A freelancer's guide to working effectively with clients


A guide to working successfully with your clients

Being a freelancer in the online gig economy means you'll juggle many responsibilities simultaneously - managing your business, working to meet multiple project deadlines and pitching to new clients.

Delivering excellent work is understandably the priority, and your ability to manage your workload effectively also has an impact on how well your business runs and how much time you have for finding new clients.

Improving how you work with clients to deliver work is the focus on this guide. You'll learn how to improve the three fundamentals of working with clients:

In this guide

A freelancer's guide to working with clients

Organisation

As a remote freelancer, being organised is critical. Organisation will help you deliver great work on time and keep hold of the clients you enjoy working with.

Being organised will help you to deliver work promptly, remember important milestones and communicate effectively. These are all very important traits to show in how you work with a client when you don't have the benefit of seeing them every day.

There are a couple of ways to stay organised as a remote freelancer.

Online tools

Freelancing often means you don't always work from a traditional office. Your workspace could be at home. It may even double up as the kitchen bench or nursery! And if you work from a co-working space or coffee shop, you won't have the luxury of filing space.

Our guide to effective collaboration goes into more detail, but the number of online tools designed to keep you organised and productive are plentiful.

There are tools for tracking project progress like Trello, Wunderlist, Wrike and Jira. And there are services for file storage and sharing like Basecamp, Dropbox and Google Drive.

Here's a simple trick to never miss a client deadline again.

  • Create a Trello account using your primary email address
  • Add your to-do to the board as a Trello card
  • Upload the deliverable to Trello and attach it to the Trello card
  • Add a due date and subscribe yourself to the Trello card
Trello card reminder

Trello will then helpfully remind you the day before you are due to send the deliverable, and then again on the day itself.

Setting clear project rules

The second way to improve organisation is to set clear, defined rules around each project you work on. In other words, you need to put together a contract. Contracts are not only to protect you from projects going awry, but they are to provide clarity about what a project does and does not include.

Having a contract that clearly defines what you have agreed to do helps you stay organised by reducing the amount of time and effort you spend on doing work you're not being paid for.

Our guide on writing contracts can help with this.


Communication

Communication is the next fundamental ingredient for working with clients effectively. Clear, professional, direct communication can be the difference between a project ending well or not.

There are different considerations for how you communication depending on where you are in the lifecycle of a project.

Before the project

Good communication before you are even hired for a project is vital. What you say before you start will have an impact on everything that follows.

Before a project starts, your communication should be clear, detailed and unambiguous. Nothing should be left to assumption as you enter into a project with a client. Discussing your plans, capabilities and the details of the project in advance will help you avoid a difficult conversation later in the project.

During the project

As a freelancer you’ll be used to working alone and getting on with the task at hand. Chances are you’re experienced in your field, you know what needs doing and your focus is on getting the job done. But bear in mind that working with freelancers may be a new thing for your client and they are likely to be more familiar with being able to pop down the hall to check how things are going or being a part of regular progress meetings.

Communicating to your client where you’re at with the project, the next steps, any challenges that could delay things or just letting your client know that everything is going well and the deadline is still on track goes a long way. Not only will it help to make sure your client still feel in control and involved, it also means they can keep their colleagues, clients or external parties updated without the need to chase you.

Whether you use traditional methods of communication like messaging/phone/email or favour online tools like Skype/Slack/Google Hangouts doesn’t matter, whatever works best for you and your client. You may find it useful to decide on the tools you are going to use at the beginning of the project.

After the project

Once you have finished the project you might be straight into the next piece of work or putting more time into applying for new projects; but don’t underestimate the importance of responding to any final queries that might be sent your way - they could turn into your next project.


Feedback

Receiving good feedback is great, it gets added to your profile, you can share it on social media and it’s bound to make you feel motivated and positive.

But what about any points that aren’t so positive? You’ve got two options:

  1. ignore it and move on
  2. use it productively to improve your offering as a freelancer

Of course, the second option is probably most constructive. When you receive negative feedback, there are a number of questions you can ask:

Whatever your conclusion, learn from it and apply it to your next project to make sure that next time it’s positive feedback you receive.

For more, read our guide on how to handle client feedback


Summary

There are three things that will really help to improve your working relationship with your clients.


Other Resources

How to write a great application

As a freelancer, your application is your first point of contact with a potential client. It’s your chance to really sell yourself and get noticed.

A freelancer's guide to handling client feedback

Feedback on a your work is almost guaranteed. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. But how should you respond? Find out here.

A freelancer's guide to insurance

As your business grows and higher value projects start to roll in it makes sense to get some insurance. Find out what you need to know.


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