Yesterday, I was meeting with my friend who is a freelancer, and he mentioned how great and professional he thought of my proposal for our next upcoming project was. Hell yeah, I didn’t see anything to it…it’s just my standard proposal outline of what I’m going to do for our project. Then, I started brainstorming and investigating what made it ‘great & professional.’ All the terms outlined, what I was going to do and when (basically a timeline), what the client was responsible for, what the project consisted of, even an expiration date for the estimate. Most importantly, do not forget terms and condition (TOS) in order to protect our-self from any upcoming issues for both parties.
And then it hit me….what made my proposal look professional to him was how everything was thoroughly communicated and properly aligned as a strong converted story. The proposal was laid out in specific detail with no room for misinterpretation. And that got me to thinking about how important communication is for a freelancer.
Communication, Communication, Communication
In real estate, the mantra is “location, location, location,” but in freelancing job, it’s all about communication, communication, communication. To have a successful project, you need to be able to:
- Manage both expectations (yours AND the client’s)
- Gather project details accurately and well specifics
- Detail your payment terms, project scope and deliverable
- Detail how and when the final project will be delivered (timeline)
- Detail out agreement terms in detail and crystal clear
- Follow up after the project for any additional work or references
Why Clients Appreciate Communication
One of the most frequent comments I heard upon gaining a new client is that the person they USED to hire would disappear for weeks at a time, not even single reply to their emails or take days to make a simple type of change. Eventually the client gets frustrated and finds someone else (like me!) to take over the project. Hence, you should clear out their frustration by taking projects seriously in better communication skills.
Basically, clients aren’t difficult to manage…they just want to be talked to and to be kept in the loop while working with them. If you’re slammed with work and can’t get to a project or edit they need to be done, that’s fine as long as you let them know what your situation is and a projected start date for their updates. Sitting quite and getting to it when you’re able keeps the client wondering why you’re not doing what they asked. All the client wants is a little communication from you as freelancer.
5 Killer Ways to Communicate Effectively
Here are 5 killer ways that you can stay in contact with your client:
- In Emails–Be specific and clear. Re-read your emails before clicking ‘Send.’ Substitute words like “it” and “this” with words like “the proposal” or “our launch date” so everyone is clear on what you’re discussing. If the client keeps replying with questions to your emails, you’re not communicating effectively.
- Project questionnaire–Create a project questionnaire to gather more information from the client. This project questionnaire is effective in two ways. First, you will have all their info in writing for reference later and re-targeting marketing. And second, you’re able to get all the information you need to start on their project. Also, ask in the questionnaire what THEIR preferred method of communication is and then use it. Check my contact page for quick questionnaire.
- Email auto responder–Going out of country? Let your clients know in advance (I usually give at least a week’s notice). When you leave, set your auto responder with the dates you’re gone, whether or not you’ll have access to email and client files, and when they can expect to hear back from you. This also helps if a potentially new client emails you while you’re out of town.
- In your proposal/estimate–Set your deliverables timeline. Denote what the client is responsible for (ie–who provides the content and images), in what order you’ll need to receive info, when payments are due, what items are outside the scope of the project and how they are handled, and what your payment terms are. That way, if there are any bumps in the road, you and your client can refer to the proposal to clear up any missteps. I’ve found that using bulleted or numbered lists makes things easier for the client to read and digest.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your client questions–Some people are afraid to ask questions for fear of looking dumb and unknowledgable. But in fact, it’s just the opposite. Asking about details that may arise during the course of the projects makes clients appreciate your attention to detail. So, ask away! Just try to keep the questions contained to an email or two instead of sending question after question individually to the client.
Once you’ve started using these tips to communicate effectively, I’m betting you’ll notice happier clients and easier project flow.
Now that you’re read these top five killer ways to communicate effectively with your clients, what other methods have you used to get keep your project on track? Let me know in the comments.