I want you to think about a time when you went to see a doctor (or other professional) who had a terrible bedside manner. Do you remember what a turn-off it was? Remember how you weren’t even thinking about how great his or her qualifications might be because you were so put off by their poor communication skills and irritated that they didn’t really listen to you?
Freelancing comes with its own sort of “bedside manner.” Even if you have design or dev skills to die for, without good communication, you’ll struggle. That’s why we’re going to talk about some of the different things you can do to have great communication with clients.
By communication, I’m referring to your whole client experience. That includes your method of communication, your tone, frequency, openness, and even your demeanor. It all contributes to creating a positive experience for your clients and prospects.
1. It’s OK to Have an Opinion
Your prospects and clients want you to have an opinion. In fact, they’re paying you for it! But having an opinion doesn’t mean cramming it down someone’s throat. You can be firm and opinionated while respecting the client’s input.
If you find yourself disagreeing with something they are proposing based on your experience, don’t dismiss them. Instead, take the time to explain and justify your opinion, then back it up with experience.
2. Establish Clear Expectations
Have you ever found yourself asking, “Where on earth did this relationship go so wrong?” Haha! I don’t know I’m laughing, but it’s probably because I’ve been in that boat.
Usually, you can trace the problem back to the very beginning of your relationship. Inevitably, someone failed to communicate a piece of information that was important.
If you think back to Day 2 where we touched on the importance of contracts, you’ll see an opportunity to outline clear expectations for both you and your client. I’m not suggesting that every little detail needs to be included in a contract, but if it’s materially important to either one of you, it ought to be in writing.
Deliverables, scope, timing, and payment schedule are all examples of things that shouldn’t be left to interpretation.
3. Keep Clients Up to Date
There are few things that frustrate clients more than radio silence. From their perspective, what could possibly be worse than not knowing the current status of their project or not being able to get in touch with their contractor? Especially if you’ve already taken some of their money.
Stay in regular communication with your clients and you automatically alleviate the majority of your problems.
Communicate your office hours. Set clear expectations of when (and how frequently) you will respond to clients. For instance, every Friday I’ll send you a status update via email and we can hop on a quick call to discuss. Or if you get an email that you can’t immediately provide an answer to, don’t set it aside. Respond with “Hey! I wanted you to know I got this. I’ll be back to you in 24 hours with a proper response…”
Oh, and a quick pro-tip about vacations: If you’ve got a vacation planned or something else that will take you out of the office, communicate that to your client well in advance so they know that you’re not available.
4. Keep ‘Em Happy
One of the easiest ways to improve communication with clients is to ask questions. Most people are inherently easy to please if you know what keeps them happy. Oftentimes it’s less complicated than you might imagine. A few small changes in how you’re doing things can mean the difference between a client who is pleased and one who is singing your praises. 🎶
Now I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. Some clients are impossible to keep happy. Or keeping them happy takes too much effort. In those situations, it might be best to gently end the relationship. There is nothing wrong with that.
5. Communication is a Two-Way Street
Good communication doesn’t just mean you’re a good talker. The other side of the coin says that you need to be equally good (if not better) at listening. In fact, one of the best ways to improve your communication skills is to become really good at listening. Not only will you learn more, but it also leaves clients feeling more valued.
Without belaboring my point, I think we’ve covered some solid ideas here that can help you to improve your client communication. Your skills as a freelancer and as a communicator are equally important. I might even go so far as to say that a decent freelancer with great communication skills can be more successful than an amazing freelancer with mediocre communication skills.
Which one are you?
Founder of the Fearless Freelancer®
P.S. If you could wave a magic wand and fix one aspect of your business TODAY, what would it be? Hit reply and tell me. 🙂