From practicing good communication to mastering the art of negotiation, we listed down five of the most important client interfacing skills to help you build great relationships with customers.
Too many freelancers undervalue the importance of customer-facing skills when running their own business.
While some have hard skills down to a pat, their incapacity to effectively relate and communicate with customers often overshadow the brilliance of their technical capabilities.
If you’re looking to build long-term relationships with your clients, strong client-facing skills are absolutely integral.
While reading this article, take some time to assess yourself – which customer-facing skills do you have and which ones can you improve on? Don’t worry if you’re a little bit rusty on some of the items below – we listed out actionable ways on how you can improve them too.
Table of Contents
What are client interfacing skills?
Client interfacing skills are the abilities required to provide quality customer service. As their own bosses, freelancers don’t often have the convenience of entrusting the client-facing aspects of their job to a project manager or a higher-up.
Without a liaison, most freelance jobs require independent contractors to directly interact with their customers in person or through online messages, phone conversations, and various other methods of business communication.
Client interfacing skills can spell the difference between a satisfied client and a disappointed customer who never plans on enlisting your service again.
Below are some of the best client-facing skills examples.
What are the most impactful client interfacing skills?
Great communication improves productivity, prevents misunderstanding, and fosters trust. You can be amazing at your work, but if you’re not effective at communicating with clients, the work process can be frustrating and the results will suffer. Here are tips on how to improve your customer service skills in communication.
Ask the right questions
To fully understand what a project entails and what clients need, freelancers need to ask the right questions. Before accepting a project, have a list of questions ready for good measure.
For example, if you’re a social media manager, it’s integral to determine exactly what your clients need from your services. Are they looking for better engagement or more brand awareness? What does their budget for social media ads look like? Cover all bases and leave no stone unturned.
The more specific your questions are, the more you’ll be able to wrap your head around the client’s needs, and the better your output will be.
Explain with clarity
Not all clients are familiar with your industry, so make sure to avoid using jargon or terms that they aren’t familiar with.
Always ask yourself, how do I explain my services to someone who has zero knowledge about what I do? Use relatable language and wording, and always ask your clients if they understood what you meant.
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Practice online communication etiquette
Should you say ‘Hi’ or ‘Dear’? Is it okay to use emojis? Can you interject with a little sprinkling of humor?
Drafting emails and online messages can be challenging, but if you’re working remotely, it’s essential that you brush up on your online communication skills.
Here are a few tips.
Use an appropriate greeting. While most have different opinions about what salutations to use, a piece of general advice is to use informal greetings (e.g. hi, hello) when writing to a close colleague and more formal salutations for clients or people you don’t know so well.
Know when to write brief emails. Short and instructive emails may come out as rude or too blunt for people you aren’t close with. When speaking with clients, speak in full sentences and expound when necessary.
Be wary of colloquialism. Freelancing may mean dealing with people across different cultures, so be wary about colloquialisms or funny sayings that may be misconstrued.
Reply on time. Try your hardest to reply within 24 hours. If you can’t give an appropriate response just yet, acknowledge the message with a date on when you’ll be able to get back.
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For a lot of freelancers, feedback only comes when they’ve messed up – this shouldn’t be the case. You should always be asking for feedback during key stages of your work.
After a chunk of work is done, ask opinions about the product. Toiling for hours doing work only to figure out that you’ve done the wrong thing is not only stressful, but it’s also a big time waster as well.
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Listening is one of the most important clients interfacing skills for freelancers. Actively listening to information will influence your productivity, reduce misunderstanding, and improve relationships. Here are some tips on how to listen better:
Understand your client’s pain points
You already know what your client needs from you, but do you know why they need it? Listening intently to decipher purpose and motivation will help freelancers offer better outputs.
If you know why your client needs your services, the more purposeful your work becomes.
Sometimes, no matter how hard we listen, it can be hard to decipher what our client means. Did something your client say confuse you? Don’t assume its meaning and be bold enough to ask for clarification.
Don’t forget to document
When meeting with a client through video call or in person, always have a notebook in hand. You can’t always rely on your memory to store information, so it’s important to write down key points.
Repeat key facts
After listening to your client, repeat what they said back to them to confirm your understanding of the information: “From what you said, this is what I understood…”
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Negotiation is one of the most underrated client interfacing skills. Independent contractors who know how to negotiate have a huge advantage over those who don’t.
Negotiation is vital to getting the rate you need – and we all know that one who is paid well, works well. As freelancers ourselves, we know how tricky negotiating rates can be.
Regardless of what price you landed on, there’s one truth you all freelancers should know: clients who cannot meet your rate when you priced fairly are usually not worth it (this depends on a number of factors, like when your goal is to build a portfolio and could handle a lower price).
Here are some tips to improve your negotiating practices.
Know your worth
Freelancers who are aware of the quality of their work have the confidence to rate their services at a higher price. If you know that you provide top-notch service, don’t shortchange yourself.
Premium work comes at a premium price but within reason of course. Overpricing yourself can lead to clients looking elsewhere for a service that you can better provide. Read up on how you can charge your services appropriately and adjust your rates accordingly.
Have your credentials ready
To negotiate from a position of strength, clients need to know the depth of their aptitude, skills, and experience. Showcase your best work and brandish positive reviews to improve your client’s perception of you.
Make sure that your credentials are organized and shortlisted. If you have a big body of work, showcase only the most remarkable ones.
It can be tough for clients to wade through a deep pool of work. Here is how you can list freelance work on LinkedIn.
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An age-old practice is starting your negotiation at a price that is higher than your regular rate, and then lowering your rate slightly when your client haggles.
If your client doesn’t haggle, then all the better – you’ve successfully closed a project that further adds to your income.
Learn to say no
One of the biggest pitfalls of freelancing is accepting clients who shortchange your skills and offer you less than your minimum rate. If you aren’t desperate for income yet, stand firm.
Since money is a great motivator, working for a client that offers peanuts for top-notch service will most likely jeopardize the quality of your work.
Be creative with service offerings
When you’ve reached a dead-end in your rate negotiation, don’t give up just yet. There may be other options to offer so you can land the project.
Be creative with your service and try offering something smaller, or consider offering your services piecemeal to match your client’s limited rate.
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It can be easy to lose professionalism when interfacing with clients as a freelancer. Freelancers often fall into the trap of casual comfort, as they’re working outside the confines of an office without anyone to guide them or look over their work.
But being your own boss requires you to maintain professionalism all of the time, especially when interacting with clients.
Mind your grammar
Whether you like it or not, informal writing tendencies can be detrimental to how people, especially your clients, perceive your intelligence.
Clear sentences and good grammar means you’re paying close attention to what you’re saying and implies that you’re serious about what you want to convey. Bad grammar, on the other hand, may mean sloppiness which may hurt your credibility as a freelancer.
Pretend you’re in an office
Since most of our client-facing experiences occur within our own homes or outside of an office, it can be easy to slip away from professionalism.
Distractions abound, which may affect timely replies and focus, so always pretend that you’re working in an office where time is of the essence.
Accept feedback and criticism
When a client offers feedback, listen intently without aiming to rebut. Workers with high emotional quotients are able to accept criticism without getting hurt – so be professional about it and don’t take it personally.
Once you get defensive with their feedback, especially after you’ve asked for it, your clients may not be as generous with their honest feedback in the future.
One of the challenges of being your own boss is having to handle potential conflicts with clients as well. Freelancers should know that conflict is inevitable and they’re bound to encounter a client who will be unhappy with their work somewhere down the line.
When dealing with conflicts, our goal as a freelancer isn’t to prove who is right or wrong but rather, how to defuse an argument before it blows up.
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Get to the root of the problem
In the heat of conflict, most freelancers forget to get down to the root of the problem. The only way to do this is to ask: What made the client unhappy about my work?
This should go without saying, but most freelancers obsess about proving themselves right without determining the problem itself.
Apologize for mistakes
Set your personal biases aside and determine if you caused problems that contributed to the project’s failure. Once you realize your mistake, own up to it and apologize. Apologizing paves the way for a solution and enhances your relationship with the client.
Do not, however, apologize just to make your client feel better. Instead, respectfully prove your point.
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Focus on solutions
Conflict resolution is one of the most important client interfacing skills not only because it enhances the worker-client relationship, but because it expedites project completion.
When freelancers focus on finding a solution to the problem instead of obsessing over the argument, no time is wasted – and time is precious for freelancers. After assessing the situation, immediately agree on a course of action.
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