Client Communication: 4 Lessons Learned
By Caleb Rexius
In my personal life, I’m notorious for terrible communication with family and friends. I seem to specialize in short, abrupt, late, seemingly-annoyed responses.
In fact, I’d like to say this to my friends and family: I’m sorry.
But when it comes to my work and my professional life, I’m a different dude.
Communication has been key to my success as a freelancer, and it has been evident through my ability to keep good, high-paying clients for a long, long time.
So today, I would like to walk through 4 Lessons Learned on Client Communication
#1 – Communicate Quickly
Even if I don’t have an answer, or if I don’t have something done, or I don’t have the time to write out a thoughtful response to something, I at least respond quickly with, “Hey got this, I’m on it, I’ll get back to you soon with more thoughts”.
That almost could be an auto-response (I don’t actually recommend auto-responses). But simple, timely communication is so important to showing your client that you care not just about the project, but about their time.
Don’t sit on an email for 1-2 days or more. Respond within 1-2 hours. Quickly!
#2 – Communicate Kindly
Communicate with care.
Prior to picking up a camera at age 25, I was an aspiring singer-songwriter. I hired a videographer to make a simple performance video for me, but the end product did not meet my expectations. When I tried to explain this to him as kindly as possible, he exploded.
He was so emotional and unprofessional that now not only would I never hire him again. I would never recommend him either. I would discourage someone from hiring him.
That level of fallout can be devastating for freelancers of any industry. Be kind. Take the criticism with a smile, and remember who is paying who.
There is no room for sassy responses. And when you do make a mistake, be humble. We artists and creatives let our art and creativity get in the way of our business, and that’s the wrong mindset and mentality if you want to be doing creative work for a long time.
Business, 1st. Art, 2nd.
Be responsive even when it hurts. Communicate kindly.
#3 – Communicate Professionally
I don’t necessarily mean your grammar and punctuation have to be perfect, but too much casual writing, such as misspelled words, emoji’s, etc., can tell your client that “this isn’t that important”. Don’t make them feel like it’s not worth the time or energy to put your best foot forward.
Now, if your client invites that level of casualness, by all means, go for it. But let them set the tone, not you.
I had a client years ago who started sending me GIFs in response to my videos and emails. So we started sending those back and forth on different things. It was fun, it was funny, and at this point, my work did the talking. Bear in mind, I was about 2-3 years in working on projects for her. So at least start professionally.
#4 – Communicate Confidently
Avoid responses like “Uhhhh….hope you like this…I can change anything you want…or let me know if you want to take it a different direction….uhh….this was really really hard I don’t know if you’ll like this….”
Be confident in everything you send or present. Every draft. Every proposal.
You got the project because you are good at what you do. Exude confidence.
One caveat here: “confidence vs. humility” is the ultimate challenge of balance for creative professionals. You need to be humble, but you need to also be confident, so I want to put it as simply as possible:
When it comes to communication, I’ve messed up bad, but I’ve also learned what’s important and what’s essential.
In fact, you can read about a Real Life Story here.
Hope this was helpful!
Caleb is the Founder and Lead Cinematographer at Filmpac.