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Improve Client Communications and Win Over that Problem Client

by Laura Spencer

on June 12, 2013

in Freelancing Basics

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Are you having trouble with a client? Does it seem that whatever you do, your client is unhappy?

It’s probably just another case of dealing with a problem freelancing client, right?

Not necessarily. A large number of client problems are a result of freelancer/client miscommunication. And communication problems can usually be solved.

So, how do you turn that problem client into a loyal supporter? One way is to improve your communication with them.

In this post, I’ll share some tips for using improved communication to improve your client relationships.

The Symptoms of Poor Communication

If you’re having problems with a client, it’s natural to assume that the client is to blame. However, that’s not always the case.

While it’s true that some people are just difficult to get along with, and clients are no exception, you can often improve a troubled client relationship by improving your communication skills.

  • Is your client’s attitude towards you uneven? Do they seem to like you one minute and dislike you the next? It could be that poor communications is the culprit. The client may actually admire you as a professional, but because of the communication problem, be dissatisfied with what you deliver.
  • Are you often unsure what the client really wants? Do you sometimes guess at what the client is asking you? Guessing is never a good way to run a business. If you do guess, chances are that you’ll guess wrong at least some of the time. No wonder the client is unhappy.
  • Do you keep poor records of your interactions with the client? Even freelancers with the best memories can forget details. Without good records of your client communications, over time both you and your client may come to expect very different things.
  • Are your interactions with the client often punctuated by emotional outbursts? Many freelancers interact with a client when they really should be cooling off. Or, they may thoughtlessly use words or terminology that upsets the client and provokes an emotional response.

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, a communication problem could be contributing to your problems with the client.

What do you do now?

Of course, you could ignore the problem with your client and try to find another client. But if you have poor communication skills you’re likely to find yourself caught in a never-ending cycle of troubled freelancer/client relationships.

A better answer is to address your communication problem directly. Learn to communicate better and your freelancer/client relationships will improve.

How to Improve Communications

Are you ready to improve your client communication skills? Here are some simple tips that can help you become a better communicator:

  • Determine the client’s communication style. Each of us has a preferred communication style. Some of us prefer to receive written communications, while others like face-to-face interaction. Some of us like long, drawn out discussions, while others want to get straight to the point. When a freelancer and a client have different communication styles, it can lead to problems. Learn how your clients communicate.
  • Keep better records of your interactions. One of the advantages to communicating by email is that you have a record of your discussion. However, not all clients like email communication. Even if you communicate by phone or in person, it’s still important to have a written record. Type up a summary of your discussion and send it to the client for approval.
  • Pay attention to your communication tone. Does your communication style clash with your client? Are you abrupt when he or she prefers a more subtle tone? Or, perhaps your client prefers the direct approach and you do not. If your current tone is ineffective, try a different approach. Better yet, ask your client what they prefer. The answer could surprise you.
  • Nail down project terms and expectations. The more specific you are, the less room there is for misunderstanding. For example, don’t just agree to complete the project in June. Instead, agree to an exact date and time for the delivery as well as the specifics of the deliverables. Again, if there is something about a project you don’t understand, ask.
  • Set appointments for communication. Many freelancers make communication mistakes because they are rushed into a communication when they are not ready. Instead of allowing clients to phone you or direct message you at any time of the day or night, make it a policy to set appointments for the really important discussions. That way, you won’t be caught off guard.
  • Be prepared…to really listen. While it’s important to prepare for a client discussion, it’s also important to pay attention to what the client says. Too often, the freelancer is thinking of the next thing they are going to say instead of listening to the client. So, do your homework before your meeting. But be prepared to really listen to what the client is telling you.

If you follow these tips, you should be well on your way to improving your client communication problems. You can find even more client communication tips in the post titled, 25 Tips for Avoiding Communication Problems.

Your Turn

What is your best tip for communicating effectively with clients?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image by alexkerhead

Learn how to earn $125 or more per hour as a freelancer - Free Test Drive

About Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy LauraĆ¢??s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.