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As it turns out, successfully launching your online business is only the first step of your entrepreneurial journey. Apart from that, and no matter what niche you’re in, you will have to learn a number of other skills along the way. Among which: marketing, selling, social media (yes, no escape from that, unfortunately), client support (if relevant), advertising, and probably a dozen more.
One of the more important ones, if you’re working with clients directly as a freelancer or a consultant, is how to make your client projects as smooth as possible. And this is what we’re focusing on today. But the angle is kind of unusual…as you can see. Onwards then to the 10 commandments for smoother client projects!
Working with clients in a reactive manner rarely turns out well. At first, every business owner tends to think that they will manage to handle all of their client work without any thought-through approach or methodology to help them out. But they then soon find out this isn’t true.
The particular work and time management methodology I encourage you to use is called Getting Things Done (GTD). It’s been invented by David Allen and now it’s one of the most popular such methodologies in use. The reason is simple, it just works.
"5 Practical Things Every Entrepreneur Must Know"
You can learn the basis by checking out this article on Wikipedia first and then getting your hands on the main book itself – Getting Things Done – available on Amazon.
I really can’t stress this enough, but data protection and backing up is the most important habit (or skill) an online business owner can have (technology-wise). Well, maybe except the habit of building sites with WordPress instead of paying independent developers thousands of dollars.
The consequences of not taking care of your data can be dreary, to say the least. One day, you can simply wake up and have all of your client data gone, all of your accounting data gone, all of your plans and schedules gone, and so on.
Once your business gets some traction, you will have to learn how to deal with a number of prospective clients at the same time. The difficulty is that every individual communication will always be at a different stage of advancement.
For example, you will have some deals already agreed upon, others still pending, others requiring some follow up on your part, others unfortunately declined, and so on and so forth. Managing all this manually is simply too much of a hassle.
One solution is to have great self consciousness and superior Gmail skills, another is to use a proposal software like Bidsketch, which will bring all your proposals into one place that’s easy to grasp.
Speaking of Gmail, it still is the main work tool for thousands of online entrepreneurs. Gmail is like the hammer of the 21st century if you will.
I’m sure I don’t need to convince you about Gmail itself, but I want to guide your attention to some of the side tools that are available for it. Particularly, this is about Yesware.
Yesware is an email monitoring kind of tool. It integrates into your email, clings onto the emails you’re sending and then gives you feedback as to who viewed your emails, when, where, and even on what type of computer. This gives you a great opportunity to follow up with a phone call in just the right moment.
If it’s just you working on a project then a software like this can be helpful. But if you have a team of people working with you then some kind of project management software becomes a must. Period.
In short, project management software comes into play once a deal has been set, your proposal approved, and now your client is eager to start the actual work with you.
Inside such a software, you can take care of every to-do list, every file attachment, every communication, every bill and so on. Although most of such tools have a slight learning cure it surely is time well spent.
For a free solution, check out Teambox.
A big number of client-related problems start when the entrepreneur fails to set the expectations right regarding the upcoming client project.
Once a project is going, it’s very hard to make any changes and to fix a slightly broken situation. That’s why the best approach is to set the expectations right from the get-go in the contract itself.
The things to focus on should include: the project’s goals, its milestones, the description of the finished product, deadlines, payments, the testing procedure, the technical support afterwards (if applicable).
One fact that’s worth keeping in mind is that the client wants to work with you because of your expertise and experience in the field. And although the client essentially knows what outcome they are looking for, your input and your new and unusual ideas are still crucial. Finding the strength and dedication to convey them is therefore invaluable.
In short, just go for it – talk about the idea you have even if it’s not 100% in tune with what your client initially expected.
Here’s a thing about business, any business: Businesses don’t do business, people do business.
Connecting on a personal and humanized level with a client is always something to strive for. The more human you treat them, the better both of your experiences can be.
For example, stop using the word “we” when referring to your business. Use more “I” and “me.” Stop talking to clients with expressions like “what your company thinks.” Instead, use “what you think.” Companies can’t “think,” only humans can. This is just one of many similar examples.
While treating your clients like human beings is crucial, another thing that’s almost as important is to feel confident to stand your ground when confronted about things.
Clients are your partners, not your employers. If you know that you are right about something, stand your ground. For instance, scope creep is one of the common problems in this space.
(Of course, this is about standing your ground while still using a respectful and factual tone.)
Following up is one of the more underrated practices in online business. The unfortunate common approach is to forget about a client once a deal is completed.
But if you do follow up, you’re opening your doors to new opportunities and projects. First of all, you’re improving the client’s experience with you because you get to fix their early problems.
Secondly, you can also offer additional services or products to further improve their experience and bring you more profits at the same time.
There’s literally no downsides to following up.
That pretty much closes the list of 10 commandments for smoother client projects. But if we were to make it a non-standard commandments list, what would you put as the no. 11?