10

Recently I've become really frustrated after moving from a regular office job to freelancing.

Since I am new to freelancing, I decided to do some low-quality, cheap jobs to get some stars in my profile and get some nice feedbacks. But now, I am just so exhausted by that chatty stuff that sometimes I feel that I am a professional linguist.

And after 2 customers who spent lots of money on the site, I suddenly came to the realization that I spend more time trying to realize what is actually the thing that the customer needs.

Is this a normal thing? I'm a native English speaker, as well as the customer, but the communication on the tasks is such a disgrace.

Is this communication issue because I am doing very low-rated jobs, and due to the price policy the customers allow themselves not to handle their tasks in a proper, comprehensive way? How can I improve this communication?

10

Since you are training yourself as a freelancer, you are also training yourself as a project manager, finance manager, negotiator and boss. Freelancing is just a group name for 5-6 roles (I think that once a guy told me that I am doing the work for 6 men). So besides training your coding skills, you'll have to train other skills as well.

One of them is customer or client relations. No matter you work $100 or $10k job, you must act like it's $100k job. Such conduct will not only make you look Pro in the eyes of clients, but will also train you to become better freelancer (thus earning more money).

So even with low-budget clients, you must behave the same if you want to actually earn something. Don't be intimidated by the price of the project. So do this:

  • project divided into milestones or tasks
  • no task is taken to work before fully understood. This means that you must push clients to chat or talk to you until ALL has been cleared. You cannot ditch slow-replying clients at this phase so you must be prepared to be very patient
  • have some project management system where you and clients can discuss tasks into its own thread. They will probably say that email is better, they are used to it. So simply proposed PM systems (I use Assembla) which are able to send notification on each action and where you can reply using emails. This way, you will keep conversation in its own thread.

You are also true that having good specs in low-budget project is utopia. So the solution is to gently force them to use PM software which will make your life easier.

2

I think the two responses so far offer excellent points, and I hope there are more perspectives to come. I will try to keep my two cents short, in that I find communication is my biggest hurdle in working independently.

With some clients I might turn to something like Basecamp to document or plan out a project so that we can share a document which visualizes everything we're dealing with. On some level that may work on some level, but the efficiency factor is not as tangible with two people unless their both fully committed. Also, I find it kind of passive in terms of direct accountability. Automated responses can be ignored. You need to take the time to fire off something accountable for whats up. Really good communication is very important, and Basecamp is kind of passive in that automatic way. Freelancers need to be very direct, accountable, and documented with information at every stage.

So after a phone conversation, I probably need to email a follow-up, just so that we're on the same page. This kind of speaks against that funny google hangouts commercial, where a team of collaborators are breaking from a meeting, with no need for this kind of followup, and that may be possible in some cases, but with client work, all of these steps are stages in fulfilling contracts, and need better accountability, like receipts or verbal signatures, or prompts for validation.

1

Freelancing is not an easy job. For a person who is freelancer it is not just a challenge to get client, but the selection of clients is one more tough task. There are various things you should keep in mind. Choose clients according to your workflow and guess that if your job is going to be comfortable with that. There are various clients who are difficult to handle. They demand too much, while give less money and keep you irritating all the time. I personally avoid such clients. Try searching for the project of big cost and less work. Be good in communication to get such projects.

0

In freelancing I've found that being your own boss means you're your own manager. Being a manager assumes you have the skills to manage. If you're a technical person like me you might not appreciate all the boss does behind the scenes to get the project completed. I found, managing myself, that I had to have the same skills as the boss I used to take for granted and that includes communicating properly to clients. Communicating properly to clients means that you have to have an agenda before speaking with them. There's a whole science to it. I can give you a few examples but it's not a skill I'd get from an answer here. For example, examine why the communication is taking place to begin with. That'll give you a hint as to what you're trying to accomplish. Is it a big task you're communicating about or just something to move from point A to point B? Do you need to have the big picture in mind during this communication or not?
You get the point. Besides communication with clients you might as the same question about other areas of project management and my answer would be close to the same.

0

I have found that clients often do not know what they are looking for. That often the right answer is not the answer they are seeking. The real skill is in the questions you ask. They should not make the customer feel like a dunce, but they have to shed light on what the customer really needs or what they really want. What they want is often more easy to provide than what they need, which sometimes you just have to shrug and provide. You may know that X will be better, but if they want Y, then you give them Y. When they realise X was better, you get another job transforming Y into X.

You are a consultant, as well as a provider, so you try to explain X is best, but ultimately you only have one question to answer. "What can I do for you today, right now, that will help you solve the problem you have". You will not solve all their problems, and it is hard to bill for consultancy, so try to minimise it. Get a clear goal, a clear measurable outcome, an agreed price and deliver. Then get paid and start to talk about what next, how else you can help. In that way one time buyers become long term loyal customers.

Is this communication issue because I am doing very low-rated jobs, and due to the price policy the customers allow themselves not to handle their tasks in a proper, comprehensive way?

No, it never changes, whatever the price of the project. In fact the bigger the price tag the worse it can get.

How can I improve this communication?

Whenever you are communicating just keep this at the forefront of your mind. You are trying to get them to agree to a set of tasks that represent a body of work you are going to get paid for. So do not discuss at length why blue is colder than red, or why red signifies danger, as them "would they prefer that in blue or red?" When they say in red you write down "1. Blocks in red". When you have enough tasks written down to represent a fair chunk of the work you are ready to offer a quote. Does it matter if you think green is the best colour, or if a bluey red is best? No, of course not. So do not dwell on it. If they say "what colour do you think this should be" you respond with "what colours are you considering". They say "Blue or Green" and you say "I think green, shall we go with green?"

It is a game of turning their random thoughts into tasks you can do for them. Once you get the hang of it, it is great fun and often the best part of the project. Personally I love the planning stage, especially with a chatty customer that is unsure of what they want. They are like incredibly rare golden geese, with lots of golden eggs to lay for you :-)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.