Manage your clients effectively.

Great working relationships with your clients mean smoother projects and better business.

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For more on client management, check out the modules below.

Building strong client relationships.

Every client is different – not only in the work they require, but also in their personality and working style. How should you communicate with them? Is there a fixed formula? What if things get difficult?

Communication is always key.

  • Effective communication between the freelancer and the client creates mutual trust and respect, a more positive experience, and leads to better results and repeat business. To keep communications open, honest and productive:

    • Ask questions and clarify any concerns upfront so issues are resolved early.
    • Provide timely updates at the different milestones of your project.
    • Have a common reference for project timelines and schedules.
    • Handle differences of opinion tactfully and professionally. And if what a client demands truly isn’t feasible or puts the project at risk, don’t shy away from standing your ground.

    Need more advice on managing client relationships? This guide on Hongkiat can help:

  • Improve client communication

Managing a challenging client.

If you have a challenging project and want it to go more smoothly, it helps to identify the type of client you’re working with and to adapt your working style to them.

  • Some client management pointers.

    These are some approaches you could try if a client:

    • Constantly changes their mind: Get things down in writing after an approach is decided and explain that you’ll need to charge for any major course corrections after the project commences.
    • Keeps trying to get more out of you: Clearly communicate the added cost for out-of-scope work upfront before starting on the project.
    • Wants everything now, now, now: Establish a clear timetable and delivery dates and meet the deadlines you’ve set. At meetings, refer to this schedule, explaining where the project stands and what the next steps are.
    • Leaves everything in your hands: The freedom is nice to have, but before hitting any critical stages of the project, make sure you first get the client’s buy-in.
    • Doesn’t have a cent to spare: Agree on the project scope and cost and tactfully reject requests that are outside of the agreement.

    For more tips on managing challenging clients, you can also give this blog entry on Hongkiat a read:

  • What if a client relationship sours?

    Unfortunately, it’s possible that despite your best efforts, a client relationship takes a turn for the worse during the course of a project. If this happens, a communication breakdown between both parties has probably led to the unpleasant situation. To salvage matters:

    • Set aside negative feelings and focus on resolving the situation.
    • Put yourself in the client’s mindset to try and understand what is bothering them.
    • Initiate a dialogue focused on listening to grievances and identifying the issues to be addressed.
    • Next, suggest how you’d like to correct the situation, or ask the client to identify what would help.
    • Take immediate action once a solution has been agreed on – have a step-by-step approach to resolving the situation, following up at each stage.

    Besides getting the project back on track, your proactive ownership of the unpleasant situation could even strengthen the working relationship.

    As for dropping a client, that’s something you should consider only as a last resort. If you do take that route, it’s crucial to manage the split such that it’s amicable and respectful. Clearly explain why you’ve made the decision – in person, or at least through a call, and never by email. If you can, recommend someone who can take over the project.

Working with international clients.

International work will probably become more and more common as your freelance business grows.
Here’s some advice on how to work effectively with different time zones, cultures and currencies when your client’s halfway across the world.

  • Time zone differences

    Working across time zones means you and your client don’t share common work hours. They may be in the office when you’re in bed, or operating a half day earlier than you do. Your time management and communication need to take this into account. In some cases, you might want to sync your schedule to their time, especially if the project is particularly intensive. Otherwise, do let your client know what your working hours are to avoid having to stay up at all hours. When communicating, always refer to a common time zone and be specific whenever you set a time (e.g. “Let’s talk at 5pm on Monday, your time”). Also, do keep track of daylight savings time changes. You can use a time converter to check up on time zones.

  • Culture and language

    Be mindful of possible cultural differences between you and your client. To be on the safe side, it’s better to take a more formal approach during your initial interactions. You can always loosen up as you get to know the client better. Also, English (or any language you’d normally use) might not be the client’s native language. Seek clarification if feedback or instructions seem odd or are unclear to you. For more pointers, you can watch this video:

    Managing Cultural Differences: Virtual Feedback

  • Currencies and payments

    Since different countries may use different currencies, specify the currency you’re using in your payment terms to prevent any misunderstanding. When it’s time to bill the client, you can make the whole process quicker and more convenient for both parties by using PayPal. Our payment solutions for freelancers let you accept multiple forms of payments and currencies, and the funds are credited to you almost instantly.

Your contract.

Set out the terms of your working relationship in a contract before any project commences. A written contract could help protect you in case of a dispute, and it could serve as the common reference if a project veers away from what was agreed upon.

  • At the very least, your contract should include the following:

    • Timeline, milestones and the scope of work: Set out how long the project should take, when the various deliverables are due, and what those deliverables are.
    • Cost and payment terms: Detail not only how much the project will cost, but also when and how payments should be made.
    • Clauses: What happens if a payment is late, or if a project goes out of scope? Make sure your contract includes provisions for such situations.
  • For a quick way to draft out a contract, collate the agreed-upon points from your various discussions with the client and summarise them in a document, then add on your costs and clauses. You can also try these contract tools.

    IMPORTANT: If you enter into a contract with an international client, you may need to do further research on the legal status of the contract in your client’s country.

More ways to grow your freelance business.

Use these guides to become a more sought-after, successful freelancer!

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Client Management Toolbox

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