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.
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.
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.
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?
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.