Being your own boss and living the freelancer life can get a little too relaxed sometimes. While that may not necessarily be a bad thing, it just needs to stay balanced with your work life. Here are 12 things you should do to be successful in your dealings with your clients.
Establish communication protocols
Perhaps one of the most important things you will do to successfully manage your client(s) is to establish communications protocols. This includes how you will communicate (i.e., will you use email, a phone call, video call) and the frequency of communication (daily, weekly etc.). This is of paramount importance as it sets the tone and expectation for communication. This is extremely important when the time comes to update your client on progress. The last thing you need is a client that calls you daily to ask how you are progressing.
Establish payment methods
Determining a payment method is important to know so you can make the necessary arrangements for payment. For example, if your client is in a different country, you need to know upfront how payment will be made. It is best to get these details finalized in advance to avoiding delays in payment processing.
Establish payment frequency
The other key factor to determine early in the process is to know how frequently your client intends to pay you for your work. By having an established frequency for payment, you won’t have to chase your client for payment on a constant basis. While most freelance platforms will release funds once work is complete, you will still need your client’s approval. An established process makes this a lot easier.
Set up regular meetings
Everyone likes structure. Setting up meetings where you and your client can meet on a regular basis provides good structure. Your client will know when you will be meeting to get updates and discuss the work being done. This also allows you to focus on the work rather than being distracted with calls from the client enquiring on your progress. To take this a step further, see if you can have a set agenda (see #8 on Templates). Having an agenda is a great way to conduct a meeting without having to wonder what you will talk with your client at the meeting.
Understand how your client operates
It is very important to know and understand how your client operates. For example, is s/he detailed-oriented? Or more visual? Or totally hands-off? This is important because it will let you manage your client well. If you do not take the time to get to know how your client operates you may be doing things from a totally different perspective. For instance, if a client is totally hands-off and you send messages every day on your incremental status, it may make for an uncomfortable situation.
Understand your client’s expectations
Expectations are a key factor to know, especially when you start a project. A client may have expectations on time to deliver, or quality etc. It is very important to understand these upfront so you can manage to these expectations. Going blind into a project without knowing this can cause considerable angst and disappointment for both you and the client.
Define scope and requirements
Most disagreements during the delivery process can be attributed to two things: (a) missing requirements and (b) change in scope. To manage your client relationship well and to get off on the right footing, it is important to know exactly what you will be delivering. If requirements are unclear, they should be discussed upfront. Requirements are essential to allow you to estimate the job correctly. Ambiguous requirements can oftentimes lead to misunderstandings downstream. It is equally important to be clear on scope so any changes in scope can be spotted and openly discussed.
Use templates wherever possible
Templates allow you to follow a set structure and brings things to a specific order. Be on the constant lookout for good templates you can use in your freelancing business. For example, having a template for a contract where all of your clauses are present is a great start for a gig. You don’t have to worry about adding/removing things on the fly. You have a template. You make necessary edits to it based on the discussions with your client and you are done. If you have a template for an Invoice, this could be another time saver. It also makes it easier as you use these templates on an increased frequency for your gigs. You will know what to say, how to edit it, and how to manage your client’s expectations.
Document a plan for delivery
There is nothing like showing your client a plan and executing to it. Documenting a plan for delivery will instantly reassure your client as you can demonstrate you have thought through the gig and know exactly how and when you will deliver. The plan can also be used as a reference point in your scheduled meetings with the client.
Prioritize your work
This is very important if you are working on multiple gigs at the same time. It is one thing to have a plan for a single gig. But when you work on multiple gigs you can very easily forget what you should do next. Having visual displays or reminders (see next point) to alert you becomes extremely important when you are handling multiple deadlines from multiple gigs. And even if you are working on a single gig, it is very important to prioritize this work over other unrelated tasks that may eat into your time for delivery.
Setup reminders for key activities and milestones
As mentioned earlier, keeping track of upcoming deadlines is extremely important to provide alerts for appropriate action. This becomes especially important if you are working on multiple gigs. Setting a reminder becomes easy if you are using software to do it for you. You can set up the reminder to alert you a few minutes, hours or even days before the deadline. This will bring the delivery back in focus so you cannot slip on any defined activities or milestones.
The last point for you to successfully manage your client is to be present. By this it means you should be there for your client whenever she or he asks for it. For example, if your client calls and it isn’t one of your agreed-to or scheduled days, don’t ignore the call. Answer the call politely and see how you can respond to your client’s query. If you cannot take the call, send a message back (text) indicating you will call a little later and follow through. Another example is when you have a client meeting, make sure to focus on the client and the discussion taking place. Do not let yourself get distracted with your phone or laptop trying to reply to other messages or reviewing some other document or email. This is disrespectful and may pose the risk of your client getting the impression you are not entirely present for the meeting.
Managing your client is a continuous and on-going process. But it doesn’t have to be an uphill task. Following through on the above points will start your way to having a happy client who is informed and can recommend you to other potential clients for future gigs.