Freelancing isn’t always easy and if you don’t communicate well then all hell can break loose.
Keeping calm and maintaining a professional attitude are essential skills to master as a freelancer. If you start acting unprofessionally, you’ll piss off your clients and lose business.
So how do you avoid doing that? Well next time the going gets tough, keep this article to hand. We’re going to share our 10 commandments for happy projects. With these rules, you’re always going to be on top form with happy clients.
So without further ado, here’s how not to piss off your clients (even when they’re pissing you off.)
1. Keep to your word
Don’t make promises you have no intention or means of keeping. “I will get this to you tonight” means before the end of the day and not tomorrow, in a few days, or next week.
This can sometimes arise if you’ve got a client who’s always asking for updates and doesn’t give you any space get the work done. You think that telling them it’ll be ready that same day will get them off your back for a bit, but they’ll be back and twice as difficult in the morning.
It’s always better to be honest about where you’re at, and set clear boundaries regarding communication. If there are delays, tell the truth. Your client will respect you all the more for it.
2. Don’t be shy about sending work
We’ve all got a touch of perfectionism in us. And while it’s good to make a project the best it can be, don’t be afraid to send draft files and the like, even if they’re not 100% finished yet. This gives your client the chance to give you feedback as you go. This means you avoid a scenario where the client really hates the end product and you have to start all over again.
Similarly, if you’re late on a deadline, it’s better to send over what you have done than just not send anything at all. That way they can see that progress is being made and they won’t be getting as frustrated about the delay. Clients like regular updates, as it’s reassuring to see what’s being done. A freelancer who avoids sending work at all costs is often a red flag.
3. Reread the project description & all communication from the buyer
Before you start working, double-check the project description and make sure you know exactly what the buyer wants. Also reread their messages – sometimes, a project scope will slightly change once you’ve discussed it with them. Make sure you’re 100% sure on the results the client is looking for.
And if you’re not sure…
4. Ask questions
It’s a fact that clients don’t always make it clear what they want. But if the brief is vague and you don’t really know, the last thing you should do is just get straight to work. Instead, ask them to talk you through the brief and ask specific questions about particular points that are unclear. This means you can work effectively on the brief, rather than repeatedly sending over work that isn’t right and pissing off your client.
(For any rogue buyers reading this, check out our guide on writing the perfect brief to help your freelancer out.)
5. Communicate quickly in a crisis
Disasters happen. We all know that. Whether your hard drive has conveniently decided to wipe itself, or you’ve just got a sudden case of the lurgy, unexpected catastrophes can really put a halt on a creative project.
The thing is though, these things are understandable. Nobody wants to rebrand a business if they can barely get out of bed. So tell your client. Explain ASAP what’s happening and roughly how it’s going to affect the time frame. That’s much better for your client than you going AWOL for a week and then explaining. Communicating well is the best way to build trust and ensure your client knows you’re not just off gallivanting.
6. Don’t be vague
This starts from the minute you pitch on a project. Explain who you are, what you can do for the client and when you can get it done by. Vague promises are frustrating, as you have to remember a lot of clients won’t have practical experience in what you’re doing. Being clear and open makes working on a freelance project a lot easier and the end result is a happy client (who will probably come back for repeat work.)
7. NEVER try to con the buyer
This one should go without saying, but it’s really important.
If a project is just going badly, don’t try to mislead the buyer by sending over draft files and then pretending they’re the wrong ones, or by deliberately corrupting them so they can’t open them. It’s the sort of thing people pull in school when they haven’t done their homework, and it’s very very transparent.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: honesty is always the best policy. People know when you’re taking the piss.
8. Keep updates short and to the point
Don’t waffle. Give your client regular updates, but keep them concise. Explain what you’ve done, attach some drafts, and let them know what the next steps will be. Keeping your client engaged in what’s going on is key to a happy project.
9. Check your messages every day
Very few people are going to believe you haven’t looked at your smartphone in three days and that’s why you’ve been ignoring a message.
Take 10 minutes to check your messages every day and reply to queries from your clients. Often, it won’t even take that long! There’s nothing more damning than “I haven’t heard off my freelancer in over a week.” This is the sort of thing that leads to projects getting cancelled and bad reviews off clients, which is something you simply don’t want!
Remember, this is a professional relationship, not someone you’re ghosting after a bad first date.
10. Be clear about days off and holidays
Explain to the client what days you work. These are days you then have every reason to not check your messages, as they’ve already been warned upfront that you’re not available on certain days.
As for holidays, be sensible about what work you take on just before a longer period of time off. If a project is urgent and you’re about to go to Malaga for 2 weeks, avoid pitching on it! Make sure a project’s time frame fits in with any holidays you’ve already booked for yourself. (And remember to actually take holidays!)
On another note, if you’ve got other projects on the go, let the clients know. Explain that you won’t be working on their project 24/7 if this is the case, and again, make sure that you’ll be able to meet the deadline.