3 Helpful Client Relations Tips for Digital Professionals
Posted September 21st 2020
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Develop Your Client Relations Skills to Become an Elite Online Freelance Talent
The world of business, client relations, and professional development has changed drastically in the past decade. The advent of online social networking and the “sharing economy” has forever altered the employment landscape, giving rise to independent digital professionals offering services, getting hired, and completing projects from anywhere in the world. The internet community has evolved to the point where creatives, web designers, digital marketers, content writers, and other online specialists can make a comfortable living from freelance contract work.
The modern Millennial workforce and future generations to come can refine their skills through online education, develop their personal brand in the digital space, and become a self-made successful enterprise at the top of their fields. There has never been a better time for the combination of talent, entrepreneurship, and collaboration in the world of enterprise.
You may be a brilliant graphic designer, data-driven analytics wizard, or content writing virtuoso whose talents are highly desired in the current market, but there are other skills you must develop in order to be a consistent, successful digital professional. You must know how to promote your professional brand, manage your time between different projects, and set a competitive price point to be a freelancer in this internet-based workforce. One of the most challenging areas of expertise for new freelancers is the nuanced art of client relations.
If you cannot communicate effectively, control the scope of work, or set client expectations properly, no amount of creative or analytical talent can earn you a sustainable living from contract work on the internet. As a freelancer, you won’t have a team of colleagues to share this burden or supervisor to take responsibility when client relationships become difficult. You’re all on your own, tasked with the sole obligation to manage your clients effectively. Your source of income and very means of survival depend on positive client relations. Become a master of this, and you’re unstoppable.
1. Set Timelines, Scope, and Expectations Beforehand
Freelancing makes up 34% of the US national workforce, infusing the economy with $715 billion in annual earnings. (Image via Visualistan)
Before you even begin work, there needs to be a clearly communicated timeline for the project and an explicit agreement on this time frame. Things can change over the course of a project and it’s important to remain adaptive, but you should provide a fairly accurate work schedule with progress benchmarks and an estimated time of completion before beginning work. Set a deliverable date, provide regular updates, and and stick to your deadline.
If you set unrealistic expectations, take on too much work, or delay sending deliverables beyond the agreed upon timeline, your client relations can go sour fast. Furthermore, set a clearly defined, itemized scope of work before taking on the project. Freelance clients will sometimes ask for more than was initially agreed upon, whether it be additional rounds of edits, many treatments of a logo design, or worse. Make sure to set limits on these tasks in your scope beforehand. This will make it much easier to say no when you’re forced to put your foot down.
2. Responsive Client Relations: Communicate Openly and Often
The most common complaint from patrons of freelance work is a lack of effective communication. Digital freelancers can sometimes keep clients in the dark, leaving questions unanswered and causing unnecessary frustration. Be open and transparent in your client relations, make yourself available to answer your client’s questions when working on the project. By training yourself to be a responsive communicator and staying in contact, you put your client’s mind at ease and are much more likely to be hired in the future.
Some clients may require more communication and responsiveness than others, so be sure to set clear communication terms and boundaries at the beginning of the project. For example, you can set a 24-hour response time for any client question or state that you will only be available during certain hours. (Hint: Answering client emails late at night will lead your clients to believe that you’re available late every night)
3. Client Billing: Be Proactive, Smart and Secure
Rule 101 of client relations: make sure you and your client sign a contract before beginning any work. If you start a project without a binding agreement or formal terms bound by law, you are setting yourself up failure. Most clients are good people who won’t intentionally withhold payment, but if your terms are clearly defined, it’s less likely to be an issue.
On a related note, promptly bill your clients according to the terms of your agreement and address any payment delays immediately. It’s a good idea to include a late-payment penalty in the terms of the freelance contract, which you should enforce if non-payment occurs. You may also want to split up payments, one at the beginning and one upon delivery. This will help avoid incentive problems once the project is complete.
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