Have you ever experienced trouble when trying to communicate with your clients? Maybe you’re..
- Constantly being stuck in your inbox talking to clients
- Jumping into your inbox to respond to a client and being sucked down the dark hole that is your inbox
- Looking at your Asana notifications to see a comment from a team member, only to get distracted by (or stressed out from) notifications from clients instead
- Having clients sent “emergency” messages on Facebook or Instagram
- Clients getting upset if you didn’t respond immediately after receiving their email
Any of that sound familiar?
If so, this post is for you! I’m going to share my best tips on how to take back control of your client communication – specifically where someone communicates with you, rather than the way they treat you in their communication.
Get clear on what you don’t like
The first step in figuring out how you want to communicate is to consider what you know you don’t enjoy.
For example, if you hate dealing with your inbox, you need a solution outside of email.
If you love Asana, but don’t like getting distracted by client notifications when you’re trying to work on your own business tasks, you know that you can’t include clients in your main business workspace.
If you hate getting messages on Instagram or Facebook, that’s a boundary that will be set throughout this process.
For example, I do not enjoy:
- Communicating via email
- Having clients in Slack
- Seeing client notifications in my main business Asana workspace
- Receiving messages on social media from clients
- Receiving phone calls or texts
Go ahead, take 5 minutes and brainstorm what you don’t like as far as your client communication goes! I’ll wait 😉
Decide your alternative
Now that you’ve thought through how you don’t like to communicate, you can look on the brighter side. What other alternatives are out there that you can start to use instead?
For example, my top alternatives to email would be something like Asana, Clickup or Slack.
If you enjoy Asana, but don’t like mixing client notifications with your own tasks, you can create a separate client workspace (for free) so you’ll only see those notifications when you want to.
The options are endless, but I recommend with sticking to just one. That way, no information gets lost from communicating in multiple locations.
In my case, I communicate with clients only through an Asana workspace separate from my own business’s workspace. And in the case of day rate projects, my client is added to my Slack channel just for the day of their project and removed afterwards.
Set the stage for new client communication
Next, you’ll want to set the stage for putting things in place for new clients.
The reason I like to start with new clients, rather than switching current clients over right away, is because as you’re getting these pieces ready, you might catch things you haven’t thought of, while also coming up with wording you can use to explain the switch to your clients in a lower pressure situation (not that it has to be a big deal – more on that next week).
There are three things I like to do to ensure all new clients follow my communication preferences.
Make guidelines clear
First, it’s important to be clear about your communication standards and expectations from the beginning of a project.
If you send an intro packet before you even book a project, add it in there! The sooner they know and the more times they see it outlined, the better.
Once someone is officially a client, there are a couple other ways to make your guidelines clear:
- Include them in your welcome packet
- Add them to your contract
- Let clients know in an email that you’ll be communicating with them elsewhere from here on out
It doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, you’re welcome packet could have a communication section that says something like:
“All communication related to this project will take place in our dedicated Asana project. Questions about a specific piece of the project can be left as a comment in the related task. General comments and questions can be left in Conversations. You can expect to hear back from me within 2 business days.
Keeping all communication in our Asana project will allow me to get back to you as quickly as possible, while keeping our project nice and organized.
Not sure how to use it? Don’t worry, I’ve got a quick walk-through video for you here!”
If you tend to have clients who reach about about “emergencies” on social media, you may event want to add something like this to your contract:
“Reaching out on social media regarding our work together may result in termination of our project.” (Note: obviously not a lawyer, have any additions reviewed by a licensed attorney)
Provide help where they’ll need it
If your clients aren’t familiar with the platform you’re using for communication, make it easy for them to figure out. All it takes is a quick Loom video showing them how the platform works. Record it once and use it again for each project.
You can even create communication or task templates to make things easy!
For example, when I started offering retainer services, I consistently ran into issues with clients starting conversation threads related to new tasks (rather than creating an actual task) or correctly assigning a task, but not giving me nearly enough information.
To help, I created a fill-in-the-blank task template right in our Asana project. From there, all they have to do is duplicate it, fill in the blanks, and assign it over to me. Easy!
Here’s what my template looks like for my development retainers:
Most importantly, lead by example.
If you don’t want clients reaching out on social media, don’t do it to them, even when you realize you need something last-minute. When you do, it teaches them to do the same.
If you don’t want them to send emails about the project, don’t do it yourself.
Stay consistent with whatever method you’ve chosen and most clients will follow suit without an issue.
If you consistently run into issues with clients being unwilling to follow your process it either isn’t clear enough to them or it’s time to raise your prices and attract better clients.
Take it further if you need to
So far, we’ve covered how to get clients to communicate where you want, but sometimes it comes down to getting them to communicate how you want.
For example, maybe you:
- Want them to provide feedback a certain way
- Hate it when clients record videos instead of writing out a message…or wish they *would* record videos to make certain things more clear
- Need responses from them in a certain timeframe
Anything like that should be laid out in a similar way. Go back through the above steps and add additional details where it makes sense in your process.
For example, if you want feedback provided in a certain way, include a little information in your welcome packet, but it will be most useful when you’re actually asking for feedback, so you can save the details until then.
Alright, that’s it! Take about 15-30 minutes to make these additions to your onboarding process and project setup. From there, get ready to lead by example with your next client!
Update communication standards with current clients
Since you have your communication preferences identified and mapped out for new clients, this will be nice and easy.
However, we’ll approaching things differently for short-term versus longer-term clients. Let’s start with short-term.
If you have current clients for 1-off projects that won’t last more than a couple weeks, finish off the project communicating the way you’ve been doing it up to this point.
I’d make an exception here if your current way of communication is causing you a lot of extra stress in which case you can follow along with the next part.
On the other hand, if you have retainer clients who you work with on an ongoing basis or larger design projects that will go on for another month or two, it’s worth making the switch.
Like I said before, you’ve already done all of the “hard” work. You know what your guidelines are, tutorial videos are created, and templates are ready. All you have to do now is loop your clients in!
The key is to keep it all simple and focused on the benefits. For example, if you’re switching from email to Asana, you could say:
Thank you for sending your refinements for the logo yesterday. I’ll send the updated version your way by Friday!
I’ve got a quick update for you. My inbox has gotten crazy and I want to be able to prioritize our work together, while keeping all of our conversations streamlined and easy to refer back to. To make that happen we’ll be using Asana from here on out for all project communication.
You already got an invite to join our project and you can watch a quick walk-through video here [link].
I’ll post the refined logo in the “Logo refinements” task on Friday so you can take a look! I’ll tag you so you get a notification.
Let me know if you have any questions in an Asana conversation. This will help everything go nice and smoothly from here on out!
From there it’s all about leading by example.
However, I realize that you might run into a stubborn or confused client every once in a while.
Handling clients not following your guidelines
At this point, everything is ready for new clients to communicate the way you’d like and you’ve at started getting existing clients switched over. Yay!
Every once in a while no matter how dreamy your clients are, you’ll run into someone who isn’t following along with how you’d like things to work.
For example, maybe they:
- Send “quick questions” on social media
- Send files via email, instead of uploading them to your platform of choice
- Ask why you haven’t responded to a message they sent two. hours. ago.
Regardless of what it is, the solution can generally be simple. All you have to do is gently redirect!
Since the most common issue is clients communicating somewhere other than where you want them to, we’ll focus on that and you can apply these ideas to other issues that come up. There are 3 ways I’ve handled this in the past – all nice and easy.
Give a reminder
The first option is to give a quick and gentle reminder. For example:
Can you post this as a Conversation over in Asana so we can keep everything nice and streamlined? I’ll get back to you there as soon as I can!
While this option is the simplest, it does delay the information you’re giving to your client and may not be ideal – especially since they know you’re delaying.
Respond in the correct location
Another option is to respond where you want them to communicate with you. So if they sent an email to ask a question about a task, you could jump into that task in Asana (or whatever software you use) and say something like:
Hi, [NAME]! I saw you sent an email over asking about [topic]. To keep everything organized and streamlined, we’ll keep our project communication here in Asana.
Here’s a copy of your message:
[Copy and paste their email]
And here’s my response:
However, if this happens repeatedly, I’d switch to one of the other options.
Have an assistant respond (even if they’re imaginary)
The last option I’ll go over is to have someone else help with setting the boundary. Rather than you being the one doing the redirecting, let an assistant handle it.
And yes, even if you make up a name for a fake assistant and respond as them, it totally counts (and yes, I’ve done it).
The response can be as easy as:
Great to hear from you! Can you pop this question into Asana where [Your name] will see it? She’ll get back to you within X business days at the most.
The key to any of these options is to keep the boundary in place while being kind and not over-explaining. The more we try to explain, the more awkward things get and this can be kept nice and simple. Keep these scripts handy for when you need them!
I hope this was helpful to you and that you’re feeling a whole lot better about your client communication.