When you write for the web, you could be writing from anywhere, and the company you’re writing for could be anywhere.
You may never meet many of your clients face-to-face. You’ll communicate with them strictly over the phone or via email.
Unfortunately, this eliminates a client’s ability to read your body language, as well as your ability to read theirs.
That’s why it’s doubly important to ensure the message you’re giving to your client is clear and confident.
Try using these six (plus) tips to ensure your client is receiving the message you’re INTENDING to send:
Tip #1: DON’T use noncommittal words and phrases…
Things like, “maybe, sometimes, nearly, this is just my opinion, sorry, or well.” DO use strong words like, “always” and “exactly.”
When you use noncommittal words, your intention is to be polite and not overpromise anything.
However, your client may mistake that for your being unsure about what you’re saying.
Let’s say you’re discussing a deadline with your client. They ask if you can have the project done by a certain date. You respond with a maybe. You’re intention is to be honest with them.
But, think about what other messages you may be sending…
- That you don’t have a handle on your workload. How can you, if you don’t know how much work you have on your plate?
- That you’re not treating your work like a business… otherwise you would make a firm commitment to a deadline.
- That—and this important—you aren’t confident you can make the deadline, but are afraid to say so. This puts them in the mindset of waiting for you to miss it.
What should you say instead, if you’re not sure you can make the requested deadline? Be positive and definitive. Say something like, “I’m sorry, I can’t commit to that deadline. But I can commit to X date.”
This kind of response tells them you’re a professional who has a handle on your business and your workload, and you won’t make a commitment you’re not sure you can deliver. This builds trust and puts you on equal footing with them.
Tip #2: DO research the client before you speak to them.
This tip speaks to your professionalism. If you’re going to take on a project for a client, you could approach it one of two ways…
1) You could just accept the project, and then follow the directions they give you;
2) You could research and understand their business and their industry. This allows you to deliver on the project they’ve asked for and make suggestions that will help them improve the project, given YOUR knowledge of web writing.
By choosing option 2, you greatly increase your value to your client, and thus the fee you can charge. You position yourself as a partner working with them to ensure the success of their project… rather than just a vendor who does the bare minimum.
Tip #3: DO create a checklist of questions you want to ask.
Having a checklist of questions does several things for you. First, it ensures you get the answers you need to effectively quote a fee for a project or to begin work on it.
Second, you show your client you’ve prepared for the conversation ahead of time and you respect their time. You also reduce the need for follow-up calls to obtain important information you may have missed.
Third, you show your client you’re a confident professional, you take your job seriously, and you take their project seriously.
Whether this conversation is about quoting a price for a project or about work you’re already doing for them, you should always prepare in advance. In fact, that leads to…
Tip #4: DO prepare responses to questions they may ask you…
Questions such as, “How much do you charge?” and, “How soon could you get this project done?”
If you don’t think about what a client might ask you and prepare for how you’re going to respond, you’re probably going to stumble on your answers. That can make you sound uncertain… which, in turn, makes your client feel uncertain.
To ensure you’re being clear and confident with your clients, think about how you’d answer their questions, how they might respond to your answers, and how you’d handle their likely replies.
When you prepare, you show your client you’ve done this before. Whether this is your first project or 500th, you should never give a client the impression this is new for you. You want them to trust you, and sounding like you know what you’re doing is key.
Tip #5: DON’T let them pressure you into a commitment you’re not likely to deliver.
Imagine lining up a conversation with your ideal client. You’ve been trying to land them for months, maybe years. And now, they have a project for you. If you do a good job, you know there’s so much more work that could come your way.
But, the client gives you a large project and asks if you can have it done in two weeks. Not just the first draft; they want it finished and ready to go in two weeks.
I overcommitted to a project like this once. And you can probably guess the outcome: I failed miserably, and the client has never again asked me to do any work for them. Yes, I got paid. But it wasn’t worth it. I failed them, and I failed myself.
The whole project was rushed, because I barely had time for the writing… let alone the research, brainstorming, and outlining that should have been done BEFORE the writing.
It does you no good to agree to something you know will put you out of your depth. You won’t do your best work. Your client will not get what they need to grow their business. And you’ll hurt your reputation and potentially your own business.
Tip #6: DO express gratitude.
Think this doesn’t have anything to do with confidence? Thanking a client for giving you the opportunity to work with them shows you understand they put their trust in you.
In the same way you have a lot of potential clients, they have a lot of potential web writers they could hire. Make sure you thank them for choosing you.
Especially when you’re new to each other, they’re taking a risk by hiring you. Acknowledge that and let them know you appreciate the opportunity.
Then EXECUTE: Do your best work, and you’ll both win.
And, I’ll throw in a few more DOs that will improve your interactions with clients:
- DO speak slowly on the phone. Rushed speech implies nervousness or lack of listening skills.
- DO smile when you’re speaking. They may not be able to see it, but it will come across in your tone.
- DO focus on the client and what their needs are. That takes the focus off you, relaxes you, and tells the client you’re there for them.
- DO use a process to bring on new clients and new projects. Having a process gives you confidence and shows your client you’re a professional.
Follow these tips and let me know if your communications with your clients improve. I find the more diligently I follow these guidelines, the better my projects go. Do you have other communication and confidence tips that have proven to be beneficial? Share them in the comments!