Communication is very important when working with clients in a creative process.
Otherwise, you risk delays, misunderstandings, and sometimes frustrations.
This is why I think having a way to manage client communication is vital to running a creative business. No matter what stage of business you are in, checking to ensure your communication is effective will help you out in the long run.
So many benefits happen for your business when you effectively communicate with your clients.
- Your clients feel heard and that their input is respected.
- You get to position yourself as the expert in your craft.
- You’ll set boundaries early that will be easier to address if needed.
- You’ll have an easier time planning your business around your life.
- Plus, so much more!
Own How You Manage Client Communication
Managing communication is big on my list of priorities. Not only for my inbox zero game to hold strong but also to have one space to manage client communication effectively. So that me and my clients understand where we are in the process clearly.
Early in my business, I wanted to ensure I had a process to manage projects. Coming from a business background with multiple decision-makers, I knew how quickly balls could drop if a step or guideline were unclear.
This is especially important when your online service-based business. Most likely, your clients have never worked with someone like you, or they may have had a different experience with a process and, even worse, no process at all when they worked with someone else.
Have you ever had a client come to you and say something not so great about the previous person they worked with? Most likely, it was due to them not having clear communication and processes.
Most creatives I know aren’t into systems (unless you are a developer) or project management. They’d prefer to focus on their craft. But unless you are working for an agency and solely doing creative work. You have to be a business owner first. So this is where I’m stepping in to help ensure you deliver outstanding work and a way for your clients to have a great memorable experience.
Here is what you’ll need to accomplish both.
Map Out Your Process
Setting clear guidelines had to be a top priority for my business. One obstacle that I faced was where to begin. This is definitely the case when you’re just starting out, or you’re completely new to getting organized.
I tackled this by sitting down and going through the entire process of how I wanted my clients to work with me. That was from the first point of contact, the phone chat, to the completion of the project.
In this step of the process, you want to make sure you pretend that you are the client and have no idea what to expect. Grab a piece of paper and map out every interaction you plan on having with your clients.
Look out for any obstacles or potential assumptions that you may have. Remember, your clients are brand new to working with you, and it needs to be clear what each element is in your process. You can also have a friend go through the process with you as well.
Once you have written down and tested your process, the next step is deciding what tools you need to accomplish your vision.
Decide Which Features You’ll Need to Manage Communication
Once I had my process written out (you’ll continue refining this over time). I went back and looked closer at the features I would need to make it work.
In the process, I realized I needed to figure out a way to share files more efficiently, how to share and get feedback on design concepts, and more. My email inbox wasn’t going to be the best method to manage all of this for several reasons:
- Threaded emails can quickly turn into a mess. (Plus going back and finding a certain email can be a pain).
- I wanted a place where I could easily access files.
- I needed to have a checkpoint of where we were in the creative process. (clear guidelines on what I needed from them and vice versa)
- I wanted to keep my inbox manageable (plus, sometimes I can skip over so many newsletters and ads that a potential email could get missed. I didn’t want to risk that happening).
After finalizing some key features that I knew I needed. I started to research the available tools on the market and talked to other creatives about their experiences.
Research The Tools You Might Need
With some information on what I needed, I went out and researched a ton of tools. I asked in my business communities, researched on Google, watched YouTube videos, etc.
Earlier in my business journey, I tried ALL the tools. You can explore plenty of systems to see what works best for your work style.
Here are some tools to check out to help manage your client projects.
I tried all of the project management tools except Basecamp (the only reason I didn’t want to fork out $99 a month at the time). Playing around with each system, I found that my brain performed better with Asana at the time versus Trello. For the last 4 years, I’ve been using ClickUp and love it. I recommend you try out the available tools and find a system that works for you.
Other tools that I use in my business are
- Dubsado (my CRM, click to learn how I use it.)
- Google Workspace for business email & Google ecosystem.
- Flodesk (for my studio) & ConvertKit (for our community) for email marketing
My advice is to keep it as simple as possible here. The more tools and systems you use, the more you have to learn, train, pay, and manage. Plus, it can eat at your profitability if you spend too much time managing the system instead of using it to maximize your productivity.
Put Your Process In Place
Once you’ve decided on the tools, you want to use. Now it’s time to take the process you mapped out and put it into your project management system of choice.
Setting up your process in a project management system will serve several purposes:
- You will ensure that each step of your process is executed consistently, leading to better communication.
- You will know where you are on your project timeline. (Because you’ll be setting due dates so that you can be alerted in a timely manner)
- Your clients will know how to communicate with you and what is needed from them. (You can add a comment on each step and ask for feedback)
- If something is off track, you will know it earlier in the process and can redirect the project if necessary. For example, if you notice a deadline approaching and information not being provided. You’ll know to follow up and check-in.
- You’ll keep your projects on track so you don’t run into a situation where you’re balancing 5 projects when you should only be working on 2-3.
- You’ll be able to bring on team members who you can easily delegate work because there is a process in place.
- Lastly, an effective project management system gives you back control of your business so you’re not at the mercy of others.
As a professional, it’s important that you lead the process for your service. That your clients feel confident when working with you.
Having a clear process is a great way to show potential clients how you like to work. It also shows clients what they can expect from working with you.
Finally, you should always work on refining your process and improving. Especially as your business evolves and changes.
If you’re a designer and you want an effective way to manage your web design clients. Then check out my video about How I use ClickUp to Manage Client Projects. Plus, snag the template I use in my business.