Finding clients and managing them is one of the most talked about issues in freelancing.
Many blogs and freelancing sites have a lot of helpful information on this issue, however, very few provide content on how to manage long-distance clients or long distance relationships (since this isn’t a website about love or marriage, I’m sure you know I mean business relationships).
In recent times, due to the effects of the internet, it is quite common to have clients living in different states, regions, and sometimes different countries and time zones. These clients are called long-distance clients, and they require extra skill skills to manage.
Long distance clients are different because unlike clients who live around you, face to face meetings or discussions are inefficient, in most cases, you do not even know how they look. The absence of physical contact brings about two major problems. First is the difficulty in communication, and then the problem of trust, however with proper guide, these hurdles can easily be scaled. Here are some tips I’ve discovered which will make dealing with long distant clients less tasking.
Good communication skills are important for the success of a freelance business, in fact, any business. A successful freelancer knows how to communicate ideas and information fluently and properly transform the information communicated to him into results. With long distance clients, however, it’s not as easy as it seems. In a long distance client relationship, there are three major means of communicating. (1) Sending messages through mail or text (2) Phone calls, and in some cases (3) Video calls (which is very rare).
According to experts, visual expressions are important in communication. Many times I’ve read emails or texts and gotten confused as to what is meant in the mail. I ask myself questions like: what does the client mean here? Is he/she angry? Sometimes, whole messages or emails are confusing.
Due to the absence of facial expressions and tone of voice, it is very hard to understand messages or emails. A phone call reveals the tone of s client but even that still requires visual indications for full understanding, and video calling is unfavourable to most people. The following would make communicating with long distance clients become much easier.
- Understanding your client’s mode of communication. Understanding and adapting to a clients mode of communication reduces the chances of misunderstandings because it is much easier for clients to express themselves through means that they are accustomed to than one which they aren’t. Ask for their preferences and try to adapt to them.
- Always ask for clarifications when necessary. A freelancer should always ask for clarifications on information that is not clear. Apart from saving future mishap, asking for clarification makes the client to be more specific when making a request or describing a thing.Do not be shy to negotiate.
- Negotiation is an unavoidable part of dealing with a client. One of the worst mistakes a freelancer can make is to accept projects without being satisfied with the terms, whether monetary or otherwise. Most people find it difficult to negotiate through phone calls or mail because they feel it is awkward. As awkward as it feels, it is an unavoidable phase.Perfect your negotiation skills, train yourself to sound polite and business-like, be certain about how much you offer your services. With time, the awkwardness would leave.
One of the biggest problems of long distant clients or jobs is the absence of trust. The standard of trust required in a long distance job is much higher than that demanded in a job involving a client within close proximity because most people find it hard to trust other people they cannot see or have never seen.
The problem of trust goes both ways. Clients want topnotch services from freelancers and freelancers want trustworthy and co-operative clients. It is quite natural that these two things are more achievable where the two parties are able to see each other. With the following tips, the hurdle of trust in long-distance projects/ jobs can be easily scaled through.
- Communicate through various methods. Most people are comfortable with conducting business activities through e-mail or text, however, these methods lack a personal touch. When relating with long-distance clients, it is important to go through the stage of “getting to know each other”. A phone call, voice note or video call in a friendly but business-like manner would create a more personal feeling and put a voice or face to the person they are dealing with. People do not trust words, they trust the people saying them.
- Provide quality service. The best way to create trust between you and a client is probably by doing your work well. Each time you deliver satisfactory work to a client, you gain more trust and vice versa. Your work says much more about you than assuring words can. So, keep to deadlines and perfect your skill.
Do research on clients before accepting jobs from them. Doing background checks and research on a client can save you from a future mishap. Find out about their dealings with previous people, if you find indications that they would be untrustworthy or that they are of shady character, it is best to keep away from them.
Have any of these tips ever worked for you? Share your experience and opinion in the comments. Thank you.