No matter how good your designs, how fast your code, or how amazing the result, poor communication will sink projects and end client relationships even faster than a poor work product.
Matt and I have both made this mistake at times over our careers and those missteps have resulted in unhappy clients, tense exchanges, and sometimes even the loss of projects that were already underway.
As we look back and evaluate our past projects — both successful and failed — we have identified four key components to good project communication:
Trust is earned, not given, and you earn (and lose) a client’s trust through your actions. If you promise to email them by a certain time, stick to it. Going to miss that deadline? At least let them know with a quick email about when you will be able to deliver. Spend some face or phone time with the client and always be straightforward with your approach and pricing.
Establishing clear expectations is critical — especially when beginning a new project or when making changes to an ongoing project. Have a well-defined process and approach for the project, written out and delivered to the client’s inbox. Make sure they understand what you will be delivering to them by sharing a written brief, and walk them through it over a call. This will help to uncover any issues or points of confusion before they become a problem. Finally, be sure the client understands how your billing works, especially if it isn’t hourly. Billing is the last thing you want to be a point of contention, but the first thing that will become a problem in a disagreement.
Define a Common Vocabulary
Every industry has it’s own lingo and acronyms and, more often than not, people outside the industry have no idea what they mean. Even something as simple as a “comp” may be unfamiliar to a client that runs a chain of bakeries.
Before starting a project, be sure to define both your and your client’s vocabulary.
Let Your Client Know That You’re A Real Person
Be human. While this may seem obvious, it’s easy to be stiff or purely ‘job-focused’ and forget that you’re working with a real person on the other end. Make conversation, and spend the extra few minutes to ensure that they’re satisfied and to address any doubts or fears they may have. Depending on your relationship with the client, you might even take some interest in what they do outside of work.
Apply these four basic tenets to every client relationship and you’ll have less stressful projects and happier clients. We guarantee it.