody appreciates a 3am wake up call, even if it’s by a well-meaning freelancer who’s looking to provide feedback.
Don’t Make Assumptions
You should never hesitate to ask your clients questions about their requirements when you feel you need to. Even if the answers might seem obvious.
Always check and double-check what the client is asking you to do before you steam ahead. You might have different ideas of expectations and what’s required. This helps to eliminate the possibility of misunderstandings and frustrating project delays.
Likewise, you need to answer every question your client asks you, no matter how minor. Be sure to ask them if you have answered their questions adequately and give them a chance to clarify any answers that they are unsure of.
Make professional suggestions about alternative approaches to what the client is suggesting if you feel they may produce better results in line with their demands.
Never Leave Your Clients Hanging
No-one enjoys being ghosted, but when it comes to dealing with clients, not responding is a grievous professional faux pas. Follow up with your clients as soon as you can, and answer their questions concisely, respectfully and in detail.
Doing this will let them know you are prioritizing their project, and that you can follow through. Report back frequently on the status of a job so that everyone remains on the same page and make assurances rather than firm promises unless you are sure that you can deliver.
Ask Your Clients for Feedback
If you’re still uncertain about the efficacy of your client communication approach, why not ask your clients what they think?
They might have valuable feedback to offer, and may provide useful recommendations on how you can improve your communication style or frequency.
It’s a good idea to ask your clients to review added features as soon as they are implemented. Tell them exactly where to find the new work, and how they can test or evaluate it.
This will make it easy for the client to find and understand what they need to review, and gives your future work with them a clearer direction as well.
Hold The Keys To Unlocking Success
Transparency, trust and openness are the keys to successful client communication.
As a freelancer, you need to work on perfecting your speaking and listening skills, understanding the ins and outs of handling your customers, and clearly communicating your work process. By doing this, you will keep your clients satisfied and meet their expectations of your services.
Every customer and every project is unique. So, it’s recommended that you tailor your approach according to the preferences and intricacies of each task and client that you handle.
Communicating honestly and frequently can work wonders for your business. It will help you to retain high-paying clients and attract new ones through referrals and a fantastic industry reputation.
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