One of the best feelings about being a freelancer is the ability to work with different clients on your own. It’s an experience that you don’t typically get to be a part of when working at a company. However, since you normally don’t have a team to support you, all the responsibilities of maintaining a healthy partnership fall on you. A crucial piece to ensuring your clients are happy is through consistent communication and collaboration.
Oftentimes, clients will gravitate towards working with freelancers who demonstrate an ability to effectively communicate. Now this doesn’t mean you need to send them six emails a day and call them every hour. A frequent email with updates on the project may be enough and can go a long way to securing additional work.
Regardless if you are new to the world of freelancing or have been in the game for a while, the need for great communication and collaboration strategies is evident. To help give you ideas on how to improve communication we have broken out a couple of our top strategies of collaboration below.
Set Project Expectations Early
The key to any healthy relationship is communication, and in order to have great communication it all has to start with the first conversation. Before you ever begin working with a client, it is a good idea to discuss what the goals of the project are. Once you have a clear understanding of the action items, it is important to write them down and have the client sign off on the list. This not only helps both you and the client establish realistic expectations for what the deliverables are, but helps prevent scope creep as well.
When setting expectations it might be helpful to keep the following questions in mind:
- How often do you plan on meeting together?
- What is the protocol for updates and new requests?
- What medium will be used for communication?
- Who is the main contact person when you have questions?
- Are there any milestone deadlines or hard deadlines?
You may also find it useful to keep track of questions that come up throughout projects to add to this list as you gain more experience. The more information and detail you can establish upfront the happier your client will be. In this phase of working together, there really isn’t a thing as over communicating. Ask as many questions as you need to, until you clearly understand what they are looking to accomplish.
Scheduling Regular Meetings
Another strategy for effective team collaboration in the workplace is to schedule regular meetings. This can be one of the hardest strategies for freelancers to implement, especially when you start the work on the project. However, it is important that you find time to have a meeting with your client.
These meetings don’t have to be long and they can be daily, weekly or monthly depending on the nature of your work. Often a simple phone call or video conference is enough to keep your client satisfied. During these meetings you can discuss your latest work, milestones, deadlines, and other important updates. Keep in mind that these meetings are also a spot where clients can discuss any changes or updates to the original project. If they do decide to change the scope of the project then clearly establish any new objectives before leaving the meeting.
Meetings are of the best strategies of collaboration because they allow everyone involved to be heard. Your client can voice their feedback and you have the opportunity to show the progress you are making. Ultimately, the transparency it provides will lead to a stronger and healthier partnership.
Selecting the Best Collaboration Tools
What communication and collaboration strategy guide would be complete without discussing helpful tools! When it comes down to it, freelancers are typically only as good as the tools they use. Regardless if it is an industry specific tool or one that's functionality can be used across all platforms, tools make the job easier.
Project management tools like Trello and Basecamp help keep teams organized and provide a place for project-related discussions and tasks to be recorded. Freelancers who don’t have a team can use these systems one of two ways. The first is to use them to keep individual projects organized in one collective space. The second option is to share the project management tool with your client so you can provide transparency on how work is coming along.
Another set of tools that are equally important to having a successful partnership are communication tools. Platforms such as Skype, Slack, and Google Hangouts are vital to keeping constant communication with your clients. It also provides them with an easy way to reach out to you if they have a question or a small update.