Good relationships between freelancers and their clients are built on mutual trust and respect, which largely come from good communication. Your projects are also much more likely to have a successful outcome if both parties are communicating clearly. Here are some tips, for both freelancers and clients, to help you communicate effectively with each other.
Say what you mean
Avoid misunderstandings by saying exactly what you mean, for example: “Can we have a meeting?” is better than “Should we meet?” if you would in fact like to arrange a meeting! Using “should” makes you sound uncertain, while using “can” instead leaves the other person in no doubt that you want a meeting.
Clarity is really important when a client is giving feedback on the project, or when you are negotiating the project requirements or terms; if what you are saying is clear, both freelancer and client understand exactly what is required of them.
Use proper grammar
So much communication is done by email and, unfortunately, emails are often full of spelling mistakes and poor grammar.
Maybe this is because people are too used to texting and tweeting, mediums in which words and sentences are shortened to fit in with the allotted number of characters. Maybe it’s because email is seen as such a quick and cheap method of communicating that emails are written in a hurry; or maybe it’s because grammar isn’t taught in schools anymore (at least it wasn’t taught when I was at school…).
Whatever the reason, it is such a shame because spelling and grammar are so important in effective communication. The meaning of a word or entire sentence can be changed by a careless spelling mistake or awkward grammar.
I’ve received many emails containing fragmented sentences, errors, and such appalling grammar that their meaning has been as clear as mud! I’ve also felt really embarrassed when I notice that I’ve sent out an email containing a silly typo. (I can’t help it – my mum’s an ex-English teacher and my sister’s a writer, so being a stickler for proper spelling and grammar is clearly genetic!)
So to be sure the person you’re emailing will clearly understand what you’re telling or asking them, take the time to write in full sentences. Then read your messages over before sending – and don’t forget to check for typos!
Avoid technical jargon
It’s very easy to slip some technical jargon into conversation without realising it, whether you’re a freelancer describing your working process or a client describing your services or products.
Terms like “bleed”, “EPS”, and “bitmap” are normal to me but I’ve had to explain them to clients who don’t know what they mean, and terms that my clients see as everyday have had to be explained to me – like the Christmas trees on oil rigs aren’t the type you hang tinsel on!
When faced with technical jargon we’re likely to either doze off or feel embarrassed that we don’t understand what the other person is saying, so avoid using it if you can, or at least add an explanation if you can’t. And obviously, if the person you’re talking to is using jargon you don’t understand, just ask what they mean.
Honesty is the best policy may be a cliché, but it’s also great advice. You should never lie to your client; if you get found out it can do serious damage to your working relationship.
If a client asks a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t make something up and hope for the best. Say you don’t know but will find out and get back to them. Having verified the information, your answer will then be more useful to your client.
Similarly, clients shouldn’t lie to freelancers. Please don’t say “the cheque’s in the mail” if you forgot or didn’t have time to post it. Instead, say “oops, I forgot but I’ll take care of it today” – and get yourself round to the Post Office – and your freelancer will respect your honesty, stop cursing the slow postal service and as a result, probably not mind that your payment is now a few days late.
This one should go without saying really, but sometimes we do need a reminder. You should always be polite in your business relationships, even when things go wrong.
If you’re unhappy with some aspect of your working relationship or project, don’t rush in with all guns blazing. In the first instance at least, be polite when making your complaint and the other person will be more receptive to what you’re saying.
It’s really easy to get defensive if someone sends you a rude, angry or downright abusive email, so don’t send an email with language or attitude that you wouldn’t expect to receive. This is where you must try to remember that mutual respect, and keep it civil in the hopes of resolving the problem quickly and satisfactorily.
It’s easy for a project or working relationship to go wrong if communication between the freelancer and client is poor. However, it’s also easy to communicate effectively and maintain a good relationship as most of these tips just rely on common sense. Communicate with your client or freelancer the way you expect them to communicate with you – honestly, clearly and respectfully – and you should enjoy a successful working relationship.