From my Clients I learned…
…To handle clients!
But not only this!
[su_dropcap style=”flat”]Y[/su_dropcap]ou never stop learning I think it’s one of the absolute truth of life. I always try to keep some redo che sia una delle verità assolute della vita. I try always to learn from the lessons that are taught me: by fate, by friends, by what happens around me. In the recent months, the thing that made me grow was been: having to deal with my clients. Because sometimes, especially when you are starting out, it is never easy to communicate properly without misunderstandings or problems …
The distance does not help, and even speak two different languages: on the one hand there is a person that very often does not know exactly what he wants and who relies on you, exposing to you desires and requests. On the other, there is you, graphic, web designer or expert in digital marketing, that you’ve got the ideas all too clear and sometimes rigid. But the two languages often do not have points in common.
Well, this article comes after the one written for Less Is Sexy (Web Dictionary on ‘Less is Better’), because I realized that sometimes what is studied and it is assumed as the optimal level of efficiency and effectiveness, is not always what you really need in reality. There are plenty of articles on the management of clients, some are too irreverent and rude. My idea is that it is never good to speak ill of those who still allows you to live doing what you love.
True, there are arrogant clients (but I think it’s because they do not know clearly communicate what they want), others that demand too much, or who do not realize that often ask the impossible, with discounted prices, but not for this reason you have to make fun of them or put them in ridicule online.
The respect first of all. Always.
How much would be bad if someone started to write on their website, facebook page or forum, that a web designer, a graphic, or a Social Media Manager are arrogant, inept, or simply obnoxious? I fully realize that manage customers is never easy, especially if you are starting out, and maybe this post is directed precisely to all those people who are undertaking the career Freelancer … And find themselves facing alone to this wonderful adventure. I am also certain that in six months, I can safely write a sequel to this post, because as I said before: you never stop learning.
Let’s learn to handle the client!
- The brief must be clear and comprehensive. This is because it will not give rise to future problems then, I usually divide it into two parts: a discursive side and another side more technical. I highlight always expenses that are NOT covered in the budget, such as: the purchase of the web space, or the theme. I usually list also additional services that I can offer related to what the customer requires, and it has been one of the best moves … Because often who asks you for a quote does not have clear ideas and not even know exactly what he wants. In the budget, I also detail the guidelines of the project, the basic steps and what are the tasks of the two parts.
- 90% of the communications will be via e-mail or forum. The point that will most turn up their noses, and I often find myself defending tooth and nail. Why avoid Skype or phone calls? This is the question I really want to answer. Because it’s a waste of time. People like me who often works from home, they will definitely accustomed to be multitasking, spend hours on the phone with a person means to be blocked and not be able to do anything. By phone you can touch many topics, if you are not quick to take notes or concentrated for not to ramble, you risk to lose pieces here and there. At the beginning, I offered the chance to spend some time together on Skype (or to the phone in case of no stable connection) to explain to the customer the operation of the new site. How to update the parts that make it up, what to change, how to insert images in the articles, the basic elements and so on. Because, although counter-productive for me, the customer must be able to manage his website independently once delivered. Unfortunately it did not work, I realized that the best move is to write a long email (or a file of word) with all the information enclosing the screen-caps. It has the possibility to print and always keep on hand all the necessary information. I have also created a forum on my new site, to facilitate the request for help of my customers. Hoping to avoid the risk that a few emails have been lost. This point is referred to when you have not the chance to meet in person the customer frequently or not at all.
- Availability. But not too much. You always have to find the right balance. I love what I do, and it took years of favors to friends and family to make me understand that it was time to get in the game seriously. I have always been available to everyone, I have always made an extra effort to reach out to those in front of me, and with the fear of disappointing the customer, with both the fussiness typical of someone who wants to have everything under control. I didn’t follow a schedule: I worked seven days a week, day or night it made no difference. I replied to the email even though I was out to dinner with friends. Then I realized that I would have to straighten me out, because as far as I was beginning, I started to have serious problems also to organize the actual work. So, armed with good will I created calendars where I split the work and I list all commitments (offline and online) so as to know how to better manage them … For example: Sundays and Saturdays usually I work on my site if I am at home and I don’t go out. I never work for more than a certain number of people at a time, and the schedule I always keep a large, unexpected events happen more often than you can imagine
- Don’t take them seriously if they don’t follow your instructions. My Mom always told me that I am touchy. It’s not exactly true, depends on the environment and the way in which the other tell me the disapproval. When someone asked me for explanations in particular areas: SEO, graphics, setting content, and more, I have always tried to adapt as possible, the general rules to the style of the person which I have to deal with. In many cases, my instructions were ignored, or poorly managed. At the beginning I felt sorry about it. I found illogical that someone asked me something in which I was ‘the expert’ and then he did on his own. I began also to doubt about my real skills both professional and communicative. Then I realized that I had to stop. That it was not for the little confidence in me, but simply the fact that some aspects need to be analyzed calmly. The change often is not looked kindly upon. Always remember to your customer, that are suggestions, that they had better follow them but not insistent. They must still be able to maintain a degree of autonomy and their own personality.
- Try to get through to them what happens. This point is closely related to the previous one, when you give the directions or you make choices, generally, for us ‘ of the trade’ are more or less taken for granted, but for the customer aren’t. If you can not make him understand the mechanism, the reason of your choice, he most likely will never follow that indication; especially if it deviates much from his manner. There is more chance that he pay heed to you if you can involve him in the mechanisms of the web.
A little trick? I usually forward the articles – even taken by other websites – that explain the problem in a clear way and if possible little technical. With this new site, I have in preparation a series of articles that will help me to make understand some concepts that with the time I discovered to be recurring. You may consider it a loss of time, but you will benefit from quality of professional relation but also personal, and a customer who feel followed and understood will be more inclined to come back to you rather than search another one.
- The education and respect above all. To communicate in this digital age is never easy, misunderstandings are behind each pixel; we can not see the expression of the speaker, the tone of the voice, and neither you know him so well as to work out his ways. I occasionally appear more rude than I actually am, because I answer without using smilies or suspension points. I often write short e-mail if the information is of the type “I will work with this tomorrow, see you soon.” So I can be misunderstood, and I started adding a smile or a few sentences of circumstance more ‘sweet’, to avoid that who read me always ask me if I am angry, or worse, they apologize. Then there’s those who aren’t misunderstood and uses tones pretentious and arrogant, in that case: always reply calmly and politely, do not lower yourself to that level, always try to be friendly.
- Believe in what you can do. When I started to have the first customers, I was afraid: I wondered if I couldn’t be enough good in my job. If they ask me something that I don’t know? By the time I realized I had to believe more in myself and that if anyone had asked me something that I was not able to know, there would be always Google. With just a click and I have simply to: study.
You have to understand that the customer who asks you for help or advice, do not always have the prior knowledge in that field; not always he has ‘studied’ the same things that you have studied as a professional. Your job is also to guide him in this journey you are about to undertake together. In this article I analyze the various aspects of managing the customer in a more negative than positive manner, because they are also the most delicate and problematic ones. Each experience also gave me many smiles and satisfactions, and each customer has helped to raise the level of skills to the next one. When you stand yourself on anyone in a humble and sincere way, people understand it, and they also manage to go beyond those that can be your weaknesses or deficiencies. I tell you a small example. One of the actual clients asked me something I do not know, I do not nor believe if it is possible technically. I had two options: lie to her and say yes, or say no, that was not feasible and not part in our agreements. Instead I took the third way, I said: “I do not know if you can and if I will be able to do this. But I can try to study, so that we conclude the project. In my free time, I will study the thing that you asked me, and I will let you know. “She was excited about it, and wait a few more weeks was not a problem for her. For me? An opportunity to improve and grow, certainly I will not debit any expense even if I will not fail because I use her pretty much as a guinea pig … But in case of success, I could easily add this thing on the list of services that I can offer.
And how do you manage your clients? Have you other helps or considerations?