Stand Out Among Freelancers by Communicating with Your Client

Posted in Freelance, Tips, Web Design • Posted on 8 Comments

While the internet becomes more and more accessible to everyone, some freelancers rarely use these new technologies to improve their marketing or client relations. These incredible technologies allow us to communicate easier with people from all over the world and to even optimize the communication with someone who is living close to us. Throughout my short career I have learned that communicating with a client is crucial, because his directions might help you too. Moreover, if the product is not heading in the direction the client wants, communicating with him is going to make the product better and, let’s be honest, this is what every freelancer is rated on – the quality of the projects they deliver.

Communicating with clients will also increase the probability of you getting more work from them; it can also help you stand out from the crowd. Some freelancers just show up with the product, charge the money and leave – and even if they deliver a good product, the client is still not very happy with the working relationship. Well, this is because there was no communication and the client felt he was not involved. Moreover, following you client’s directions is even more important for your working relationship, but be aware and don’t become a puppet and try to make your point when you need to, as you are the expert and know the web better than your client does. Following your client’s original instructions is totally different than doing what they say. It’s called “paying attention” and “caring” about the one you work with.

Follow instructions


The client is the one who pays you, so your final product has to please them. If you don’t do this, why would they hire you again? Or tell their fellow business owners to hire you?  You don’t have to give them what you think is right, but what they think is right.

Following instructions from a client shows a simple, but important fact – that you respect him. When they’re paying you, it’s totally disrespectful to ignore their requests and do what you want to do – even if you know that your way may be the best.

When you don’t agree with a client, the only thing to do is communicate this to him. Talk to him, explain him why  you think your way is the right one, show him examples from the web and statistics, and he will probably understand. Clients almost always agree with your ideas if you show them their final product will be better because of it. Don’t just jump into modifying that grid system because you know it’s right. Explain why you’re changing it and they will probably understand you and appreciate you even more – he may even start to see you as the expert you are and may not question your decisions as much in the future.

Photo by ilco

If you are not sure about what I mean by client’s instructions, then let’s take a look at the following checklist:

  • The deadline – I can’t stress enough about how important this is. Do you respect the deadline you get from your clients? Because if you don’t, this is a huge problem. Many freelancers think that the deadlines are not mandatory and that delivering three days late is okay – well, it is a big problem. Most of your clients have a schedule and if you don’t deliver your product in time, their whole schedule will fall apart. Keep the deadline in mind, this is one of the first things you are judged for.
  • Delivery – You can’t make a good impression by delivering a project that isn’t finished and still needs work. You get paid to deliver a completed project, and that’s what you need to deliver to build your client base. Deliver the project. On time, and complete. If you don’t deliver a fully finished project, it’ll probably be your latest collaboration with the respective client.
  • Handing in something else – Well you think this doesn’t happen – but it most certainly does. You might have done it as well without realizing. Did the client ask for a pink website and, without explaining why, you delivered a red one? Well then you didn’t follow instructions. Just because you have a different idea than the client does, it doesn’t mean you can just deliver whatever you want – at the end of the day he’s paying you, not the other way around. Make sure you talk to your client about each major change you make and always inform him about the minor ones.
  • Contacting the client – You might not think this is a big problem, but if the client specifically asked you to only contact him by e-mail, don’t overlook his wish. It’s the same when we ask clients to only contact us between 8am and 4pm, and they call us at 10 at night. Annoying, right? They think the same when we do it. Moreover, if the client asks you to contact him once per week, do it, even if you don’t consider it necessary.

Showing professionalism


This is what’s going to land you the next job – being professional. By following the simple rules above you could manage to do it, but by following the ones below you will definitely impress:

  • Keeping in mind what the client requested is important even if you don’t follow it. When you want to change something, simply ask to do it, but don’t forget to acknowledge the client’s request. Saying something like “Can I maybe contact you via e-mail, although you requested to talk by phone? I would be more comfortable with e-mail.” will work better than just contacting him by e-mail out of the blue.
  • A good way for avoiding delivering something the client didn’t request is to always ask before making major changes. If they’re rejected, try to explain why you believe the changes will be beneficial to him. As said before, he will most likely accept you as the expert and go with your way of doing it.
  • It is always a great idea to set a more achievable deadline and always deliver before the expected day, this will allow more time for the client to revise the product and he will always be happy thinking that you worked more for him than you should have. Delivering before the deadline is good and will always pay off.
  • Freelancers not only deliver a project, but quite often will work as consultants as well. Don’t forget that you can always make suggestions for next time, even if you are not going to be the one who gets the job. When the client sees that your tips helped him – even if with another designer – he will remember you and might turn back to you if needed again.
Image by Ambrosio

This article is not only about why is it important to communicate with your clients. It is mostly about acting professional. Communicating properly is just one small part of showing a client you mean business, especially today when there are lots of freelancers out there who clearly lack this crucial social skill. Managing to interact with your clients throughout the development process of a project and will insure you get positive feedback and word of mouth business, which will in the end send more clients your way.

Next time you are out there landing a big design project, come back to this article and follow these simple rules. They will only bring you positive results and will make the relationship with your clients better.

How is your usual relationship with your clients? Do you communicate a lot, or do you try to do it as little as possible? How much time do you spend consulting your client?

69 Written ArticlesWebsite

Christian Vasile is an enthuziastic Romanian web designer currently living in Denmark. He is passionate for the industry and writes about design, usability, coding and freelancing and is a regular publisher here at 1WD. You can follow him on Twitter at @christianvasile or visit his web portfolio by clicking on the link above.

8 Comments Best Comments First
  • Chris Johnson

    Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 18:25

    4

    Respectfully, this is some of the worst advice I’ve seen anywhere.
    It’s a point of view that transforms independent designers into fungible employees.
    With the exception of “being on time” the ethos in this post will take all the joy and creativity out of design and create fungible workers that are forced to compete with 99 designs and the other end of the market.
    Listen: professionalism and “following instructions” are different things. Yes, low end designers can be in “move my mouse” wars, and to be asked to go through a detailed and micromanaged list, and spend an eternity reshading gradients for the amusement of an unhinged baby boomer in adult failure spiral.
    High end designers, like us, have standards. IF a client wants something that’s the design equivalent of a typo, or is passé (comic sans), we say “no,” and that’s firm and final. Our business arrangements give us creative control, and we sell films. We don’t work hourly, and neither should you (ever, under any circumstances).
    Yes, we collaborate, yes we listen, but at the end of the day, you’re buying a movie from us, delivered on a certain date. What you do with it is your business.
    We made this switch a while ago.
    The results? Our clients feel honored to work with us (just as we feel honored to work with them). They rehire and refer us. When we worked hourly, we were treated like intrusive staff, and now we get to be working and telling the stories of some of the best companies on Planet Earth.
    Had we followed this advice, we’d be given over to the fearful bitching about bangalore and china and wherever.

    +1
  • Sandro

    Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 21:54

    8

    That’s good, sound advice. Professionalism is a must when dealing with clients, and stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, I also agree with Chris’ point of view. We should be willing to collaborate and cooperate, but we cannot become simple instruction followers.

    0
  • Kev

    Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 18:24

    3

    What if the communication would start when your website visitor enters your website(store)?
    Can you please tell me what you find of our concept?

    Nice article by the way!

    0
  • Mohsin Nazir

    Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 13:19

    1

    Dealing with client is worst part of project but freelancer have to do it because this is necessary for project completion

    0
  • Tommie

    Thursday, February 9th, 2012 03:33

    7

    Chris, thank you! Finally some designer is telling the whole truth! Clients pay for results and we deliver creative and original artwork. But i’m afraid that for the little designer as myself we have scary times ahead when Crowd Surfing for design because our worst enemy.
    Just because you have a (pirat) copy of photoshop on your computer that doens’t make you a designer …

    0
  • Svein Erik

    Thursday, January 26th, 2012 09:55

    6

    Nice article! Dealing with clients is what differ us designers from artists in my opinion. And the communication between clients and designers is crutial to get useful results. I like to say that the design process is like a tennis match; in order to be awesome both the client and the designer have to play the ball. Without good communication you will get a less pleasing result, and the client will waste money and we’ll waste our oh so precious time!

    0
  • Barry

    Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 15:44

    2

    Good advice Christian! Also, keeping your client in the loop is vital – especially about anything affecting their expectations of you. Often clients will not mind if the deadline needs to be pushed back a bit – as long as you let them know in advance and explain the reason. This ensures your client doesn’t look bad to THEIR boss!

    -1
  • Chatman R.

    Thursday, January 26th, 2012 00:46

    5

    Very good advice. It also helps if communicating with the client isn’t something you dread. Don’t forget, as freelancers we reserve the right to fire problem clients if we have good reason to do so. This is why we apply penalties to rogue clients. This is why we have termination clauses in our contracts. We do have the means to streamline client/freelancer relationships to make it painless for both parties. Firing is, of course, a last resort. As Christian and a few articles on this very site note, education is key.

    If we are experts, we should demonstrate that expertise in a way that has meaning for the client. Rather than saying “We shouldn’t do that.” say “We shouldn’t do that, because…” and explain why. Unless the client is just outright unwilling to listen, this should be our first priority: keeping the client informed. It’s ultimately their vision we are bringing to life. As long as they’re willing to cooperate, that is. And a contract doesn’t have to be intimidating. No need to whip it out for every project, but especially for high risk/high reward long-term projects it should be the first thing on the table. All a contract really does is let both parties know house rules and penalties for violating those rules. A good contract will protect the client as much as it protects you.

    My hope as a freelancer is that I’ll never have to “lawyer up”.

    -1
  • Sandro

    Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 21:54

    8

    That’s good, sound advice. Professionalism is a must when dealing with clients, and stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, I also agree with Chris’ point of view. We should be willing to collaborate and cooperate, but we cannot become simple instruction followers.

    0
  • Tommie

    Thursday, February 9th, 2012 03:33

    7

    Chris, thank you! Finally some designer is telling the whole truth! Clients pay for results and we deliver creative and original artwork. But i’m afraid that for the little designer as myself we have scary times ahead when Crowd Surfing for design because our worst enemy.
    Just because you have a (pirat) copy of photoshop on your computer that doens’t make you a designer …

    0
  • Svein Erik

    Thursday, January 26th, 2012 09:55

    6

    Nice article! Dealing with clients is what differ us designers from artists in my opinion. And the communication between clients and designers is crutial to get useful results. I like to say that the design process is like a tennis match; in order to be awesome both the client and the designer have to play the ball. Without good communication you will get a less pleasing result, and the client will waste money and we’ll waste our oh so precious time!

    0
  • Chatman R.

    Thursday, January 26th, 2012 00:46

    5

    Very good advice. It also helps if communicating with the client isn’t something you dread. Don’t forget, as freelancers we reserve the right to fire problem clients if we have good reason to do so. This is why we apply penalties to rogue clients. This is why we have termination clauses in our contracts. We do have the means to streamline client/freelancer relationships to make it painless for both parties. Firing is, of course, a last resort. As Christian and a few articles on this very site note, education is key.

    If we are experts, we should demonstrate that expertise in a way that has meaning for the client. Rather than saying “We shouldn’t do that.” say “We shouldn’t do that, because…” and explain why. Unless the client is just outright unwilling to listen, this should be our first priority: keeping the client informed. It’s ultimately their vision we are bringing to life. As long as they’re willing to cooperate, that is. And a contract doesn’t have to be intimidating. No need to whip it out for every project, but especially for high risk/high reward long-term projects it should be the first thing on the table. All a contract really does is let both parties know house rules and penalties for violating those rules. A good contract will protect the client as much as it protects you.

    My hope as a freelancer is that I’ll never have to “lawyer up”.

    -1
  • Chris Johnson

    Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 18:25

    4

    Respectfully, this is some of the worst advice I’ve seen anywhere.
    It’s a point of view that transforms independent designers into fungible employees.
    With the exception of “being on time” the ethos in this post will take all the joy and creativity out of design and create fungible workers that are forced to compete with 99 designs and the other end of the market.
    Listen: professionalism and “following instructions” are different things. Yes, low end designers can be in “move my mouse” wars, and to be asked to go through a detailed and micromanaged list, and spend an eternity reshading gradients for the amusement of an unhinged baby boomer in adult failure spiral.
    High end designers, like us, have standards. IF a client wants something that’s the design equivalent of a typo, or is passé (comic sans), we say “no,” and that’s firm and final. Our business arrangements give us creative control, and we sell films. We don’t work hourly, and neither should you (ever, under any circumstances).
    Yes, we collaborate, yes we listen, but at the end of the day, you’re buying a movie from us, delivered on a certain date. What you do with it is your business.
    We made this switch a while ago.
    The results? Our clients feel honored to work with us (just as we feel honored to work with them). They rehire and refer us. When we worked hourly, we were treated like intrusive staff, and now we get to be working and telling the stories of some of the best companies on Planet Earth.
    Had we followed this advice, we’d be given over to the fearful bitching about bangalore and china and wherever.

    +1
  • Kev

    Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 18:24

    3

    What if the communication would start when your website visitor enters your website(store)?
    Can you please tell me what you find of our concept?

    Nice article by the way!

    0
  • Barry

    Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 15:44

    2

    Good advice Christian! Also, keeping your client in the loop is vital – especially about anything affecting their expectations of you. Often clients will not mind if the deadline needs to be pushed back a bit – as long as you let them know in advance and explain the reason. This ensures your client doesn’t look bad to THEIR boss!

    -1
  • Mohsin Nazir

    Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 13:19

    1

    Dealing with client is worst part of project but freelancer have to do it because this is necessary for project completion

    0

Comments are closed.

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