At the Freelance Jungle, there are a lot of freelance communication horror stories between clients and freelancers. It’s important to understand the client side and the freelancer’s perspective to bridge the gaps. Setting the scene so that both sides are talking the same language is one of the things we aim to do.
Now freelancers are under a lot of pressure. We often manage multiple clients, take a bucket load of emails and enquiries and often have trouble keeping up with the situation. But there are things you can do to make your life simpler.
Here are 6 simple freelance communication hacks that can make your life so much simpler
Answer the question directly
This may sound like a given, but it’s not. A lot of freelance communication misses the point. If a client asks you if you can make an important or do a piece of work, this should be your focus. They don’t have the time for fluffy answers and explanations.
Make sure you answer clearly. So clearly in fact there is no doubt.
Answer the big ask with a yes or a no. Then proceed with the explanation if necessary.
If necessary. Got it?
You may have to pick up a stuffed giraffe for your kid’s birthday party, run a Zoom workshop and meet an email deadline all before morning tea. But your client doesn’t need to know this. They don’t need any form of justification.
If you can’t make the meeting, say you can’t make the meeting and suggest a time. And cap your alternatives. They don’t need a download of your diary. They need 3 reasonable choices.
Yep, that simple.
Keep it short and sweet
You know those wonderful two-page emails that are so fashionable from the latest business guru when you subscribe to your mailing list? Your clients don’t want that in response to simple questions or a business engagement. They are probably well past the sales pitch stage. They want to understand your capabilities.
It might be cool to have an auto return that outlines process and times you usually check email, but it doesn’t need to be your life story complete with download unless you are dealing with freelancers as clients.
Five lines an email is the psychological happy point for project management. I know, right? 5 freaking lines.
Below five lines sounds rude and abrupt.
Longer than 5 starts getting into the territory where communication can go wrong. You don’t need to over explain things when using general project management communication.
Prepare longer answers ahead of time
You may need to sell the same service repeatedly. You might have to explain processes. So, map them out and have them in template form so you can do so quickly, easily and without error.
Think about your top 3 to 5 offerings and write out a response for each. Include links to your website. Have a section at the bottom for proposing a time to talk on Skype.
That way, you always answer new queries quickly and with the required information without it being a huge problem.
Communicate what you need
Your client may be completely clueless, or they could have experience pouring out of their neck. It doesn’t matter either way because it’s up to you to set the boundaries. That means you must ensure you are the one running the show. The ownership of good freelance communication lies with you. Servicing a client is vastly different from client servitude.
Taking the reins of client to freelancer communication involves:
- Having a terms and conditions that is read and agreed to. Include a line on every invoice that states payment is an acknowledgement that those terms have been agreed to
- Outlining your process in a proposal. Quotes are good for small projects, but proposals give you the ability to outline your process and include those and terms and conditions
- Being clear in your email conversations. Never leave things up to assumption. And if you do agree to something face to face or on the phone, send an email that says, “as discussed” that outlines what you’ve agreed to, so you have a record of it and to remove any misunderstanding
- Never assuming. It’s always better to ask a question than to try and make do and get it wrong. It’s a waste of the client’s time and your own
- Affirming your boundaries. If payment is late and in breach of the terms, chase the money. If the revisions are capped at 3 and you’re up to 5, put a stop to it
- Losing the notion that there is such a thing as common sense. There’s no baseline of etiquette or a notion of good practise that we all share. It’s a matter of creating one you both agree on
Don’t invite trouble into your client to freelance communication
Some clients really are going to take the piss. They will run you ragged. They may be clueless. But they may also simply need to know what to do. They may benefit from seeing you are strong and good at setting boundaries. It’ll garner you more respect than if you passively take what you are given or spend your time being lead by the nose.
It’s not about being hard or strict. It’s about looking your client in the eye and shaking their hand as an equal that respects a project with healthy boundaries.