By: Connor Gillivan
Efficient communication is essential to your success in a remote environment. It’s the cornerstone of your relationship with clients. Without efficient communication, things can get bad really fast. You won’t be able to get what you need to complete projects. Your clients will get nervous and start assuming the worst. Important details are left out, deadlines are missed – the list goes on.
Take these steps to set up efficient communication so you can impress and retain clients.
1. Agree On a Convenient Channel
It’s important to talk with clients about which communication channels they prefer. Some of them are always on Facebook, for example, while others might prefer to limit business communications to Skype. Apps like WhatsApp provide both chat, call and file sharing options, but some clients would rather use a collaboration tool to keep projects in one place. Yet others prefer to stick to email and schedule a call or chat only when there is something that really needs to be discussed.
Most of the time, you will have access to these tools if you are a remote worker. All you need is a stable internet connection – which you should already have anyway – and in some cases, permissions that the client can provide. Unless you absolutely cannot use a client’s preferred tool, it’s best to go with what clients are comfortable with. You are both busy and you both have your own preferred setups. To impress and retain clients, however, it’s down to you to be flexible and accommodating. Of course, you can’t always be on multiple channels all at once. This is where time availability comes in.
2. Discuss Mutual Time Availability
One of the challenges of remote work is mutual availability. For the most part, you and your clients will be in different time zones. This in itself can be a big enough challenge if you live halfway across the world from each other. Then there’s the other stuff you need to do, and your clients’ schedules, too.
Take advantage of your flexibility as a remote worker. If you really want the project, be prepared to shift your other projects and activities around to accommodate a client’s availability preferences. Keep a work calendar and have this in front of you when you speak with potential clients. Know what you can move and what you can’t – you also have to respect your agreements with current clients, right?
Willingness to make room for a new client’s project is always appreciated. It will go a long way to building trust with clients. Always extend your flexibility to suit the situation as long as it does not interfere with the quality of your work or life.
3. Set Up Regular Check-Ins
Once you have time availability down, it’s time to talk about setting up regular meetings. Having these regular check-ins is crucial to building a good relationship with clients. It gives them a chance to see how things are going and gives you the opportunity to ask any bigger questions that you might have about the project as a whole or your ongoing role.
You need more time for certain topics, and just shooting over a quick message often won’t do. For instance, you don’t want to drop a bomb on a client. If you want to talk about your long-term prospects with them, you need to give them a head’s up.
These meetings should be weekly to start so that the client can see your progress and gain confidence in your ability to work unsupervised. The client may then choose to conduct check-ins on a bi-weekly or even a monthly basis, depending on the nature of the project.
4. Be Open In Case Something Pops Up
You might want to fill up all your available time with projects so you can make ends meet. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s important to remain flexible, however. One of the main reasons why businesses are beginning to prefer hiring remote workers is this element of flexibility. If you lose that, you could end up losing clients.
Sometimes, things can go wrong, and you will need to talk with a client sooner than your next scheduled meeting. It could be something as simple as a scheduling issue on their end. If something important comes up and they can’t make it for a check-in, you need to be able to offer them a backup time slot. Similarly, if you’ve hit a snag that will take some discussion, you will need to settle any questions before you can move forward. The sooner you reach out, the better. That backup time slot, which you have decided on based on your next best mutual availability, will come in handy. You need to make sure that both of you can set aside enough time to properly go through any issues as soon as possible.
Efficient Communication is Key
The act of approaching clients about communication is already a step in the right direction. It shows that you are a professional with initiative. It shows that you are concerned about deadlines and keeping things organized. Maintaining efficient communication reinforces this first impression. It is key to building trust and good working relationships with clients. Efficient communication also helps you to stay on point so that you can deliver beyond expectations. After all, the bottom line is how you are able to get things done, no excuses, and how your reputation improves or declines as a result of your overall performance.
Guest Contributor Connor Gillivan is the author of Free Up Your Business: 50 Secrets to Bootstrap Million Dollar Companies, a serial entrepreneur, and the CMO and co-founder of FreeeUp.com. When he's not bringing together hundreds of freelancers and business owners, he's mentoring entrepreneurs through his site, ConnorGillivan.com. He currently lives in Denver, Colorado.