In our interaction with clients, we focus on client satisfaction and sometimes forget that the client also can worry about our perception of them. We get anxious about details of our own performance and neglect to reassure, affirm, and coach our clients into being the best clients they possibly can be.
In order to address possible insecurities or fractures in the freelancer-client relationship, it's important to develop positive language that helps the client feel optimistic about the project and about your communication. For most clients, it's crucial that they feel engaged and that they are an important part of the process -- otherwise, freelancer-client relations can stall out. A little "client shuffle" is good but it should be on your own terms.
Here are four positive language transformation tips to make sure that your clients feel affirmed and satisfied with your service:
Focus on Praise
Be genuine. Without flattery or dishonesty, find the positive aspects of your client's interaction with the project that are specific to the project's success. It could be as simple as thanking your client for their organizational skills or for responding to e-mails promptly.
Focusing on the positive in others and giving compliments helps to bring out more of the desired behavior. Even if there is a behavior that you feel that you would like to address or correct, delaying this possibly uncomfortable interaction until after praise helps to make your client more receptive to needed feedback.
Instead of Saying "I Can't," Focus on Saying "I Can."
This is important for scheduling. Always frame your schedule in the positive. "I have 3-5 available," or, "I can meet at 4:30," are both far more powerful statements than "I can't do after 5," or, "4:00 doesn't work for me." Framing your decisions or abilities in the positive, instead of the negative, predispose the client to be more receptive to your communication.
This can also apply when a client asks for a task to be completed that is out of your range of service or ability -- or, more often, their budget. Instead of saying, "I can't ________ for $150 per month," you could say, "For $150 per month I can do ________ and ________, and if you increased your budget to $250 per month, I could definitely add ________."
Instead of Saying "You," Focus on Saying "I," or "We."
This is a basic use of "I-statements." They have become cliché and they can be misused, but they are powerful tools for re-framing situations that could go sour. Even if the relationship is amicable and moving forward well, it's important to proactively use "we-centered" language.
This builds an atmosphere of teamwork and trust. It communicates that you see your relationship with the client as a partnership. It also makes delegating tasks and giving the client more responsibility an easier process when there is a foundation of a cooperative spirit.
Leave the Door Open with a Positive Message
This is a delicate time in the client-freelancer relationship when positivity and taste is especially important, because it could mean the difference between a repeat client in the future and an annoyed former client.
If a client has all but disappeared and is not responding to communication, send a brief and friendly e-mail that simply says something like, "I enjoyed working with you, and I wish you the best in your endeavors. Please know the door is always open for more work together."
Focusing on positive communication even in the most minute client interactions helps to establish the goodwill and trust that is essential for freelance business.