4 Tips On How to Optimize Your Client Communication Before the Frustration Begins!

Have you ever found yourself constantly butting heads with your clients? I've personally gone through this, and it isn't pretty when neither my clients nor myself feel like they're getting through with one another. It just turns into a he-said-she-said shouting match (not that it's ever happened with me... sort of?)! Neither party is happy, and the situation can turn even more disastrous when things get nasty ie. withholding payments, communication cut-off, etc.!

I've been there; have you? Thankfully, over my years of freelancing, I've developed a set of pro tips that's worked for me with clients in optimizing the client communication process, which not only dramatically reduces the revision requests, but also successfully keeps my clients happy (and returning too!). Continue reading, take these tips to heart, and you can come a better freelancer.

The best way to avoid client conflicts is by getting off on the same page with them. I typically start off by asking them a number of guiding questions that gets the ball rolling.

Get Started On The Same Page With Your Clients!

High quality clients love good questions and these are the clients I love working with on repeat projects. Personally, I start my clients off by asking them to fill out an onboarding form, which kicks off the process on a great note because it shows that you are prepared and that you know exactly what you're doing.

Kick things off on the right foot by first finding out exactly what they are looking for, and answer any questions that you or the client may have to ensure that both of you are always on the same page. 

Here are some great guiding questions that I typically ask my clients at the very beginning:

  • What are your goals for your project?
  • Do you want to double your sales, get more leads or hire new employees?
  • What does "success" mean for you and your project?
  • What kind of resources do you currently have available?

Whatever their project is, you need to cater your strategy to specifically target that. Also, it's important to be aware of their vision as well.

  • What is your end vision for the project?
  • Do you have any benchmarks for your project that you'd like our design to be consistent with?
  • Do you have a branding package for your company?
  • If you were to describe your brand in 3-5 words, what would they be?
  • What are you expecting at the end of the day?
  • When do you expect the project to be completed?

All of this information is very important when it comes to managing both you and your clients' expectation! As one says (maybe just me), "A happy client is an informed client!"

I use  Basecamp  to document all of my client notes, as well as use it to communicate with my clients.

Document Everything!

You know those questions and answers that you had back in #1? Make sure you write down all of the questions and answers somewhere, because this will definitely be important to refer back to when you are actually starting your design. Staying organized helps you not only save time; it also helps you save money in the future!

I personally use Basecamp to document all of my notes, as well as use it to communicate with my clients, because not only is it easier to share files and images with them, the software also keeps a paper trail of all communication. Basecamp makes it easy to go back and ensure that you didn't miss anything by mistake. This also makes you look much more professional than communicating through with just email.

Your job as the freelancer is not only about design, but to always think two steps ahead for the client so that you can take the stress off their shoulders. You're essentially their right-hand man!

Think 2 Steps Ahead So They Don't Have To

This is one of the biggest differences between an experienced freelancer vs not-so-experienced freelancer, and this is why the initial steps during the onboarding process are so important.

Don't forget - You are the expert when it comes to design. Did you identify potential problems that could've happened during the onboarding process? Perhaps you didn't have enough information for the poster you're designing? Lay it out for the client, so that he/she knows exactly what to do on his/her end in order for you to complete the design within the expected timeline (and so the process doesn't get delayed!).

A happy client is an informed client.  Make sure they know exactly what's going on by checking in with them at least once a week. Trust me - they'll love you!

Keep Them In The Loop!

As I said before, "A happy client is an informed client!". On average, I check in with my clients at least once a week to ensure that they know what's currently happening with their project. Here are two very common scenarios that I have come across with clients telling me stories about fellow freelancers whom they have worked with in the past, and vice versa:

From the client side:
My freelancer hasn't talked to me in weeks! I don't know what's happening with my project. What am I paying him/her for? He is just awful to work with.
Here is what's happening: The freelancer is focusing his work on the project, and while he/she may be making great progress, he/she is not updating the client on what has been completed and because of that, the client is left wondering what's happening with his project. This is very common with freelancers who only like to showcase their work after they consider it "perfect", and/or are introverts.

I get it: You could ask, "Why doesn't the client just reach out to the freelancer for an update?" Remember: You're the experienced freelancer here, and you're the one who is getting paid at the end of the day. Customer Service is key!

To the freelancer: Talk to them! They deserve to know what's happening. Even if nothing has been started, just a simple, "Do you have anything else that you would like to add on to the project?" is helpful.

From the freelancer side:
Oh no! I have way too much on my plate at the moment and cannot finish the project within the scheduled timeline. What should I do?
Typically what happens in this scenario, in my experience, is that the freelancer would wait until the last possible moment before letting the client know (mainly because he/she is hesitant in facing an angry client).

To the freelancer: Yes, there are angry clients (and I don't think you're truly a freelancer until you've met one), but know this: clients are people too, and they understand that sometimes, projects can get delayed. Giving them a couple days' notice is much better than giving them absolutely no notice - plus on the bright side, they will be able to adjust their own schedules accordingly to match yours as well.

Pro-tip: One way to effectively communicate this with the client is to word it as, "I need a couple more days in order to fully ensure that we can deliver a product that you can be proud of." 

Well, that's all for now! Got any tips on how you have optimized your communication between your client and yourself? Share them below! I would love to hear your thoughts.

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