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By Lynne Gowers on 7th July 2014
All freelancers and contractors have to work with their clients in some capacity. Whether you have to report in a weekly basis or your client is the hands-on type, as an independent professional it’s essential that you know how to manage, cultivate and develop relationships with those who are paying your wages.
You’re the expert and this is why the client has sought out your skills in the first place. As a result of this, there may be some things that the person in charge doesn’t understand about your professional capability and the way you do things.
In order to deal with this, it’s important that you manage expectation early on and set out a clear timeline that will detail how and when you will deliver what you have agreed upon.
Your client is paying you to figure out the solution to a problem they have, how you get there is down to you but you have to ensure that the client isn’t expecting you to do something that’s not possible.
At the start of your relationship you should outline the costs, timeline and other metrics that you think are important and ensure that the client is clear on this before you begin.
As a freelancer, it’s likely that you have a certain amount of expertise in a particular area. That doesn’t mean you should go it alone on each contract, your client is paying you for a service and they will probably want updates on your progress at fairly regular intervals.
To avoid any crossed wires later on in the relationship, it could be worth setting up a plan early on regarding how often you intend to touch base with each other. Perhaps, weekly or monthly (depending on the length of the project) meetings or phone calls can be arranged to make sure things run smoothly.
If you know exactly when you’re due to check in with the client, it will keep them from stepping on your toes and constantly chasing you up.
Part of communicating problems is being able to listen to someone else’s views. Like we mentioned earlier, you’re the expert not your client and they may find it difficult to express to you what it is they actually want out of your service.
By taking the time to listen carefully to what your client is saying you’ll be able to help them help themselves by picking out the key info from their requests.
Once you have all the relevant data you think you need, you can make a few suggestions of your own and, hopefully, help the client articulate their desires a little better.
A good, healthy relationship is just as important in the business world as it is in your home life.
If you don’t have a decent bond with your client (even just on a professional level) you might be seriously reducing the chances of an extension or another lucrative project opportunity.
The only way you are going to develop your relationship with the client is by A) communicating with them and B) delivering what you’ve promised you will for the client.
Sooner or later, you’ll have to deal with a difficult person who, no matter what you do, just seems to be out to wind you up, whether it by being overly critical of your work, or by withholding payment for work you’ve done.
Of course, this is not likely to be the case, but the more frustrated you get, the less control you have on the situation.
If you do come across someone who seems like they are being unreasonable, try and get to the route of what they want. By being polite, understanding and communicating with your client clearly you may be able to come to some sort of arrangement that works for both of you.
Whether you’re a real people person, or a bit of a lone wolf, dealing with clients is just part of the freelancer’s job description. The better you get at this, the smoother your projects are likely to run. Take your time, and have a little patience!
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