Communicating with Freelancing Clients: Email vs. Phone vs. In-Person

Success with freelancing is all about balance, which is difficult to achieve when you start your own business. You have to go out of balance in many areas before you figure out how to juggle everything.

One significant tension for me is the method of communication with freelancing clients. Let me explain my thoughts:

The Conflict

I am a highly systemized person and dislike when I must do something outside of a process that I set for myself. For me, this means that I prefer email over all other types of communication.

The three biggest reasons are:

  • It’s asynchronous
  • It provides documentation
  • I get the least amount of spam

The problem is every client you work with is going to operate differently. Some are OK with email or text, while others (especially those over 40 years old) much prefer to hear your voice.

Email

If I don’t have written documentation of what to do, I’m likely going to forget to do it or make a mistake on the minor details. When someone includes all this information in an email, I become a perfectionist, and will meticulously go through every last “to-do” item.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when you are sending a “to-do” email to another business owner, there is a high likelihood they are going to scan the email, not read in-depth. They’ll take away one major thing – and ignore the rest.

It’s a great lesson, though. Not everyone operates like you, and that’s OK.

Phone

Recently, I was designing a brochure for one of my website clients. We had to go through several revisions, and the process looked like this:

  • They call me, I’m not available
  • Their message – “Hey, call me back.”
  • I call back, they don’t answer
  • Repeat 2-3x (we are working on different schedules)

Eventually, I told them you need to send me a list of all changes in written form. They did, and it allowed me to get to work on my schedule instead of hoping to reach each other at the same time.

Man, this is a pet peeve of mine. I HATE playing phone tag. And even more, I hate a text or voicemail that says, “call me back.” If you can’t describe the issue clearly, you probably haven’t thought about it enough!

I get so much crap from friends, family and even clients because I don’t answer my phone 90% of the time. To me, when I hear them complain, the message going into my ears is – “my time is more valuable than yours, and you MUST be available at my whim.”

I’ve also had one occasion where a client placed an order for hooded sweatshirts via the phone. When delivered, they complained something was wrong with the order. I was certain I heard them correctly when we talked, but since we had no written record, it was their word against mine.

With that said, phone communication is great to get a lot of information across in a short time, and it’s also much better for building trust, especially when you first begin working with someone.

In-Person

One weird thing about me is I get super nervous over the phone with potential clients. Maybe it’s because of a negative association with the order I got wrong years ago! Who knows.

But I enjoy meeting people one-on-one. Not only do you get a much better feel for the guy or gal, you are much more likely to close a deal in-person vs. phone or email.

On top of that, I meet with my best clients every few months. We get to share ideas, I see how their business operates, and we build the type of trust where you know you will keep that client for years.

This is how to build a sustainable freelancing business.

Find Your Balance

The key is finding the balance. You have to create your processes, but you also must be flexible to build your relationship with clients. I always stay flexible at the beginning, and slowly “train” my clients on my schedule and how I prefer to operate so that I’m most productive, which benefits both of us.

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