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Freelance Web Developer Manual

Communication Skills for Freelancers

A project of Frontntweaks.com
Author: Gerald Watanabe

Communication Skills for Freelancers

Vital

 

“90% of all management problems are caused by miscommunication.” [Dale Carnegie] [1]

Avoid miscommunication. The price you pay for it is horrendous.[Shiv Khera] [1]

Communication is a two-way street:
Did you understand what the client requires?
Did the client understand what he is receiving from you?

We developers may be very skilled in our hard skills but are weak in our soft skills.
For most of us, we just want to keep learning all the new technologies that are available and never give any of the important soft skills a thought.

Art of Listening

 
Number 1 priority, master how to listen.
Many of us are excited when we meet with a potential client, you most likely already thought about how to build their website and what they need.
But wait, your ideas may not be what they want.
It is imperative that you hear the clients needs.

Sometimes it is difficult to explain things to a nontechnical minded client.
When they don’t understand, don’t get impatient with them and change your tone of voice.
Try explaining even simpler, use illustrations and examples.
More importantly, be patient and keep your self-control.

Write It Down

Always have the complete work description in writing.
It serves two purposes:

  1. You have the clients needs.
  2. They know what services you are providing.

But before you can write it down, you need to meet with them to get this vital information.
In person is best, but Skype will work, the phone is last resort.

Be sure you incorporate the clients’ responsibilities as well, so they understand what they have to provide (content, images, etc.).

As an example, I had a client who wanted to have an E-commerce website created to sell their items online. They wanted the visitor to have both credit card and PayPal options to chose from.
They also wanted to use FedEx as the shipping agent.
As you can see, the client already had responsibilities to perform on their part to complete the E-commerce website.
They needed to create a Stripe and Paypal account for the store sales integration, setup up a FedEx shipping account, and provide high-resolution images for their products.

To be sure that there would not be any misunderstanding, I had this all written down in the job scope, as I discerned that they were already getting overwhelmed with the influx of information.

Public Speaking

You may be thinking to yourself, why would I require excellent public speaking skills, I don’t plan to teach or give public lectures?

Simply put, sometimes you will have to give a presentation to the staff, faculty, or the office personnel.

Example: a local private Pre and Elementary school needed to update their old static website. They also wanted their staff to perform their own updates and edits. Currently, they had to contact the web agency that built their website to execute the changes, which could take a week since they were busy with bigger clients.

I also noticed that their current website was not responsive and did not have an SSL certificate.

I was asked to give a short presentation of why my cost estimate was what it was.
What they were paying for and the purpose of each item listed on the estimate.
The following topics were covered:

  • What a static website was and why they required a CMS so their staff could perform their own updates.
  • What is a responsive website and why they needed one.
  • What is a SSL certificate and having a secure website.
  • Training to be provided.
  • Maintenance to be provided.

In other scenarios, you may have to teach a small group on how to add content and perform their own updates.

These are all examples of some form of public speaking.

Tips:

  • Prepare an outline of what you want to share or teach. Get to the point,
    listeners start losing their attention span.
  • I use Powerpoint slides, sometimes a short video to keep the interest.
    You can grab their attention when they view slides or a video rather than watch you talk.
  • Start by grabbing their attention:
    • I don’t use jokes, may not work.
    • Make the first slide something interesting, leading into your topic.
    • Avoid “showing off” all your training, awards, and certifications. Just introduce yourself with your name, your company and what you will be sharing.
    • Use an interesting story.
  • Using slides helps me stay on point. Keeps me from rambling on, which can take you off subject.
  • Use examples and illustrations so people can relate to what you are talking about.
  • Smile when you can and make eye contact. Don’t just stare at your notes or Powerpoint.

Use Statistics and Facts

I like to use statistics and factual information:

  • To back up why I use or chose a technology.
  • Why I perform a particular task or step.
  • To share something of importance.

Example:
Why I recommend WordPress as a CMS.

  • Over 32%* of the websites on the web are built using WordPress.
    I show where I obtained this information. If all these businesses, organizations, and people are using WordPress, then you can’t go wrong either.
  • With over 55,500* plugins in the WordPress repository, it provides full functionality, providing just about any feature that your website requires.
  • WordPress community is huge, type in any question you have regarding WordPress and hundred’s, even thousands of responses appear in a Google search.
  • Have (you fill in number) years of building and repairing WordPress sites.

Repeat what you heard and wrote down

Before closing the meeting, I always repeat what the client had requested to be sure I had written down the correct notes. Your meeting would have been a waste of time if you left with misinformation.

This simple step will give the client peace of mind, as they will know you understand their requirements and needs.

Changes to the original scope of work after the meeting:

Be sure to keep in contact for any changes or modifications to their original request.

Examples:

  • The server that will host their website has a special sale or they raised their rates after you provided the client with server cost.
  • A specific plugin is not available now (not maintained), so you will have to switch to another similar plugin which has a higher cost.
  • The images they provided are not the required resolution. You can provide your own photographic services if they do not have the capability to do so.
  • Client fails to provide the necessary content on the required date, so it will affect the completion date.

Worst type of client

The Worst type of client tells you, “Just build the website I don’t care how you do it.”
You may think to yourself, wow, this is easy I have full control over the project.

On completion of the job they come back and ask what about so and so?
Or that’s not what I had in mind!

You need to dig into their mind, here are a few possible questions:

  • Why don’t you send me links to websites that you like.
  • What is the purpose of your website?
  • What services do you actually provide?
  • What goals are you seeking from your website?
  • Are you targeting any specific part of the population?
  • Ecommerce: what shipping, payment methods, etc.
  • I am as sure you can think of other questions related to the clients needs.

Conclusion

Bottom Line:
Don’t leave without some kind of information and details of the client’s needs.
Or the whole meeting was a waste of everyone’s time.

Avoiding miscommunication means less chance for conflict, stress, loss of time and money.
We don’t need that.

Many people believe that good communicators are born, not made, but that’s a misconception. In reality, anyone can be a great interpersonal communicator. [Four Must-Haves for Convincing Communication] [2]

In this day and age of emails and texting, did you ever think about verbally communicating and listening to your family, friends, and co-workers?
Develop a habit of listening and speaking clearly with practice, practice, and practice.

References

1. Top 20 Miscommunication Quotes. AZquotes.com

2. Four Must-Haves for Convincing Communication. ScienceMag.org David G. Jensen Jun. 19, 2009.

* Statistics as of Dec 2018.
See post: Building Static Websites Today for reference sources.

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