Communicating effectively with your clients is key to the success of your projects and the structure of your freelance business. The process of communication begins before the client even agrees to have you work on their project, and it should remain as a constant throughout your entire relationship. When a client expresses their needs and wants, you should convey concern, attentiveness, and assurance. You will need to understand that there are clients with whom you can minimize communication as their not interested in updates every single hour of the day, while others want you to hold their hands throughout the entire design process. Know which clients deserve what amount of attention and degree of communication.
Within this article we'll take the time to break down a few points that will help you effectively communicate with clients. Please note that there is not one set of rules for communication that can be used for all clients. Every single client is different in their own way, and each should be treated in that manner. These tips will serve as a guideline. You can apply them, and modify them as you please.
Listen and Learn
Save the sales pitch for a different niche like automobile sales. Your clients will more than likely help you equip yourself with the right tools to "sell" them, if you listen. A client’s project has everything to do with what they need, what they represent, what type of customers their trying to reach, and less about you. For this reason, it is very important that you listen carefully to the details they provide. This will help you do your best, not your average on the job. While you're listening or reading what your client's saying, make sure you have something in hand that will allow you to take notes. That way you can regurgitate your clients needs in your own words for better understanding.
Ultimately, the less you blab on about your business and yourself, the more your client becomes interested. Give your clients enough room to talk and express themselves, don't jump on every word they say. That can cause some discomfort. Sometimes it pays to just listen and be attentive. Learn when the right moment for you to give suggestions arrises, and take advantage of it, but don't be too forward. Remember you need to give them some space when they speak, but not enough space that'll disinterest them. You have to find a balance.
Working with a System
If you’re working with various clients at a time, then you know how difficult it can be to keep mental records of every word, document, and suggestions sent by a client. This is why it is important to fuel effective communication by having some sort of system in place. Developing your own system for keeping track of communication isn't the most difficult of tasks. It can be as easy as having a separate folder on your desktop for every client containing all of their emails, notes, and suggestions.
If that might seem like too much of a hassle, then you can resolve to an application similar to Basecamp. Basecamp makes sure that everyone is on the same page, allowing you to keep a record of every message relayed, set tasks, and track time. However, it doesn't matter if it's your own method or using applications such as basecamp, it's important to setup some sort of system to help you remain organized. Being organized gives way to a more effective level of communication as you're not always scrambling trying to remember what client said what and who needs what. If you don't keep a good record, then chances are there will be times when you need to ask a client to elaborate on what they've previously said. This can easily give a client the impression that you don't listen, pay attention, and are unorganized.
Getting the Client Involved
A large majority of clients you'll come across have very little knowledge of the various elements it takes to design a website. Most of them know what they want, they just don't know how to turn it into a successful website or illustration. Apart from the chatty clients, there will be times that you'll find yourself working with one that doesn't have much to say or suggest. This is where you get them involved. Try to give them a summarized idea of what you need from them in order to produce the best possible work. You can devise a quick list of what's expected of them and send it over. That way they can feed you the correct information all at once, rather then you having to call them a hundred times to figure out what they want. This is where collaboration meets communication.
Reasoning with Your Advice
If you decide to go ahead and give your input, make sure you can explain why you're giving that advice. Many times a client will want you to add or make changes to things that you don't think will be effective for the scope of the project at hand. This is where it's important to demonstrate to them why it is they should take into consideration your advice. Always remember to cover your bases. This is far more effective then designing your own concept only to find out it has been rejected.
Using good examples compliments effective communication. Sometimes explaining a concept or suggestion just doesn't cut it through email or on the phone. When this happens clients will appreciate you much more if you can provide real examples. Consequently, you'll end up clearing up a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. For example, if you wish to nest specific elements in various locations throughout the layout, it would be an ideal choice for you to send them a wireframe of how you plan on structuring the site.
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