DOs and DON’Ts of Communicating With Your Client as a Freelancer

For freelancers to succeed, having the skills and talent to complete the task at hand is not enough. Maintaining open and effective communication with clients is what really makes or breaks a client-freelancer relationship.
Nadine Fahmy

Nadine Fahmy

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Becoming a freelancer has plenty of allure. You are your own boss, you work on your own time, you do not have to go to an office or suffer through long commutes. But it also comes with its challenges, and one of the major ones that freelancers face is communication with clients

In the digital age – and with platforms like Ureed.com – freelancers can get hired for a new job in a matter of minutes. In 2019, 64% of freelancers found their gigs online, according to FreeTrain. That makes communication an indispensable skill for your career as a freelancer, because you can get hired without in-person meetings or interviews, and you’re often judged solely based on the way you present yourself and your work online.

Presenting oneself well is crucial, but that does not apply to a profile or resume alone. According to a report by Workana, 24.8% of clients reported finding issues with maintaining open and consistent communication with the freelancers, especially after the stage of assignment. 

In order to ensure client satisfaction, and thus retention, freelancers need good reviews and a solid reputation. And those can only be achieved by paying attention to the way you communicate with your client before, during and after they assign you a project. That’s why we’ve gathered some of the most essential dos and don’ts to follow to ensure effective communication with your client.

DON’T impose a set of terms on your client
DO accommodate your client’s preferences while setting clear boundaries

One of the first steps of starting a fruitful working relationship with your client is setting some terms and agreements. But while it’s important to have your own rules – rate, working hours, etc. – it’s also important to listen to the client’s needs and requests first before bombarding them with all of the rules you’ve set for yourself. 

First, medium of communication

Not all clients have the same preferences you do in terms of mediums of communication and platforms. Do not insist on a call with your client if they prefer to stick to emails. And the same goes the other way around – if the client prefers a call, do not refuse. 

Clients often know what medium of communication is best to discuss the project that they assigned you, and if you try to impose your own preferences, this could affect the way the client communicates their instructions to you, and things can get lost in translation.

Before starting on the project, ask the client what their preferred medium of communication is. By showing that you are accommodating of whatever medium they choose, you show flexibility, eagerness and openness to work.

Second, working hours

Remote work entails that you navigate different time zones when working with different clients. It’s important to decide before taking on the project whether or not their deadline suits you, and later explain to them when they can contact you and how. Time zones can be difficult to navigate, but it’s not impossible if clear expectations are set and mutual respect is established from the beginning.

Third, fees

The same applies for charging fees. If your rate is fixed per word, then upfront transparency will make charging the fee for the project relatively easy. If your rate fluctuates and depends on each project at hand, then you can ask if they have a budget and proceed to explain in clear terms what you think is the appropriate fee for the project and how you reached that number. Being clear about the fees from the get-go is crucial. And clarifying what goes into your calculations will establish clear boundaries and professionalism between you and your client, while keeping the discussion amicable and showing what value you will offer with your work.

DON’T use an unprofessional tone 
DO use a grammar checker and save templates for pitches and e-mails

Whether you are communicating via email or even online messaging apps, you need to maintain a professional tone and attitude. Overfriendliness and coldness do not bode well, and could put off a client from pursuing more projects with you. Another crucial point is grammar. Using poor grammar – even if writing is not your specialty – will affect the clarity of your responses, and can cause a lot of unintended miscommunication.

Grammar checkers are your best friend. Make sure you employ one – Grammarly, Hemingway and Ginger are great options – by adding an extension to your browser, and they will automatically check your grammar for any inconsistencies or mistakes. 

Another way to ensure professionalism is by saving successful correspondences as rough templates to use. Follow the same format and keep the tone of voice intact, while changing the details to those of the project and client at hand. This will make communication with clients easier and more efficient in the long run. 

DON’T start working on the project right away
DO prepare a well-researched, well-thought-out outline

It can be tempting to jump right into work in order to submit it ahead of schedule and be done with it. But even if the instructions are clear and you’re confident that you will be able to deliver, invest in preparatory work to safeguard yourself from an overwhelming amount of revisions and edits later on. 

Sending the client a rough outline of your vision for the project beforehand will not only save you time and effort, but will also put your client at ease knowing that you are on the same page and on the right track. Before sending an outline, make sure you have researched around the topic properly in order to show you have the knowledge and skills appropriate for the project. A proper, well-rounded outline should include the following elements:

  • An overview of your approach to the project
  • A more detailed division of the different tasks relevant to the project
  • A general conclusion summarising what the project will have achieved by the end point

A well-rounded outline will include all of the above, and will demonstrate your experience as a freelancer and boost your credibility. It will also give you a strong foundation to work on that will make completing the project faster and easier. 

DON’T ask questions between every minor task
DO ask clear questions when necessary

Clients need freelancers to offer them their expertise. A flooded inbox of questions from you will appear unprofessional and make them wonder whether you know what you are doing. Do not send clients your questions late in the evening – or worse – in the middle of the night, and do not ask questions that a quick Google search might solve.

That does not mean you should refrain from asking questions at all. Questions are encouraged, but there is a proper etiquette to follow. Make sure that you know what your client’s timezone is so that you can send them any questions you might have during appropriate hours – between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM is your safest bet. 

If you want to guarantee a fast response, choose the highest and lowest points on that spectrum. Analytics and data have proven that most people respond to emails either early in the day or late in the evening, so being the first email they see at 9 AM, or the last one they see before clocking out, might increase your chances of getting a response. 

DON’T reject constructive feedback
DO allow revisions and edits, within reason

After sending in the project, don’t assume your work is done and go AWOL until you receive your pay. Part of your agreement with the client should include a willingness to review and edit the work on your end, and respect for your time and effort on their end. You should encourage constructive feedback about what you delivered, and show eagerness to work on it until it is up to par with the client’s standards and expectations. However, you should not be doing any additional tasks for free. 

Stay conscious of the agreements between you and your client from the beginning, and if the edits and revisions go beyond what was asked of you, then you should explain clearly that this task goes beyond the scope of your agreement. While you must be accommodating, you should also know your rights and set boundaries.

Final notes…

Maintaining open and professional communication is essential for freelance workers. With these steps, and of course, some trial and error, you can master effective and professional communication with your clients, while ensuring that your boundaries are met and your rights are secure.

Want to start pitching to clients and building fruitful working relationships? Reach out to Ureed.com – the GCC’s largest online freelancer marketplace and explore thousands of jobs across 150+ industries.