Communication is a big part of business, but it’s especially important in freelance work. You need to be able to negotiate, solve problems, and talk about yourself and your work in a positive, flattering light.
It’s a lot to handle, and your communication skills will directly affect the type of jobs you get, the connections you make, and the ease with which you can do those jobs. Good or bad, people will remember you by the way you communicate with them.
Communication is a two way street and we can’t control everything, but we can all work on our skills so that we can make sure whatever project we’re working on goes as smoothly as possible.
When you begin conversations with a client, try to remember a few simple things.
You can’t have a conversation when one party isn’t present.
Sluggish response times on either end can cause a breakdown of communication. It can leave your client feeling like you’ve abandoned them, or leave you feeling like you have no direction. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting and waiting for a response.
Make yourself available. Most of the time with freelance work, your primary form of communication will be through e-mail. Make a habit of checking your e-mail on a very regular basis and, if you can, set your e-mail client up to alert you when a new message comes in.
It may help to organize your inbox folder as well so you can make sure you get important e-mails as they come in and ignore your personal messages until you’ve finished your work. Don’t leave your e-mail catch-up for the end of the day.
Opening yourself up to communication is the first and most important step.
Being proactive means thinking ahead and anticipating questions.
Think through the work that you need to do, and if you have any questions, be proactive about bringing them up to your client early. If you can clear things up before you begin, you won’t have to stop work later to wait for an answer.
No one will be happy if the work is tardy due to a simple issue that could’ve been cleared up earlier. You could potentially lose out on money and the client will walk away feeling dissatisfied.
Do your best to present a smooth, easy experience from start to finish.
Sometimes you have a project you’re working on that just makes you want to scream. Other times, you’re going through personal things that have put you in a bad mood. The wonderful thing about e-mail is that you have time to compose yourself.
Whatever mood you may be in, present a professional and calm demeanor when you’re speaking with your client. You won’t get anywhere by taking out your frustrations on them, and it will only lead to communication breaking down and making your life more difficult.
If you’re ever feeling short tempered, give yourself a minute to compose yourself. Take a few deep breaths. Write up your email and set it aside for a few minutes. Go over it again and make sure your tone is professional before hitting send.
If you’re having problems, most of the time you can still present them in a clear, concise light and maintain your professional dignity. Losing your temper will only hurt you in the future, and you may lose repeat business or a valuable connection.
Be your Own Advocate
All of that said, it’s important to be your own advocate.
If you’re working in a situation that you’re unhappy with, be your own advocate and speak up about exactly what you think is wrong. Don’t be afraid to walk away if you have to. Some relationships just don’t work.
Before you do that, address any problems early with your clients, before they have a chance to become big issues. Be clear with them about what you can do, what you will do, and especially what you can’t do if they’re asking too much of you.
Protect yourself from being underpaid, undervalued, or overworked by talking through your concerns early.
Issues can come up during freelance work. Projects can be tardy or not quite right, but a pleasant, positive demeanor will help smooth over any rough patches.
Whether there are problems or not, do your best to be a positive person in all of your communications. People respond well to positivity, and they’ll be happy to work with you again if you provided them with a pleasant experience.
Part of being positive is also being productive when problems do come up. Work with the client to help them find a solution that works for both of you. If one side of the conversation breaks down, communication ends. Don’t be that side!
Be kind, be courteous, be prompt, and every party involved will be pleased with the experience.