Building relationships with clients and having effective interactions is key to success in growing a service-oriented business.
Many authors don’t just write, they also provide services to other authors and to various writing clients. Learning how to interact with clients on a professional level can help you develop strong relationships with clients and grow your writing business.
The Importance of Working with Clients
As an editor, copywriter, ghostwriter, freelancer writer, etc., you will interact with clients on a regular basis during a project. The better those interactions go, the better the overall project will go as well.
It is critical that writers understand the importance of working with clients and the level of professionalism expected by clients. Clients who feel they are not valued or respected are unlikely to come back for another project with you.
An inability to interact with clients professionally will likely result in being awarded fewer projects. The writing community is small and reputations matter a great deal. If clients are unwilling to work with a service provider, other writers will hear about it fairly quickly.
Providing the client with excellent customer service, no matter the situation, is key a successful service-oriented business.
The Importance of Great Communication with Clients
Working with clients is all about building relationships. Like any relationship, effective communication improves the chances of building a strong relationship with your clients. Developing great relationships with clients helps to ensure repeat business. Repeat customers help the overall business and helps individual writers have more consistent work.
Poor communication leads to confusion, hurt feelings, dissatisfaction, and unfulfilled needs. Expectations should be communicated clearly at the beginning of the project to ensure you can meet them and that the client knows what product or service you will be providing and how and when it will be provided. This should include updates and progress reports.
Effective Communication when Getting to Know Clients
Monitoring tone is important in both verbal and written communication. It’s easier to interpret tone when a message is spoken, but if a new client is not familiar with you personally, jokes or sarcasm might not be taken in the right way.
In written communication, tone is even more easily be misconstrued. Be aware of how your words might be taken by someone who is still not yet familiar with you and your style of communication.
Connotation is the non-definition meaning people attach to words or ideas. Everyone has different connotations, making word choice extremely important in written messages where body language or vocal tone is absent. If you tend to use humor or sarcasm, these are especially in danger of being misinterpreted. Be cautious of using too much of this type of language when first getting to know a client.
Choose words that are universal and harder to misinterpret when explaining what services you will provide and the process you will use to complete the project.
It is also important to use concise language to communicate an issue or problem so the client knows exactly what is going on and how you intend to fix it. The more clearly the problem is defined, the more easily the client will be able to offer useful information to address it as well.
Working Through Problems with Clients
Be friendly and polite in all situations, even if a client is being difficult to work with or manage. Any message, including and especially problems, that communicated in a friendly, upbeat, and personable way are more likely to be received favorably. This will make finding solutions and working through the problem much less challenging.
Never use language that places blame or attacks the client. If information or materials are missing from what the client was supposed to provide, politely remind him or her that they are needed and ask when you can expect them. Make suggestions in a manner that offers a solution rather than simply stating a problem.
Ask for feedback on suggestions when problems are encountered. Show genuine interest in the client’s thoughts and reasoning, even if they are difference from your own ideas or plans for addressing an issue. Because clients are most familiar with a projects, they will have unique insights.
If a client disagrees with your plan of action or proposed solutions, acknowledge their input and accept their final decision graciously. You are providing a service, but the ultimate outcome of the project is his or her decision.
Always use basic manner, such as please and thank you, in your communications. Not getting along with a client doesn’t mean it’s okay to be disrespectful or rude.
Telling Clients “No”
Saying no to a client is always challenging, but it will almost always go better if you can find a way to reject an idea in a positive way.
There may be times when a client wants something that go against a retailer’s policies, client or genre expectations, or will be detrimental to a projects success. It is an important skill to be able to explain why an idea won’t work in a positive and respectful way.
Avoid actually saying the word “no” when possible. A better approach is to fully explain the problem. For instance, explicit sex scenes int eh first chapter, rape or incest as a main storyline, and similar taboos will go against many retailer’s terms of service and block a book from being published or prevent it from being found by customers.
Once you fully explain the problem, back up your reasoning with facts and data when possible. Amazon categorizes books with explicit sex in the first 25% of the book as erotica and will bury it, and most retailers will remove books containing incest or rape as a main storyline. Explaining this policies can help a client understand why a project element will harm its overall success.
Offer a solution to the problem after presenting it. The client may need to add more character development in early chapter to push explicit sex further back, and alter a storyline to remove unacceptable or banned taboo topics.
If a client is unwilling to change or alter a project element that you know will hurt the project’s success, it may be necessary to end the relationship. Do so politely and with explicit reasons of why you have reached an impasse. Not every partnership is a good fit, and it is better to end what isn’t working than let it devolve into unprofessionalism.