When you are working with others in a creative process, communication is very important. Otherwise, you risk delays, misunderstandings, and sometimes frustrations.
Which 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 make sure your communication is effective is going to help you out in the long run.
There are so many benefits that 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.
- Plus so much more!
Put On Your Business Owner Hat
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 where I can manage communication effectively. So that me and my clients understand where we are in the process clearly.
Early on in my business, I wanted to make sure 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 was 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 organization and processes. 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 you make sure you deliver not only outstanding work but a way for your clients to have a great memorable experience.
Map Out Your Process
So setting clear guidelines had to be a top priority on my list. 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.
How I tackled this was I sat down and went 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 you 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.
Decide Which Tools You’ll Need to Manage Communication
Once I had my process written out (you’ll also continue to refine this over time). I went back and took a closer look at the tools that I would need to make it work.
In the process, I mapped out 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).
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. There are plenty of systems you can explore 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 with the exception of Basecamp (the only reason being 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. My recommendation is that you try out the options and find a system that works for you.
Other tools that I use are
- Dubsado (my CRM you can read more about how to use it here.)
- Google Workspace for business email & Google ecosystem.
- Flodesk & ConvertKit for email marketing
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 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 be aware of it earlier in the process and can redirect the project if necessary. For example, if you notice a deadline is approaching and information isn’t 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 to who you can easily delegate work. Because there is a process in place.
- Lastly, give you back the 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. Plus it also shows clients what they can expect from working with you.
On a final point, you should always be working on refining your process and making improvements. 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 walking you through how I use ClickUp to manage web design projects. Plus snag the ClickUp template I use in my business.