Talk to Clients Like a Pro With These Communication Hacks
One common freelancing problem is communication with clients. How many times have you had to deal with unlimited revisions? Did you have a client underestimating your work because he or she thought it took you a few minutes?
Yeah, you’ll eventually meet a client from hell. However, if you’re constantly dealing with unrealistic expectations or unsatisfied clients, you may be lacking strong communication skills.
As freelancers, we’re obsessed with our particular craft. You’re an awesome developer or designer and you learned to manage your finances. With so many things going on we sometimes don’t find out how to communicate effectively with our clients.
Luckily, in this post you’ll learn a few techniques to improve your client relationships.
Get to know your client
It sounds simple, but it’s essential. You might think you’re delivering a good service, but do you know exactly what your clients do? What are their goals?
Understand their needs from the beginning and you’ll get a grateful client. It will decrease the amount of changes to the project because every decision you make is with their goals in mind.
It’s also helpful to learn the way they run their businesses. How do they handle communication? With small businesses you talk to the owner. Bigger companies usually implies a manager, an assistant and even more people.
Set together a contact person to centralize the feedback and when you’re looking for approval, contact the right group of people to avoid project delays.
Establish a personal connection with your client
Imagine this scenario. You can choose between two coffee shops, one next to the other.
In the first coffee shop, the barista’s name is Adam. You usually chat for a few minutes before he gives you your latte. He knows your favorite drink and makes suggestions about new beverages.
The other coffee shop is fine. They deliver your coffee to your table with a smile on their face. That’s it. Nothing memorable.
Let’s assume they both have similar prices, where do you prefer to buy? People don’t like talking with machines. Approach your clients and ask about their day, work or family. We usually appreciate when people try to connect with us. And we’re more willing to help them out when they need it.
Be careful, though. You don’t want to cross the fine line between caring and being intrusive. If your client doesn’t want to talk to you about their personal lives, don’t do it. Adjust to that depending on the case.
Some people are tech-savvy and some people are not. Your clients usually don’t want to know how you implemented a script to their website or how you changed their CSS file.
The only thing they want to know is if you fixed the bug or if you changed the arial font to an elegant cursive font.
Talk about the project process and the results in terms they understand. Explain the relevant facts about the project when necessary without trying to show off.
One way to reduce misunderstandings is to repeat what our clients say to verify if we understood what they wanted.
If you’re unclear about the project scope, ask them to amplify their point. And always get it in writing. If you talked over the phone, write them an email with your conversation summary asking them to confirm the information.
Don’t assume your client always knows everything. If he or she asks you for a change outside the project scope, communicate it before doing any changes and let them know about the extra fee.
Remember to include as much detail as possible to avoid surprises, which leads me to the following point.
Before starting a project make sure you both know what to expect from each other.
Imagine you have to develop an ecommerce website. Your need the product images, information about the company and the content. The website will go live January 1st, so it has to be ready by the first week of December in case you need to modify something.
You’re charging a flat fee. The price includes the template customization, uploading the image files, testing and setting everything. However, you don’t do copywriting or take photographs.
You include 4 revisions. This doesn’t mean your client can’t change your design after you started coding it. You’re willing to make smaller modifications like font size or color, outside the 4 revisions. You charge an extra fee for more revisions.
You break the project into phases: Draft, design, coding, customization, images and content, testing. Every phase has its own deadline. You’ll deliver the files after final payment.
See? There are many things to consider when talking about a project. It’s your job to communicate them all and ask your client questions about the process.
Don’t take criticism too personally
At some point you’ll face unhappy clients. They don’t like your design, they want you to eliminate everything you did or they don’t implement your recommendations. This can be minimized with great communication.
However, when this does happen, remember you’re running a business. Don’t get too emotional about it.
Always respond with a positive attitude and be willing to understand what went wrong. Keep these changes in mind to make better estimates in the future.
Respond promptly, but don’t be desperate
Clients appreciate a reliable freelancer. They like when you respond to their emails and provide solutions.
You want to be professional, but you still have a personal life. Don’t answer emails at 3 a.m., or accept demanding clients. Explaining how you handle communication filters out bad clients. Tell them your business hours and when they can expect a response from you.
Let them know when a stage of the project will take you one week. Don’t just disappear for one week until you have the tasks ready. That way they don’t have to wonder if you took their money or if you’re procrastinating.
Show your expertise
It’s your job to guide your clients. Find out what they want and use it in your proposed solution. They appreciate when you listen. They want results and if you know the best way to get them, they’ll appreciate you even more. Always explain how you got to your conclusion and answer their doubts.
Showing your expertise helps you to avoid micromanagers and low-paying clients. You’ll be hired because you’re the expert in the craft and you’ll attract the type of client who wants results.
Learn from your mistakes
Find your patterns:
- Do you feel your clients ignore you when you make suggestions?
- Do they boss you around like you’re an employee?
- Do you usually waste time doing a tenth revision?
With that in mind, which techniques could you use to improve your client relationships? A few small communication habits could make your life easier!
Do you have an awesome tip to talk to clients? Let us know how it works for you!
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