The Art of Client Conversation
A common mistake of early freelancers is to think that once you have convinced a client to give you a job, there is no further artistry to the conversations that you have with them. As a freelancer of more than a decade now, I have learned that my most valued repeat clients (who still come back to me for jobs all these years later) are those I treated with the utmost respect, showed friendship, enthusiasm, and my personality to, and offered excellent customer service to when I was first starting out. In today’s lesson, we’ll look at the art of client conversation to teach you how to build these kinds of relationships from the early stage in your business.
Clarity in the Brief
A major pitfall for freelancers is when they go to a great deal of effort to create a product for a client, only to have it returned and for the client to say that it does not meet the original brief or specification. When this happens, it costs extra time on the part of the freelancer in order to rectify the situation, causes delays for the client, and brings the overall value of the task down for both parties.
To avoid this, it is highly desirable as a freelancer to make sure that you are crystal clear on the brief that you have been given. Some clients will be excellent at giving a fully detailed brief that leaves no room for doubt, but when they do not, the freelancer should ask questions and ensure that they have the full details. Remember, the customer is always right, so when you phrase these questions, do not blame the client for the lacking elements of the brief. For example, you could offer options for an area of the project specification that they may have missed, or inquire as to a particular approach that they might like you to take with an area that seems vague.
Professionalism vs. Friendship
We’re all human, and at the end of the day, relationships between clients and freelancers, especially those that last over long periods of time and large projects, can often develop into personal friendships. In the initial stages of working as a freelancer, however, it is important to maintain a strong professional image and to not have too presumptuous or casual a manner with a client in your early conversations.
Treat them as you would a physical coworker in a job setting, in the sense that friendships may develop over time through small personal anecdotes or polite jokes, which can later be expanded on when one finds something in common with the other person. If you’re able to pick up on these clues in a polite and light manner, you can build stronger relationships with clients, who may then prefer to choose you for their next job over a stranger because of their familiarity with you.
As with most professions where you are providing a service or piece of work for a customer, there is a code of respect even when jobs become difficult or misunderstandings have occurred. You must be prepared to take an appropriate part of blame for any misunderstandings or problems that may occur at your end of the process, but also be aware of clients who may place undue blame upon you. On many per-job freelancing sites, there is a rating system in place for both freelancers and employers, which helps maintain a proper code of conduct between both parties. Always be aware of it when engaging with a new client.
Now that you know how to attract clients and secure jobs, it’s time to take a look at the space in which you do that work. In Lesson 8, I’ll show you how to set up your workspace and mental space to make your freelancing life easier every day.
Until then, practice your customer service voice!
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