NASE Blogs

Communicating with Clients Effectively as a Freelancer

Jun 22, 2020

Modern freelancing has existed for decades now and has only improved as technology has evolved. As business applications have increasingly taken advantage of the power of the internet, it’s become possible to forge an independent, unique career as a contractor, whether you’re writing, walking dogs, or anything in between.

However, while the ability to freelance has only increased, it hasn’t made the work itself any easier. On the contrary, as the gig economy has grown hand over fist — in 2018, over a third of the U.S. workforce worked in the gig economy — it’s naturally put pressure on an ever-growing crowd of freelancers. Suddenly mastering the freelance work style and providing the best end product or service isn’t enough. You need to demonstrate that you’re the most professional candidate to work with as well.

Why Communication Matters for a Freelancer
A huge aspect of “being the best” professional revolves around communication.

The majority of the freelance world (and really the entire business sector at this point) depends on remote communication. Emails, texts, Slack, video chats, basically the bulk of the channels that keep the freelance world moving forward all depend on steady, honest, and open virtual communication.

This ability to communicate well allows you to find clients, cultivate client relationships, receive and deliver assignments, and even terminate relationships when necessary.

Tips for Effectively Communicating with Clients
With so much of your success hinging on your ability to communicate, it’s important that you go into your freelance conversations with a plan in place. With that said, here are several tips to help round out your “communication toolbelt.”

Communicate with a Strategy
While each conversation will be different, it’s wise to create a general communication strategy to fall back on when you need guidance. It should include basic things like how often you will reach out to a client, how to handle parting ways, and even how your tone can and should shift depending on whom you’re talking to.

You can even have different communication strategies for various scenarios. For instance, one strategy can be to promote awareness and can focus on how you initially communicate with a potential client from the first point of contact through your onboarding process.

A strategy to promote understanding can be used when informing or being informed by a client. This could take place when you’re trying to learn how a client wants you to write for their particular publication. A strategy to promote action can provide you with a communication blueprint for when the rubber hits the road and decisions are actively being made. For instance, if you need to get access to a document outline that has restricted access, you should use a communication strategy that respectfully yet concisely requests access to the required document.

Communicate Often But Not Unreasonably
Frequency is a critical aspect of proper communication. Freelancer/client communication is notoriously inefficient. If you disappear for days or weeks at a time without a word of warning, you will find it very difficult to retain clients. Remember to always maintain that line of communication, even if you’re simply letting a client know that you’ll be gone for a period of time on personal business.

In the same vein, it’s important that you don’t overcommunicate either. If you flood a client’s inbox with constant questions and notifications, you may come across as high-maintenance and even more work than you’re worth. Make sure to consider why you’re sending each and every message. Is there a genuine purpose being served? Do you have to send it now or can it be included in a message later?

Communicate with Client-Prefered Tools
If you like to use Zoom and a client prefers Skype, don’t push your preferred method of communication on the client. Remember that you’re integrating yourself into their system. If you upset the status quo, you may cause discomfort and even resentment.

Instead, adapt to whatever your clients prefer. Consider it an education as you round out your freelance tool kit with an ever-growing number of communication options that you can lean on in the future.

Communicate as a Peer
As a freelancer, you don’t work for anyone. Nor are you in charge of anyone. That isn’t meant to give you a chip on your shoulder or undermine your authority so much as to remind you that you’re working on an equal footing with your clients.

As such, always remember to invest yourself as a team player. This includes properly communicating with your clients on a peer to peer level. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions and ideas and be ready to gracefully accept rejection and constructive criticism.

Communicate Clearly
Finally, make sure that you always communicate with your clients clearly. This doesn’t just mean explaining yourself properly. It also means:
 - Using empathy, active listening, and interest when a client communicates with you.
 - Accepting feedback cheerfully.
Communicating expectations both before and throughout a project.
 - Sending text-written follow-ups after verbal or video communication.
 - Shifting your tone and perspective to cater to each and every client you talk to.
 - Properly and openly communicating when negotiations may not be working and you want to end a relationship.

Using Communication for Client Retention
No matter how good your product or service is, your freelancing career will atrophy if you can’t properly communicate with your clients. From maintaining expectations to avoiding overcommunication, make sure to hone your communication strategies as you go.

Most importantly, remember that communication isn’t just a natural side effect of your professional job, it’s literally the life-blood that keeps your freelance career alive. Treat it with respect and it will reward you with success.

Meet The Author:


lukesmith

Luke Smith

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger.
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Courtesy of NASE.org
https://www.nase.org/about-us/nase_blogs/self-made/2020/06/23/communicating-with-clients-effectively-as-a-freelancer