Client communication skills to grow as a freelancer
As a freelancer, your communication skills can make or mar your progress. Because a lot of the work you do will involve communicating with clients. Clients want to know that you can solve their problems, they want to know just how you intend to do that and the progress you make.
Productive communication is a necessary goal for any good freelancer, being able to effectively share your choices, opinions and other information on your work requires a set of skills crucial for a successful freelancing career.
Just like in most contracts, you can not sustain a positive relationship with other parties if your communication skills are lacking. In this article, we will look at the top client communication skills to grow as a freelancer and why you should begin working on them right away.
What are communication skills?
Communication skills simply refer to a set of abilities needed to exchange ideas and feelings effectively.
Good communication is widely accepted as one of the backbones of business, and for good reasons. Every business needs to create and sustain a positive relationship with its client to grow.
From making a good first impression to keeping clients informed and involved, and other facets of business such as promptly resolving conflicts, communication is pivotal.
Research suggests that good communication can help curtail heavy financial losses for any business. For instance, according to a Zendesk study, around 80% of customers say they would rather do business with a competitor after just one bad experience.
Good client communication for freelancers is just as vital. In fact, freelancers need to invest more time in sharpening their communication skills. This is because, as an independent entity, a lot depends on your personal efforts— you might not have the luxury of hiring experts to run a customer relations department.
Also, given how intensively competitive the freelance environment is, you need strong client communication skills to stand out. With the amount of talent out there and the projection on the growth of the industry, you need to be distinctive in the best ways possible.
A good grasp of client communication best practices can get you noticed. And building a tradition on that will create a strong personal brand that clients can associate with positive values. This is very essential for anyone who intends to freelance for a long time.
Benefits of good client communication skills
Good communication skills have a lot of benefits for freelancers, to make sure your clients are satisfied with your services you need to communicate effectively, doing this can have impacts on your business which include:
Increase your productivity
A bridge in communication can lead to heading off in the wrong direction, or missing vital project goals and ultimately delivering work below expectations. Occasionally this can mean starting the project afresh, which can take up considerable time the freelancer could channel elsewhere.
Since as a freelancer, your success depends heavily on how productive you are, it is very important to obtain a clear project direction and goals through sound communication with clients. This also entails keeping the client involved at most stages of the project through consistent communication.
Another way a freelancer's productivity can be influenced by poor communication is the use of ineffective tools and media. A freelancer can have several clients to regularly update and using unproductive methods can result in a waste of time.
The ability to solve problems is linked to understanding the problem. And to thoroughly understand the client's problem a freelancer needs top communication skills such as active listening, empathy, curiosity, etc.
A major benefit of being good at communication is that you can easily put yourself in the client's shoes, come up with possible solutions and communicate your ideas to them. This speeds up the whole problem-solving process.
In your work as a freelancer you are going to meet and work with all kinds of people, and except you are freelancing on online bidding platforms, freelancing can be a way more volatile environment than traditional work.
When misunderstandings do occur— and they do occur, even on freelancing platforms— possessing excellent client communication skills can help curtail the situation. You can politely state your side of the story while actively listening to the client's perspective.
Increase client trust
Excellent and consistent communication indicates transparency and transparency increases trust.
Clients would hardly trust a freelancer who makes little effort to express their ideas on how they intend to tackle a problem or does not involve them in the project.
Trust increases with time, and working on several projects with the same client no doubt indicates profound trust in your skills and personality, but to achieve such a long-term relationship in the first place, you need to communicate effectively.
Get more repeat work
The more you impress a client with your communication skills— and of course, your actual skill at the job— they are likely going to want to bring future jobs to your desk.
In the freelance world, you would be shocked by the number of freelancers with subpar communication skills, it is a relief to clients when they see one who is the opposite. And if they enjoy working with you, chances are that they will want to keep bringing more jobs.
You can also stay retained for longer projects, certain projects go on for several months or even years. A freelancer with exceptional client communication skills is a top choice for such roles.
Get more referrals
Getting recommended to other clients is possible when the client's opinion of you is highly positive. Effective client communication is one factor that influences this because it is a hallmark of professionalism.
No client would want to recommend a freelancer that gave them a hard time communicating with or who couldn't understand their problems and ended up delivering a poor result.
Top skills for good communication
Now that we have considered the benefits of good client communication skills, let's take a look at some of these skills.
The ability to listen is often tagged as the most important communication skill to have. Listening attentively helps you truly see things from a perspective other than yours. This applies to all forms of human relationships.
In freelancing, all clients have problems they need solutions and answers to. And your job as a good freelancer is to listen to them as they narrate these problems and then create solutions tailored to them.
Here are a few tips to develop active listening skills:
- Stay focused on the conversation.
- Don't interrupt the client.
- Ask questions.
- Don't judge.
- Observe their body language.
Empathy means understanding the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of another person.
In the world today, empathy is at the core of product making and brand relations because customers are indeed the most important consideration for any business.
Likewise in freelancing, you need to empathise with your clients. You need to cultivate skills that will aid you to understand their problems like you are the one facing them— empathy means walking in the client's shoes. By doing this, you can then create effective solutions for them.
There are several tips for empathising with clients, they include:
- Consider the client's perspective.
- Refrain from making judgments.
- Recognize the client's emotions.
- Let them know that you understand their emotions.
Openness in your communication with your clients is a sure way to win their trust. Transparency is a communication skill that you cannot overlook if your goal is to do freelancing for a long time.
The clients expect you to keep them in the know regarding their project, some of them would want to know your approach to solving their problems and other details your job entails.
It is important as a freelancer to avoid communicating in a manner that appears shady or overt even when it's totally unnecessary.
Tips to be more transparent include:
- Always update clients on the progress of the job.
- Keep them informed on the approach you use for solving their problems.
- Intimate them on the tools you use for the task.
Appropriate communication tools
Yes, knowing the best tools to use for communication is a communication skill in itself. Poor tools and methods can result in glitchy communication which can have a host of other negative effects— affecting the freelancer's productivity along the line.
For instance, for some freelancers, communicating with a client on a social media app might lead to other distractions that can steer them away from the work. On the other hand, using a more direct tool like an Emailing app could be more productive.
Clarity should be at the core of your communication style. Whether you are communicating via written, verbal or visual format, you need to do so with clarity in mind.
Unclear communication confuses your clients and can put your project in jeopardy. Even at the pitching stage, clarity is crucial as your potential clients want to know with no doubt, how you intend to solve their problems and why you are the right person for their job.
Here are a few tips that can make you communicate more clearly:
- Avoid the use of ambiguous words, they breed doubt.
- Avoid too much technical jargon, especially when the client isn't from a technical background.
- Avoid complex words that can be replaced by simpler ones.
- Stick to the topic and shred unnecessary information.
- Have a clear structure, especially when communicating in written format.
Ghosting on your clients surely has bad effects. But the issue with consistency is that you don't need to totally disappear before clients become dissatisfied with your communication skills, not keeping to a consistent schedule is a big enough problem on its own.
Another way to factor in consistency is in the content of your communication, are you making incongruent points here and there?
Consistency, therefore, entails having a standard schedule, language and means of relating your ideas and opinions to your clients. This creates a more polished personal brand that can leave a positive impact in the mind of your clients.
Humans have used body language as a tool for communication since the dawn of time. It is therefore not surprising that we have evolved to use and understand them with ease.
However, body language could be misleading or wrongly interpreted at times. Also, giving off the wrong signals intentionally or not can result in negative effects that can mar your communication with clients.
Consequently, it is recommended to use positive body language when physically interacting with clients, some of the well-known cues include:
- Wearing a smile.
- Making eye contact.
- Communicating with open arms.
- Standing upright and maintaining a good posture.
Generally, communicating in a confident and assuring manner makes people believe in your abilities, and draws them to you. As a freelancer, you need to master the art of confidence and learn to express yourself in ways that can make your potential clients see reasons to leave a task to you.
Nevertheless, this can quickly backfire if all you have are words and no substance. Claiming to possess skills you do not have just to get hired always leads to more trouble than good. So, while trying to adopt a more confident style of communication, make sure you have got the skill to match your claim.
Tips to appear more confident:
- Use positive body language when interacting with clients.
- Communicate with clarity.
- Respect others' opinions.
- Do your research on the topic.
- Be assertive.
The purpose of communication is to exchange ideas. If this is not happening then there's a need to revisit the drawing board. Are you open-minded enough? Is there a fault in communication or misplacement of priorities?
Communication is a two-way process and feedback is what should come naturally after passing your opinion or other information across to the client. A lot depends on how the freelancer handles this feedback.
To excel at your job, you must learn to accept feedback with an open mind and readily incorporate constructive ones where they are needed.
Tips to increase your handling of feedback include:
- Be open-minded.
- Practice empathy.
- Be respectful of others' opinions.
- Acknowledge feedback fast.
Top tools for effective client communication
All communication tools are not the same, as a freelancer, you need to know which is most appropriate for every situation. There are factors to consider in making this decision, they include speed, cost, intuitiveness, etc.
Some of the most productive client communication tools include:
- Emailing apps
- Video messaging apps
- Text messaging apps
- Social media
What is the most effective way for communicating with clients
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, the best way to communicate with clients depends heavily on their preferences. Some of your clients might prefer physical meetings, others could instead opt for video conferences or simply text.
It is important to blend into your client's world by considering what they find most convenient.
That said, incorporating all the client communication best practices listed in this article into your interaction with clients can help you be more effective.
As a freelancer, your communication skills put you apart in a sea of other faceless competitors. It is important for newbies trying to make a name and also crucial for experts trying to sustain a brand. Effective client communication skills are worth learning and using in your freelance business.