In today’s age of constant information overload, good communication skills are non-negotiable for a freelancer. While your subject matter expertise helps attract clients, sustaining the relationship requires good communication skills.
If you’re a freelancer, chances are that you are working remotely. Without the face-to-face rapport engendered by traditional set-ups, it is imperative to intentionally build trust and improve your communication skills.
It is said that every piece of communication consists of two parts—the what and the how. The same holds true while communicating with your clients. Be clear what it is that you want to say and how you are going to put it across. The latter does not merely consist of your choice of words, but also the mode by which you will be communicating.
The four popular modes of communication today are emails, messages, calls and face-to-face.
1. E-mailsIf official and professional is what you want to convey, opt for e-mails. They may seem to take up too much time—you’d spend time drafting the e-mail, checking for error, fine-tuning your words and re-reading several times to ensure you are leaving no room for your message to be misconstrued. While the process may seem time consuming, it has a definite advantage on occasions when you want your communication to be ‘on record.’
Make sure you add an effective subject line so your e-mail stands out among the many others that your client receives.
2. MessagingTraditionally, this consisted of the SMS service provided by your mobile service provider. Today however, there are a plethora of options, the most popular in India being WhatsApp. If your client and you are on the same platform, you can also choose to use instant messengers.
While text messaging was once considered informal, this is no longer the case. Even the court of law permits information shared on messaging channels as valid evidence. However, do try to refrain from using this mode all the time. Save it for occasions when you anticipate a lot of back and forth or when you need a quick clarification. Of course, you could always choose to make a call, but the advantage of text messaging is that you can refer back to the conversation. Little wonder then that a recent survey estimates that the number one communication tool is instant messaging.
3. TelephoneOften, this mode of communication is the hands-down winner among freelancers who work with domestic clients. Unlike e-mails and messages where you’d have to rely only on words, telephone calls have an obvious edge—when you hear your client, you’re often able to pick non-verbal cues like tone of voice, amusement, frustration and so on. In short, telephone calls are more ‘transparent’. While conversations tend to be real-time and are therefore difficult to reference in future, most smartphones allow you to record calls. Make sure you inform the client though, as recording without consent is considered illegal.
4. Face-to-faceWhile the various tools available today can help you communicate effectively with clients, a good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting is sometimes the best bet. Not only does it add a personal touch and cement the client-freelancer relationship, it’s often the best mode when you need to brainstorm or strategise.
Ultimately, whatever the mode of communication you choose, remember that the best communication rule while freelancing is simply to keep communicating!