Ah, every service-based business owners favorite topic!
Well, let’s chat about how to manage client communication with your process.
So you can run an effective business and manage your sanity!
Managing communication is big on my list of priorities. Not only for my inbox zero game to hold strong but also to have one space that I can manage communication effectively. So me and my clients understand where we are in the process clearly.
I also wanted to make sure I had a process in place because coming from a business background I knew how quickly balls could drop if a step or guideline was unclear. This is especially important when your online service based business. Most likely your client has never worked with someone like you or they may have had a different experience with a process and even worst no process at all when they worked with someone else.
So setting clear guidelines had to be a top priority on my list. One obstacle that I faced was where to begin. This is definitely the case when you’re just starting out or your completely new to getting organized. How I tackled this was I sat down and went through the entire process of how I wanted my clients to work with me. That was from the first point of contact, the phone chat to the completion of the project.
In this step, you want to make sure you pretend that you are the client and you have no idea what to expect. Grab a piece of paper and map out every interaction you plan on having with your clients. Look out for any obstacles or potential assumptions that you may have. Remember your client is brand new to working with you and it needs to be clear what each element is in your process.
Once I had my process figured out (which I want to warn you that yours will change and that is okay) I went back and took a closer look at the tools that I would need to make it work. Since I knew I would be sharing files that were pretty large and also needed to receive feedback from clients. I didn’t want that type of communication in my inbox. For several reasons:
- Threaded emails can quickly turn into a mess. (Plus going back and finding a certain email can be a pain)
- I wanted a place where I could easily access files.
- I need to have a checkpoint of where we were in the development process. (clear guidelines on what I needed from them and vice versa)
- I wanted to keep my inbox manageable (plus sometimes I can skip over so many newsletters and ads that a potential email could get missed, I didn’t want to risk that happening)
Now that I knew a central location was what I needed it was time to research tools specifically that could handle project management. There are plenty of options to match your style so check out these below:
- Asana (the system I use)
- plus others
I tried all of them with the exception of Basecamp (the only reason being I didn’t want to fork out $99 a month). Playing around with each system and found that my brain reacted better with Asana versus Trello though Freedcamp came in pretty close. My recommendation is that you try out the options and find a system that works for you.
Fast forward when you have your process figured out. Now its time to take that process and put it into your project management system of choice. Add each item step by step (tip: separate out all the things only you need to do such as send invoice, send a gift. So your clients don’t see those tiny administrative details).
Setting up your process in a project management system will serve several purposes:
- You will ensure that each step of your process is executed consistently leading to better communication.
- You will know where you are on your project timeline. (Because you should be setting due dates, so you can be alerted when they are close)
- Your clients will know how to communicate with you and what is needed from them. (You can add a comment on each step and submit feedback)
- If something is off track you will be aware of it early in the process and can redirect the project if necessary. Maybe a deadline is approaching, you now know to follow up and check-in.
- Keep your projects on track so you don’t run into the situation where your balancing 5 projects when you should only be working on 2-3.
- Give you back control of your business so you’re not at the mercy of others.
As the professional its important that you lead the process for your service. That your clients feel confident when working with you. Having a clear process is a great way to show potential clients how you like to work. Plus it also shows clients what they can expect from working with you.
As a developer, I have my own process for working with designers and if you’re curious you can check it out here. I strongly believe you can stand out in your business by having a clear process.
On a final point, you should be refining your process and making improvements. So that things get off track you can easily snap things back together. Yes, life happens but if you catch issues early you can quickly recover and finish with success.
Tell me do you have a process? What has it done for your business?