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Communicate Your Way to Successful Projects and Happy Clients

Written By Mahesh Raj Mohan | Mar 1, 2016

Clear communication is the pathway to a successful project. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a communication method to help put my clients at ease. It involves establishing a good rapport early on, setting reasonable expectations, staying engaged, and following up.

But it wasn’t always that easy. One project, in particular, was a perfect example of that classic quote from Cool Hand Luke: “a failure to communicate.” About five years ago, I was still new to running my own freelance writing and editing business. I landed a try-out gig with a company needing a product description.

“Don’t screw this up.”

The morning I sat down to write, my client told me, “don’t screw this up.” He wasn’t joking. The statement caught me off-guard, because it seemed like a strange way to begin a relationship. I didn’t help matters by giving a cocky response, and things went downhill from there. I second-guessed everything I wrote, and cringed every time I had to ask a clarifying question. Like a Wild West shoot-out, we fired at each other over e-mail.

It was a small job, and I was paid for my work, but the gig taught me a few valuable lessons about how to communicate clearly before, during, and after a project.

More recently, I worked on a project with a creative team at a multinational corporation. The job came to me through my association with the Copywriter Conclave of Portland. This time, I applied the aforementioned method that’s made other projects a success. If everything went right, this job would lead to more extensive work, so I was invested in laying a foundation.

Here’s a rundown of my method:

Get a Vibe

A phone call, Skype session, or coffee meeting are all essential to establishing a good fit. The multinational job got off to a great start—my contact met me for coffee in downtown Portland and didn’t mind me asking questions. We went over the parameters of the project, and after some guidance, my contact made it clear I had free reign to redo the content as I saw fit. I love that!

Dive Right In

I was given access to the corporate workflow program, introduced to another freelancer and the two managers on the project. When I feel like I have a good grasp of the brand voice and the expectations for the project (including revisions), I work quickly. Then I check and double-check my work for errors. I rewrote the content ahead of my stated deadline.

Stay Engaged

One manager made his first comments on a weekend morning. I make my own hours (it’s a freelancing perk). Since I had some free time, I made all the suggested edits before lunch. The team appreciated my attention to detail.

Conduct Follow-Ups

The project wrapped up within a two-week time frame, but there was “radio silence” from my contact for several weeks. I checked in and found out that the changes being made back-and-forth were minor or graphics-related. He reiterated that the project was a success. I’ve been looped in for discussions of a new project. Everything worked seamlessly.

Great gigs can come from many sources. You meet people at events, you make prospecting calls, you have an inbound website, or you have connections with exemplary creative staffing agencies.

If you manage the expectations of your clients, and follow the steps above, then you too can leave that “failure to communicate” in the distant past.

Mahesh Raj Mohan owns Enlighten Writing, a freelance writing, editing, and content strategy consultancy. He is also President of the Copywriter Conclave of Portland. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.