Good communication is important in every industry, but for freelance workers, good communication with your clients is essential. A freelancer with poor communications skills will find problems cropping up everywhere—problems finding work, problems understanding the briefs they’re given, even problems getting paid after a job well done.
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do to prevent this kind of disaster. Mastering client communication is easy in this day and age, when there’s a thousand ways to get in touch with employers and a thousand ways for them to find you. So let’s look at just a few of the ways you can make sure you’re doing all you can to ensure good client communication.
With all the technology involved in today’s working world, it’s sometimes easy to forget the basics of good communication. No matter what industry you’re freelancing in, all your clients need to be kept informed—especially the more difficult ones.
It’s easier to keep clients in the loop when your communications are well-written, consistent, and to the point. If a client prefers a particular method of communication, make sure that’s the one you use. Remember to ask questions if you need to, but don’t contact the client every hour of the day. A lot of the time, clients will have already sent a brief or information packet that will have the answers you’re looking for.
Keep everything organized—if a client asks for a particular piece of info or a specific update, you need to make sure you know how to get them that information. Delayed communication is bad communication, and a poorly organized project will make quick, efficient communication difficult.
These sorts of things are called “soft skills”. As a freelancer, you’ll have skills that are important to your specific industry, but soft skills are talents you’ll find useful no matter what field you work in. Whether you’re writing, designing, or coding, you need to make sure you’re practicing your soft skills to ensure good communication with clients.
In the previous tip, we mentioned that it’s important to use the method of communication that your client prefers using. This is pretty simple if you’re already familiar with the software they use, but problems can arise if they prefer to communicate via an app you’ve never seen or heard of.
The best way to prevent this is by familiarizing yourself with different communication methods. It’s great being able to handle yourself on Whatsapp or social media messengers, but if you need to use any level of video conferencing or attach large files to your messages, it might be best to look into software that specializes in these tasks.
You should also research different communications strategies, even if they aren’t from your industry. For instance, hotel communication strategies may be able to be reapplied to a lot of other businesses.
As well as researching communications methods you can use to speak with active clients, you should also look into how good communications can expand your network and get your name out into the world.
As you improve your talents and reputation as a freelancer, it’s a good idea to make yourself easily contactable. You might use social media or a mass emailing service for this, as a good emailing service can send personalized and customized messages to your target clients.
VoIP, if you’re unfamiliar, stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Essentially, VoIP software allows a user to make calls over the internet as opposed to a local phone service. It’s not a new technology, but during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote working, it rapidly became an essential tool for any business.
There’s lots of benefits to using VoIP, so many industries use it to communicate. As a freelancer, you’ll need to make sure you’re an expert with this kind of technology, because it’s something you’ll end up using frequently.
VoIP is device-neutral, so it can be used on any device. In the modern workplace, this means that you may be making just as many VoIP calls on a mobile device as you do on a desktop computer. As most applications have slight differences between their mobile and desktop versions, make sure you know your way around both before any important meetings.
Most workplaces tend towards video calls over VoIP these days, so make sure you are familiar with the camera hardware you’re using, too. Furthermore, a key aspect of VoIP is that it can be used anywhere you have an internet connection, so it’s fantastic for quick meetings while you’re on the go. Just make sure that you’re up to speed on secure video conferencing so there is no potential to leak sensitive client information.
Everything covered so far focuses on best practice when communicating with people and businesses that have already found and hired you. However, a smart freelance worker should be communicating even when they’re not at work.
Social media allows you to make a good first impression on potential clients before they contact you directly. To communicate effectively via social media, you need to make sure everything is up to date and looks polished. A well-kept LinkedIn profile will not only impress most clients, but if all your relevant skills are listed, it can communicate your credentials more effectively than a face-to-face interview.
When you master this type of passive communication, it can help immensely with getting referrals. As a freelancer, many people will check out your social media either before or after you complete work for them, so you need to make sure it communicates the right message. Even if someone passes over your profile for their project, they may refer you to someone else.
Much like the soft skills mentioned above, some freelancers can focus so much on their technical and industry knowledge that they’ll forget the little things. For many clients, these little things are essential. One of the most important is a professional appearance.
This doesn’t just extend to appearing professional in a physical sense, but that’s important too. If you have a lot of video meetings, you might want to look into improving your webcam lighting. There are obvious improvements you can make to your appearance (like making sure you’re well-dressed and well-groomed) but good video quality shows off a more technical side of your professionalism.
Aside from the physical, you should make sure that you appear as a professional in how you conduct your business, too. If you have to juggle a lot of different clients, look into trying a project management tool like Plutio.
If you make a lot of calls (audio or video) look into VoIP pricing. Using free versions of software is cost-effective, but you usually don’t need to pay too much to see a huge improvement in the quality of a product. The smoother your communications, the more professional you will appear.
There’s a lot more to talk about when it comes to the best ways to ensure good communication with your clients, but the tips provided here should be enough to start with.
Just remember: as a freelancer, good communication is at the core of everything you do. If you’re working hard to perfect your communication skills (and following the tips above), you’ll have more work, happier clients, and greater overall success.
Jessica Day is the Senior Director for Marketing Strategy at Dialpad, a modern cloud based phone system that takes every kind of conversation to the next level—turning conversations into opportunities. Jessica is an expert in collaborating with multifunctional teams to execute and optimize marketing efforts, for both company and client campaigns. Here is her LinkedIn.