Many elements are essential when it comes to freelancing, but one stands out as a fundamental one; client communication.
"Freelancer" is a term used to describe an independent contractor or a self-employed person who usually earns wages on a per-job or per-project basis. It's typical for short-term work and is more prevalent in specific careers, such as software development.
Freelancing is a fast-growing, competitive career, and it's projected that by 2027, freelancers will make up over 50% of the total United States workforce. Good communication sets you apart from others in such a competitive space and ultimately gets you that gig.
In freelance software development, especially in remote scenarios, strong communication skills are necessary for survival and success. It can help to build trust, establish rapport, increase client satisfaction, and ultimately grow your business.
This article will establish the basics of good communication and offer the eight best tips for practicing effective, excellent communication in your freelancing career. Let's take a look!
What is Effective Communication?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, communication is defined as "a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior."
With this definition in mind, effective communication means that the message (such as an idea, opinion, thought, data, or knowledge) is received and understood clearly and easily. Both the sender and the receiver are satisfied and on the same page.
The Five Methods of Communication
When most people think of communicating, they think of talking. However, communication can take several different forms. There are five recognized types of communication. Each one plays an equal role in communicating effectively, and a good communicator should be proficient in all:
Verbal communication uses spoken words and is where most people's minds are drawn when they hear the term "communication." In the case of sign language, it also includes unspoken words.
People rely on non-verbal cues to understand what is truly being said. Facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, gestures, and body language often speak louder than words and make up a considerable part of our communication skills.
While written communication can be considered a form of verbal, it is slightly different. It includes anything written or typed, such as emails, letters, text messages, or notes.
Visual aids can be used to deliver information. Typical examples are drawings, illustrations, or slide presentations.
Active listening is the most surprising but often most important part of communication. This means consciously engaging, hearing, and understanding the whole message that is being sent.
The Seven C's of Communication
For communication to be considered effective, several different conditions must be met. The 7 C's are essentially a checklist that can be applied to all methods of communication to make sure the message gets across accurately:
When a message is complete, it contains everything the receiver needs to understand and take action, if necessary.
A correct message means that all the information is accurate. Written statements should be free from grammatical and spelling errors.
Concise messages are simple and short. There are no unnecessary words or details that can cause boredom or confusion. It is straightforward and to the point.
Messages should be courteous, meaning they are friendly, polite, and respectful. The speaker should be open and sincere in their delivery.
When a message has clarity, the goal and purpose behind sharing the information are obvious. Receivers should know the intent immediately.
Messages should be considered carefully before being shared. They should be coherent and consistent throughout.
A concrete message is solid, and all the logic and information should fit together and support one another. All data needs to be from credible sources.
The Power of Effective Communication
Brushing up on your communication skills can benefit you and your freelance business.
If you are a strong communicator, resolving problems is made simple. You can also prevent issues from arising and minimize mistakes. It provides clarity and direction for your projects and conveys credibility to your clients.
When problems or mistakes are minimal, and you have proven credibility as a freelancer, there are many benefits. It establishes trust with your clients, builds a good rapport, and you have a solid professional reputation. It also ensures client satisfaction.
Ultimately, good communication will result in business growth. Excellent client communication can make all the difference in gaining and retaining clients and earning their recommendations to other clients. It's a powerful tool that is often underestimated.
We've established that good communication is a crucial skill in the professional world, especially for a freelancer. Here are eight tips for having effective communication:
Tip #1: Be a Good Listener
Listening is one of the five types of communication and is arguably the most critical. Sharing information is meaningless if it's not received well.
Active listening is self-explanatory. It's consciously listening and fully concentrating on what is being said rather than passively hearing. It also includes providing appropriate feedback or reactions, so the speaker knows their message is coming across accurately.
For a freelancer, being a good listener communicates to your clients that they are essential. It shows that you value their business, care about the project, and are eager to work with them. Additionally, it ensures that you fully understand the project and can meet their expectations.
- Maintain eye contact and exhibit positive body language.
- Don't interrupt, except for the occasional nod or "yes" to affirm that you are listening.
- Respond with relevant questions.
- Take notes.
- Summarize and briefly repeat what you heard to ensure your understanding is correct.
Tip #2: Be Professional
Being professional falls under both the non-verbal and verbal communication categories. How you present yourself is of utmost importance. There is a fine line between being casual and careless, or being personable and unprofessional.
Take care of how you dress. Most freelancer work is remote instead of on-site, and if this applies to you, it's important to remember that appearance makes an impression even through a computer screen.
Speak respectfully to clients. There may be times when you and a client disagree; if this happens, be sure to communicate clearly and civilly. Keep a positive attitude because disagreements aren't always negative. It's a chance to practice communication skills and strengthen your working relationship.
Tip #3: Have Well-Written Job Proposals
Every potential client wants to know why they should choose you for their project instead of all the other freelancers that have applied. Writing a well-crafted job proposal will help you to stand out and earn the desired position.
A proposal is the first contact with a potential future client, and first impressions matter. Define what needs to be done, how you propose to do it, and why you are right for the job. It's an opportunity to communicate clearly, concisely, and with confidence. Strong written communication is critical.
Tip #4: Be Proactive
Staying on top of client conversations is essential. While you don't want to over-communicate, you also don't want too much time between interactions. This leaves room for misunderstanding, confusion, or doubt.
- Always reply to clients in a timely manner.
- Initiate conversations to ask questions or share progress updates on the project. Don't wait for the client to reach out first.
- Share your opinions when appropriate.
- Request feedback. You don't have to wait until the project is complete to know if your customers are satisfied. Ask how you can improve and what you are doing well, and adjust accordingly.
Tip #5: Do Your Research
One of the best ways to maintain excellent communication is to stay informed and be prepared for every interaction with your freelance clients.
If you are meeting with a potential client for the first time, research their business and their competitors beforehand. For established clients, double-check your progress, read over your materials, and jot down notes before phone calls or meetings. You will communicate your thoughts more clearly and concisely if you know beforehand what you need to say and what items should be discussed.
Another critical part of doing your research is staying on top of your skills. The tech industry is fast-moving. As a self-employed software developer, it's important to keep up-to-date on skills such as frameworks or languages, so you are equipped to handle each project. Your goal should be proficiency at your job and the ability to talk to your clients throughout the process in a simple, understandable manner.
Tip #6: Keep It Simple
Never assume your client has the same knowledge you possess. Especially in the software development field, you should expect clients to lack any technical background. Because of this, everything needs to be straightforward, user-friendly, and easy to understand.
All documents should be short and to the point. Use plain, simple language. It won't be engaging if there is too much jargon or unnecessary detail.
Another tip to keep in mind is to avoid communicating too much at one time. You want to be cautious of overloading a client with excessive information because they might miss critical details. For example, avoid sending an email that includes a meeting reminder, an update about a setback you encountered, and a request for specific documents.
Tip #7: Establish Expectations
To communicate efficiently with your freelance clients, you should define the scope of the project from the very beginning. This includes discussing details such as the budget, timeline, and delivery dates. A project scope sets boundaries and expectations and creates a baseline to help you stay on the same page as clients.
Once you agree with the client, it will make communicating more simple. There shouldn't be questions or confusion about the process or the project goals.
When unforeseen issues arise, such as a budget change, be sure to address them promptly and thoughtfully. Budget issues can be difficult, but approaching them with confidence and transparency will help maintain a level of trust and reduce the potential for destructive conversations.
Tip #8: Use Technology to Your Advantage
There are many useful tools that aid in maintaining strong communication. Each is unique, with different strengths, and finding the perfect mix that works for you and your clients can be highly beneficial.
As most freelance jobs are remote-based, video conferencing tools are helpful and often necessary. If meeting in person is not possible, the next best option is a virtual meeting with both visuals and audio. Video conferencing allows for better communication than phone calls because you can rely on body language and non-verbal cues rather than just verbal communication.
For the self-employed, project management tools are essential for communicating successfully. There are many platforms and software to help plan, track, and collaborate with others. These tools give you the ability to stay organized, meet deadlines, and schedule reminders to communicate with clients.
Document collaboration tools exist to make storing, sharing, and downloading files easy. As a remote freelancer, handing important files over in person isn't possible, and sending them via email isn't always an option. With these tools, you can collaborate and even communicate remotely with your clients on the same document in real-time.
Practice Makes Perfect
It can be a process of trial and error to learn how to communicate effectively as a freelancer. However, once you have mastered it, it can set you and your business up for success by building trust, establishing rapport, increasing client satisfaction, and growing your business.
If you are a freelancer wanting to put your communication skills into practice, look no further than Talentcrowd. Talentcrowd is a hiring platform that builds outsourced contract development teams for clients.
Working with Talentcrowd, you will be matched with amazing, carefully-selected clients. All clients and developers are thoroughly vetted to ensure they are a great fit. You will work remotely on a team with extensive remote experience, which means everyone can communicate well. You will also join a supportive freelancer community with a positive work culture.
Now that you know the basics of being a good communicator, you can follow these tips and start practicing excellent, effective client communication.
What is a Freelancer?
A freelancer is someone who is self-employed and not committed to a long-term employer. They are independent contractors who typically earn wages on a per-job or per-project basis.
What is Effective Communication?
Effective communication is when a message - such as an idea, opinion, thought, data, or knowledge - is successfully exchanged and easily understood. It results in both the sender and the receiver being satisfied with the outcome.
What are the Five Types of Communication?
What are the 7 C's of Communication?
What are Effective Ways to Communicate with Freelance Clients?
- Be a good listener.
- Be professional.
- Have well-written job proposals.
- Be proactive.
- Do your research.
- Keep it simple.
- Establish expectations.
- Use technology to your advantage.
What is TalentCrowd?
Talentcrowd is a recruiting platform that builds outsourced software development teams for amazing clients. They find top talent and hand-select them for each project to ensure it's a positive experience for everyone involved. Developer positions are contract work and remote-based. They have a high retention rate which is evidence of their supportive freelance community. To apply for a job with Talentcrowd, apply here.