You’ve embarked on your freelancing career, and you’ve landed your first gig. The only snag, if you can call it that, is that your client is three states and a timezone away from you. What can you do to make this a smooth process for everyone? Take a look at these five things that I do when working with a client I’ll probably never meet.
- Be accessible, part one: Depending on your client’s needs, you should be available at the least during standard business hours. Their standard business hours, that is. If you’re on one coast and your client is on the opposite coast, then you might need to adjust your work hours so they that you are available (and awake) when your client is in the office.
- Be accessible, part two: How do you plan to communicate with your client? If they’re an email-only type of company, then plan to check your email throughout the day for any communications and directives from them. For the phone call-only type of client, you’ll want to keep your phone on you and plan to answer promptly, or at least within a reasonable amount of time. I’ll get to figuring out what’s reasonable in a minute.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate: Here’s a bit of news that’s not the least bit shocking: Each client you have will likely have different expectations regarding status updates on projects. I’ve had clients that wanted daily updates, while some clients were fine with a quick update from me every week. Ask upfront what they prefer. You also need to ascertain your client’s definition of a timely response. Do you have a day or two to respond to an email, or do you need to dash out a reply post-haste? Figuring out their expectations can help in the long run.
- Work on your professional image: When you work remotely, you lose the benefit of in-person interactions with your client. That also means your client forms an impression of you based on your approach to projects, reports, and so on. With that in mind, you need to work a little bit harder than you would in an office to convey a professional image. Turn in your part of the project a bit early, then ask for more assignments. You can ask thoughtful questions in a conference call, keep those lines of communication open, and even wear a suit or appropriate business attire if you’re attending a meeting via Skype (no one needs to know you’re wearing shorts!). By presenting a professional image, you can tell clients you’ve got this.
- Keep your gear in working order: You’re likely working on your own computer and using your own office equipment, phone, and other must-have items, so make sure everything works. Nothing says “I’m disorganized” quite telling your client that you can’t turn in that big report because your computer that can barely hold it together or you have an unreliable Internet connection.
Although working remotely is nothing new, remember that it might be a new experience to your client. You don’t want the client to feel apprehensive because your office is located about 800 miles from their office, so take a few steps upfront to let them know you’ll take the proper steps to accommodate their needs.