Managing client communication as a freelance effectively is a crucial skill we should always be looking to improve on. Not only does it make our lives easier, but it also helps to turn first-time clients into repeat clients.
Today we’re going to look at how to communicate with clients as freelancers so that you can get your business running more efficiently than ever.
Why Is Client Communication Important for Freelancers?
As a freelancer, if you don’t have clients, then you don’t have a business.
The key to retaining or onboarding new clients is effective communication. Here are just a few of the ways that having a robust client communication plan can help ;
Effective Client Communication Sets Expectations
The key thing that comes from effective client communication is setting expectations. Having everyone’s expectations, both the clients and yours, set out at the beginning of the project allows for better time management and space to have constructive conversations if something isn’t going the way it was planned.
Effective Client Communication Builds Relationships
If you have a good rapport with a client, it can be much easier to solve any issues that arise without losing trust in the relationship. If a client trusts you, then they are more likely to stay with you long-term.
Effective Client Communication Prevents Inbox Clutter and Unnecessary Meetings
I’m sure we’ve all experienced one of those ‘this could have been an email’ meetings? Effective communication at the start of a project to make sure that everything is appropriately outlined and understood by both sides means less time wasted on back-and-forth emails and unneeded meetings.
Effective Client Communication Keeps Timelines on Track
There’s nothing worse than working out a fee for a client based on how long a project should take and then being plagued by delays that end up extending the deadline and reducing your overall hourly rate.
Making sure that your timelines are in sync with your clients means that you can discuss any delays that might arise and work out ways to keep a project on track or even negotiate an additional fee if you have to work around a delay caused by the client.
7 Ways To Improve Client Communication as a Freelancer
1. Keep It Professional
Think of the freelance/client relationship the same as you would a typical boss/employee relationship. Most of us have friendly interactions with our workplace bosses, but it’s not on the same friendship level as interactions with our co-workers are. Clients are essentially your boss when it comes down to it; they are paying you for your time and work, so while it’s good to be friendly and offer the obligatory ‘hope you are well’ line in an email, you don’t want to go much past that.
Getting overly friendly with a client and losing that level of professionalism can end up blurring the lines of communication, making it harder to resolve any issues or queries.
Before sending an email, pause and re-read it – does it sound like something you’d send to your boss or your coworker? Edit where necessary and then hit send.
2. Explain How You Work
Explaining to a client how you approach and work through a project helps to eliminate frustrations that could arise from them not knowing where you are up to on the project timeline.
A really good way to get this across or display it to a client is by having a shared Project Management board (such as Asana or Trello) that gives them an interactive visual of the breakdown of works for the project.
3. Learn To Introduce Yourself to Clients
That first call with a client sets a precedent for the rest of your interactions, so it’s essential to get it right. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to just list off your name, job title, and where you work when asked to introduce yourself, but that’s not what we want for a client introduction.
You’ve already got to the stage where they are interested in talking with you, so they know what you do and where you’re from. When you introduce yourself to a potential client, you want to frame it in a way that means they hear what they are looking for; here’s an example:
‘Hi, I’m Charlotte, and I’m a freelance content writer for Musha Media.’
Client Introduction (Client is looking for a content writer who can help their Finance startup gain traction on Goole)
‘Hi, I’m Charlotte, and I’m an SEO content writer specializing in work for the Fintech industry.’
This can take a bit of getting used to, but if you prepare an introduction like this part of your potential client research, it’ll become second nature in no time.
4. Ask These First Client Meeting Questions
Your first meeting with a client is just as much for you as it is for them. They are interviewing you to see if you are a good fit for their project, but you also need to be happy that their project is a good fit for your work ethos.
To make sure that it’s a worthwhile collaboration for everyone, remember to ask the following questions:
- What is the purpose of the project? First, you need to get an understanding of what the client’s broader goals are. While they might be asking you to complete a standalone project, if it’s part of a wider company goal, you want to ensure that you can provide them with work that will feed into and support that wider plan. If you show a good understanding of what they are trying to achieve overall and produce good work for your first project, then chances are they will hire you for more.
- What services are you looking for? If this is a large project, they might not be looking for you to handle it all and instead are looking to hire people for certain areas of the project. Likewise, the project they are proposing might be more significant than you are used to handling or cover areas that are slightly outside your skillset. Clarify what services they are looking to hire you for.
- What is the timescale for this project? There’s no point committing to something if it has a timescale that you know will be impossible to meet. (Likewise, it’s not sensible to ask for a timescale and say you can get it done more quickly for them in the hopes of landing the project over someone else). Making sure that expectations are realistic from both sides will ensure a much smoother relationship.
- What’s the budget for this project? All businesses go into a project with a budget in mind, it might be a set number or a range, but there will always be a set of numbers. By asking for the budget from their side, it allows you to make an informed decision as to how you can best tackle the project for them when it comes to writing a proposal.
5. Create a Freelance Proposal That Wins Clients
Writing a strong proposal helps you land clients and sets out all the expectations for the project in black and white. The more detailed and communicated in a proposal, the less chance there is of friction throughout the project. In addition, if any queries or questions come up from the client’s side, it’s much easier to refer them back to a solid document than a previous email chain.
6. Get Comfortable Talking to Clients About Money
Being comfortable talking about money with clients is a big hurdle when you first become a freelancer, but no one expects you to work for free, so it’s not something to be shy about. Whoever starts the conversation about fees and money has more control over the end result, so it’s good to get confident about discussing as early in the conversation as possible. If a client can’t afford your proposal, you can always potentially negotiate a different scope of work that fits their budget while sticking to your hourly/daily rate.
7. Learn How To Manage Scope Creep
Scope creep is when a client tries to add tasks or extra work to a project that was not originally agreed upon. Whether a client does this intentionally or unintentionally, it’s essential to address it quickly and swiftly.
If you’ve asked the right questions early on and have provided a proposal outlining the scope of work agreed upon (noting that anything outside of that agreement is additional work and will be invoiced as such), then it’s a simple case of replying to any request for extra work stating that since that task is outside of the remit of the original project, would like you to quote separately for it or to invoice at your standard hourly rate.
3 Effective Client Communication Examples
It’s all very well us telling you why and how to improve client communication, but it’s still not the easiest to know precisely how to address these issues. So here are a few examples of good communication between a freelancer and a client to resolve some of the problems that are hardest to tackle.
1. How To Ask the Right Questions in Your First Meeting
We’re doing this not only to find out about the scope of the current project but also to see if there is potential for us to turn them into longer-term clients and maybe work for them more in the future.
Freelancer: “What is the overall aim you hope to achieve from this project, and does it feed into any wider goals you have for your company.”
Client: “This project is designed to help give us more visibility to our key audience and become a well-known name in our niche. The overall goal is for our company to launch its own app, so by building brand awareness, we’re hoping to grow hype over our eventual app release.”
The client has now given us a clear view of what they want to achieve from this project and what their company is aiming for overall. They now know that you are interested in ensuring that your work is as helpful as possible to them for this project and in the future, and may even consider you for future projects as they work towards that overall goal for their company.
Example 2. How To Ask For More Time for a Deliverable
Missing a deadline on a project can end up costing you a client. If you foresee an issue with an upcoming deadline, it’s important to address it as soon as possible so that you can manage client expectations and come up with a solution that works for everyone.
Freelancer: “This task/part of the project requires more research/is more complex than I originally anticipated and means the remaining work needed to complete the project will extend beyond our current projected deadline by x amount of days.”
Client: “Not a problem; thank you for the pre-warning. That new end date still works fine for us. Please keep us updated with your progress on the remainder of the project.”
While the client may be disappointed that the project will overrun, by giving them as much notice as possible and a new workable deadline, it gives them a full picture of where the project stands and allows them to give an objective response.
Example 3. How To Ask for Money Politely From Clients
There’s nothing we hate more as freelancers than waiting to be paid on an overdue invoice. But what’s sometimes worse than not having the money in your bank can be the awkward conversation you need to have to remind a client that the invoice needs paying.
The key is to keep the conversation professional and to the point.
Freelancer: “My records show that I’ve yet to receive payment for Invoice 123 to the sum of $xxxx, sent on X date. It is one week overdue on payment. Please find a copy of the original invoice, including payment method details for your convenience.
Please let me know if you have any issues making this payment.”
Client: “My apologies; I had passed it over to the accounts team to be paid and assumed it had been. I’ve just chased up directly with them now, and they confirm it will be paid by 5 pm today”
Being polite and professional around difficult conversations is the best way to maintain a good relationship with the client. Unfortunately, often when it comes to late payment of invoices, it’s because of a breakdown of communication internally on the client’s end.
Bonus Tip: If You’re Unsure, Create a Client Communication Plan
Failing to plan is planning to fail, and none of us want that, do we! If you’re still a bit unsure of your client communication skills, make it easy for yourself by creating a client communication plan.
A client communication plan is something you can set up as a generic template that you then adapt to suit each client you work with.
What To Include in a Client Communication Plan
If you are sharing a communication plan directly with the client, it’s important to include how often you will be giving regular updates and who to, along with confirmation of who can be contacted for specific tasks/issues.
- Weekly email updates to be sent on Friday mornings to the Marketing Manager and copying in the CEO and Social Media Team detailing work completed that week and where we are in the project roadmap.
- Invoices will be submitted once a month to email@example.com
- Questions related to XYZ products will be relayed to the products department on firstname.lastname@example.org
This plan/document is designed to help you manage your client’s communication expectations and also make it so you have the correct contact information of any key people you may need to get in touch with to avoid any delays to the project.
The Bottom Line on How To Communicate With Clients as a Freelancer
Building up your client communication skills can be one of the best things you do for your business as a freelancer. Not only does it make your day-to-day work life and project management easier, but it also helps to establish an excellent professional rapport with your clients, which can lead to long-term working relationships.
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