Working remotely as a freelancer means trying to manage client relationships with minimal contact. You might have started the relationship with an in-person interview or some other means of traditional communication, but on an ongoing basis, you won’t be occupying the same office or sharing an easy way to communicate with your key contacts.
This can be problematic, as a lack of communication (or poor communication) is one of the most common reasons for clients leaving. If you don’t communicate frequently enough, in a satisfactory way, or if you end up miscommunicating some important information, your clients could leave in favor of one of your competitors.
So what’s the solution, when you’re stuck working from home, and possibly across the country?
Strategies for Better Freelance Communication
Try these tactics to establish and maintain better lines of communication with your clients:
Choose the right apps.
Your first job is to choose the right apps to communicate with. There are dozens of apps to help you email, text, chat, and video conference with your clients. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, such as connection speed, stream quality, price, and side features. DialMyCalls has created a strong list of the best communication apps for remote workers, so if you aren’t sure what’s out there, it’s a good place to start. Beyond that, you’ll want to choose effective project management and task management apps if you intend to collaborate with your clients; there’s a big degree of subjectivity at play here, so consider your unique needs before proceeding.
Set up regular meetings.
If you want to keep your clients happy, it’s a good idea to set up a regular meeting time—even if you don’t feel like you need it. Depending on the nature of your work and your relationship, these meetings could be daily, weekly, or monthly. They may take place over the phone, with a video conference, or simply over a typed chat. No matter which variables you choose, you’ll need to have a conversation with your client, going over your latest work and gauging their level of satisfaction—they’ll feel heard, they’ll gain transparency, and ultimately, they’ll be more satisfied with your working relationship.
Use a variety of mediums.
We live in an age where communication is possible through dozens of different mediums, from phone calls and text messages to social media interactions and live video streaming. Each medium offers unique advantages and disadvantages, so it’s tough to achieve everything you need with only one channel. For example, email works well to send updates and information you’d like to have on record, but phone calls and video chats are better for back-and-forth conversations, especially since they allow for the conveyance of tone and ongoing responses.
Set expectations proactively.
Before you begin working for a given client, it’s wise to set expectations, clearly and proactively, so they know what to expect from your working relationship. For example, how often do you plan on meeting with them? How should they anticipate your incoming messages? What protocols are there for new requests and updates? The more detailed and upfront you are with this information, the more satisfied your clients will be. This is so long as you adhere to those expectations after you set them.
Find the right rhythm for each client.
Not all clients have the same communication preferences. Some will require more hand-holding and ongoing attention, while others will prefer to be left alone until something important happens. You’ll have to feel out the needs and desires of each of your clients individually, adjusting your approach according to those preferences.
The Safety Net of Over-Communication
It is possible to over-communicate. On a small scale, over-communication may be defined as the inclusion of too many unimportant details or being redundant. On a broader scale, it may mean sending too many messages or hosting too many meetings. There’s a threshold here, and it’s different for every client. However, in almost every case, it’s better to over-communicate than to under-communicate.
Let over-communication serve as a safety net for your client communication strategy; err on the side of sending too much information or too many messages. If your client is unhappy with this volume, they’ll tell you, and you can scale back accordingly. It’s much harder to recover if you’re not sending enough information or communicating with enough frequency.