Why is Collaborating with Clients Important
Starting off as a web designer and developer, getting our first projects is exciting. It’s a rush and a massive boost to our esteem and confidence and starts off with so much excitement. After that, we usually are ready to do anything the client wants.
We listen (hopefully) and do our best to deliver what the client is asking. And then, after a few projects, we start to encounter challenges. Then after several more projects, we begin to see these challenges are common in web design and development projects.
Some of the challenges we start to face are:
- Scope creep – The client keeps asking for more, and the project draws on.
- The project takes forever and is never close to being completed on time.
- The client cannot adequately describe their vision, or they are asking for something they shouldn’t be asking for.
- A client that disappears or doesn’t respond for long periods.
- Waiting months (sometimes years) for content and images.
- Not getting paid on time and having our final payment held hostage.
As you can see, these are big problems, and chances are you’re cringing and relating to them as you go down the list. But unfortunately, this is what we, as web creators, go through. And I’m going to tell you something real – it’s all part of the process of learning how to manage and communicate better with our clients. Every problem I posted above can be eliminated and reduced with good solid communication.
And keep this in mind, while we are feeling the pain of a project not going right, the client is also feeling their own pains. So by improving communications, we are helping ourselves and our clients.
Where to Start Improving Communication
I feel a good starting point is a change in mindset. There’s a reason I added “Collaboration” in the title of this article. We need to first shift from working for clients to working with clients. Treat it as a partnership and a collaboration.
Every project is an opportunity to look and see what could have been improved. A technique I use is once I complete a project, I reflect on it and write down what I could have done to improve that project.
By doing this exercise, you’ll start to see patterns, and the big problems will surface. Once you’re aware of the problems, you can act on them, use the next project as practice, and try new ways to communicate.
Here are 9 Tips to Improve Client Collaboration and Communication for Web Design and Development Projects
1. Scheduled weekly follow-ups
Set a day and time each week where you can block out time for client updates. It is best to do this on the same day and at the same time every week and make it part of the routine. I find either Friday or Monday works best.
Bu having this consistent routine, you’ll never forget to send all of your client’s updates, and your clients will fall into the routine and look forward to the updates, not worrying about what is happening. They’ll feel assured everything is good and on track and will appreciate yours for this one.
2. Be careful about the information being communicated
Too much of the wrong information can confuse the client and even cause anxiety. We need to leave the design and dev lingo and shop talk for our Facebook groups and talk to our clients differently.
Start by asking what information does the client really need to know? I can tell you it’s not about plugins right now, so why bring up plugins with a client. What does a client really want? Well, they just want things to be taken care of and not have to worry.
Another thing to consider is we can be talking to different members of a company or organization. For example, we aren’t always speaking with a small business owner. If we are in direct contact with, say, the company’s marketing manager, then we need to communicate with information a marketing manager would need.
3. Set the tone in the onboarding
We usually gather everything we need when we start the project and in the onboarding process. Logos, brand assets, logins, and so on.
I’ve added to my onboarding process a question for the client – “How would you like to communicate?” – I ask the client what would work best for them. What are their expectations for communication? How often would they like check-ins and updates? What is their preferred channel for communications – email, WhatsApp, Zoom?
We know how to best work with our clients by finding the client’s expectations. If their expectations exceed the scope and aren’t going to work for you, this can be addressed at the beginning of a project, and a mutual solution can be found.
4. Early engagement as a collaborator
If we want to be more than an order-taker, we can let the client know. It’s all good to let the client know you work with your clients as a partner and will work with them to get them the best possible outcome. Let them know you will be honest, and if you feel like something won’t work and have a negative impact, you’ll speak up.
In my experience, clients have appreciated and respected this. And when the time does come, and we need to vocalize our concerns, the clients are more open to listening.
5. Make the client feel a part of the project
We are the experts. We know what needs to be done and what is best for the client. But put that ego in the box.
Sure we may know more than our clients about web design and online growth, but that doesn’t mean our clients don’t know anything. And many times, they see a lot. They know more about their business than we do, and they have good ideas. So don’t dismiss this because we are ‘Experts’ – work with the client. Bring them into the process. Make them be part of it as much as they want to.
When the client is part of the project, it is fun! My favorite collaboration was when I felt like I had created something dope with the client. It has such a positive feeling and outcome. Also, the client tends to listen and respect our ideas more, and the revisions are usually limited because we listen to them.
6. Create SOPs (Standard Operation Procedures)
Ok, to be honest, I’m not an SOP guy. I’m more of a minimalist and live by my processes which I try to keep minimal and simple. I do have guidelines and processes that act as SOPs. And you may be more operational-minded.
Find what works best for you. This can be kept simple, like creating a few processes for onboarding, project management, handover, etc. And in these processes, you can start by listing what should be done. This can be the start of your SOPs.
And then, as more projects go by and areas for improvement surface, your processes can be updated and improved.
Give a discount for completing on time
This is an interesting one and something I will start to experiment with.
On every project, I establish a start and end date. It’s part of my project management system and process. And it does help. But there’s always something that comes up, and rarely do we ever hit that end date, no matter how well the project was managed.
Offering a discount gives the client an incentive to provide feedback, assets, and content sooner and not get stuck in revisions and scope creep.
Keep Learning & Improving Communication Skills and Strategies
It’s an ongoing process. And I can confirm, coming from a history as an introvert who dreaded talking to anyone, let alone clients, it gets better and continues to improve as long as we stay in the process.