I’m a Filipino based in Taiwan, while my client is a Ukrainian located in France. We meet for the first time over a video call. I greet her with a “Good afternoon!”, and she thanks me for staying up late to meet with her. In my years of freelancing and working with multinational companies, I’ve dealt with clients in many parts of the world – the United States, China, and the Middle East – strictly online.
Technology has eased barriers in communication across cultures.
But we’re still fallible to misinterpret, misjudge and mistrust one another. The distance and time zone separation, the complexity of the work involved, and personal preferences make it harder to connect without the face-to-face dimension. So it’s really important to keep communications at a professional level. Try these 5 tips:
1. Have a work plan
“What gets measured gets done” – especially if it involves billable hours. Spell out what your expected roles are, as well as your client’s responsibilities. It could be a short agreement or a detailed project plan complete with multiple milestones and deliverables. This sort of work plan protects you from out-of-scope requirements, sudden reshuffling of priorities, and other arbitrary demands. Have this plan signed off by your client to set the expectations right.
2. Record your process
Do this as a sort of personal knowledge management. At least initially, create SOPs (standard operating procedures) for your own reference. Then it could be reused as you approach a client’s requirement. SOPs are handy especially if you’re bidding on a project and is asked how you’ll approach the requirements.
3. Send regular status updates
One way to gain the trust of your clients is by communicating with them as much as possible. Inform them about your progress, and ask for feedback when appropriate. Most importantly, if you’re having problems or if you’re anticipating a slip in schedule, let them know at the earliest time possible.
4. Be clear when done is “done”
Scope creep is a term where more and more demands are added to what has been initially agreed. This is bad especially when it means that the requirements weren’t clear in the onset. On the other hand, it could also mean continuing work for you. As a cyberpreneur, you need to get organized because your time is very limited.
5. Finish strong
When you’ve done your part and the project wraps up successfully, offer your services if there are follow-up work. Don’t forget to ask your client for a short feedback on how they liked your work. You can then use these testimonials to promote your business. It’s good to know that you’re a 5-star service provider!