Tips for Effective Communication with Your Clients

By / Dec 7, 2009 / Tips
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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

client communication

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

client communication

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

client communication

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

client communication

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 Examples

client communication

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.

14 Comments

  1. Waheed Akhtar
    December 7, 2009

    Very informative. I am doing freelancing from last several years. I do prefer to meet face-to-face with client to discuss requirement and propose accordingly. For international clients, email or skype communication has always helped me. Its true to let the client speak out first whatever he needs for the website and then propose and advice according to what you think about the project. Sometimes it happens where client don’t know anything and they need your creativity to flow.
    I am very bad at updating my portfolio regularly (because of time shortage) and sometimes have to send separate URL’s of updated work.
    Still a lot more to learn about freelancing :)

    Reply
    • Meghann
      June 4, 2010

      Waheed, I saw you said you work with international clients through skype. Another good tool you could try is one like Denote. I work at a design firm that developed Denote (www.denoteapp.com), and basically it’s a web app so that the client can drop little notes on a website that’s in development to give the designer input. Just another good way to communicate with your clients, especially if you have to communicate via computer – sometimes it gets hard to understand what they’re referencing, and this way, they can drop a note directly on it!

      Reply
  2. vlado
    December 7, 2009

    yeah – good explanation of the key points – absolutely agree that meeting face to face is one of them, which is missed here

    Reply
  3. Brian Jones
    December 7, 2009

    Great read – thank you!

    Reply
  4. Maikel
    December 7, 2009

    Nice read, noticed a spelling error though.
    …what type of customers their trying to reach…

    should be
    …what type of customers they’re (or they are) trying to reach…

    Reply
  5. Fernando
    December 7, 2009

    Great post! We are now using redmine to share our project status with our clients. It’s open source and gives us project planning, issue tracker, a wiki, a file repository, forums, etc.

    Reply
  6. Azterik Media
    December 7, 2009

    Excellent tips. I especially agree with your emphasis on getting all of your client contact organized. Sometimes those 5 minutes phone calls with the client regarding their ideas for their overall website design can turn out to be the most important but also the one you are most likely to forget if you aren’t keeping track. Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
  7. Multimedia Design
    December 7, 2009

    Great article – well thought out and very useful.

    I’m off to communicate with my clients better now!

    Reply
  8. Scott Dahlstrom
    December 7, 2009

    Great advice. Now I need to make sure that the client knows what I know and we have that all in writing…

    Thank you, Joel. Always a good reminder.

    Reply
  9. Design Informer
    December 7, 2009

    Nice read. I completely agree with you. Clients can be hard to deal with but these are some great tips that we can follow.

    Reply
  10. Joel Reyes
    December 7, 2009

    Thank you all for your comments! Hope this has helped you or will help you communicate better on some levels with your clients.

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask :)

    Reply
  11. Ivan
    December 7, 2009

    Great tips. Thanks!

    Reply
  12. Noel Wiggins
    December 8, 2009

    I think this is more critical for a designer to understand than even learning how to be more creative. Talent alone won’t cut it, You can be the best designer in the world but if clients don’t like working with you then your will be a very talented designer with a lot of free time.

    We are in the business of customer service, and learning how to give the best customer service will protecting how much time is spent in relation to how much the client is paying is the ultimate challenge.

    When it comes to client feedback, I often have to tell my self, “hush” maybe just maybe, they will have a valid idea or spin on the design that will actually elevate this project to a higher level than I could have done on my own…

    great post!

    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for Nopun.com
    a graphic design studio

    Reply
  13. Johanna
    January 20, 2010

    Great advice! I just stumbled upon this when i was searching on the internet, your blog seems very good. i usually go on http://www.success4designers.com but its not very popular right now because its just starting off but it has good advice you guys should check it out:)

    Reply

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