5 Tips for Successful Collaboration With Clients

November 1, 2013 5:00 am1 comment

teamwork

Keep Your Projects On Track And Clients Happy With Teamwork

Thanks to advances in cloud technology and communication, it’s now possible to work closely with your clients even when you reside in entirely different countries and time zones. Having this flexibility means that clients can play a more active role in their projects, work with you to generate ideas, help to manage workflow, and offer suggestions and comments.

However, without important steps and measures in place, communication issues can develop and clients can feel isolated and out of the loop with projects. That’s not a good place for your clients to be in.

Need to learn some good methods for working with clients? Here are some tips on working collaboratively with clients:

1. Use the Cloud

A cloud-based collaboration tool or workflow management system will make working with a client easy. There are lots of options for you to choose from, depending on the type of features you need. A cloud-based application has numerous advantages over email:

  • You and your client can check in and edit it anytime, anywhere, from any device
  • You can use a range of features for a small monthly fee
  • You can run multiple projects for different clients and use permissions to keep all their info private
  • There’s a higher measure of security—if you lose an email, you lose everything, but by backing up to the cloud via your workflow management system, all your files and data are accessible
  • Keep everything to do with a project in the same place
  • You can work on and send large files with ease

Which cloud-based workflow management system you choose will depend on the type of project you’re completing and how you and your client like to work. Here are some of the features that are essential when collaborating with clients:

  • Time-tracking: the ability to track your time on each task helps make invoicing easier
  • Comments: a simple-to-use system for commenting and making notes on submitted work
  • Deadlines: set due-dates for different parts of a project
  • Present ideas: use slideshows and different formats to present ideas and concepts to the client
  • Write lists: create action steps and to-dos

2. Don’t Give them Too Many Options

One of the things to learn when collaborating with clients is that, despite what they say, they don’t actually want to decide everything. If they have to make too many decisions, often on aspects of work they don’t really understand, they feel as if they’re doing all the work. And if that’s the case, what are they paying you for? A client with too many options can get stressed out worrying if they’re making the right choices.

Focus on empowering your client to make the best decisions in a narrower space. Don’t ask their opinion on every single thing. Instead, progress the project to a stage where you might offer them two to five options and carefully explain the pros and cons of each one so they can make an informed decision.

3. Set Deadlines and Project Milestones

When working closely with a client on a project, it’s not uncommon for time to get away with you. This usually happens when you need the client to sign off on something—they get busy and forget to check in. To keep the project running smoothly, it’s important to set deadlines and milestones for the project.

Deadlines should be laid out in your initial contract and should cover not only the delivery date for the project, but also dates for completion and sign-off of each stage of the project as well. Your client needs to understand that delays on their end meeting these deadlines can push the whole project back.

Project milestones help divide the project into smaller, easily-achievable parts. The client usually has no experience in your line of work and working with you on a huge project can be daunting, so project milestones are a great way to demonstrate the different stages of the project and make it feel more achievable.

4. Listen more than you talk

A client might come to you with an example of a project from another company they really like. If you want to glean any useful information from this example, you need to obtain more details from your client.  In the same way, if a client says they’re not happy with an aspect of the project, you need to dig deeper to uncover what exactly isn’t working.

How do you do this? By asking lots of questions, and focusing carefully on the client’s answers. What in particular appeals about that project? What result are they looking for? What does this or that feature invoke in their mind? The more you get your client to talk, and the more you pay attention to what they’re saying, to better you can pinpoint what will make them happy.

5. Be Collaborative in Spirit

One of the most important parts of collaboration is that both parties enter the project with a sense of what the end goal is, and a desire to work together to meet that goal. If you enter a project feeling confrontational (“I’m going to have to defend all my ideas to the client”) or lazy (“The client’s got all the ideas. I’ve just got to get them on paper”) or smug (“This client is a pushover. This job will be easy money”), neither you nor the client will get the desired result.

 

Collaborating closely won’t work with all your clients, and it may take some experimenting to find a system you’re happy with, but when client and company work together in a truly symbiotic relationship is when the magic really happens.

Image: iStockphoto

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