As someone who works as a freelancer (and literally relies on communication to make a living), I can’t stress enough how important it is for business owners to maintain good communication with their outsourced team members.
When you choose a third party to perform duties for your company—whether it’s content writing, graphic design, bookkeeping, or anything else—you need to be clear on what you need done and how you expect the work to be completed.
The fact that this person is working remotely and therefore communicating mostly through email or over the phone makes it even more important.
If you’re the outsourced team member, you’re equally responsible for keeping a strong line of communication open with your clients. You’re the one they’ve hired to help them run their business smoothly. You want to fulfill that promise.
Stay Connected With Your Team
Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and strained working relationships. More than that, failing to communicate effectively can cost you money when tasks are not performed properly or on time.
Whether you’re the one hiring an outsourced team member or you’re the one being hired, here are a few tips to help you communicate better for business success:
1. Set communication procedures
Decide the best way everyone will communicate, whether it’s through email or with a project management system. Every freelancer or subcontractor has had at least one client who phoned every time they had a question. You have to understand this isn’t an efficient way for outsourced team members to work. We need to manage requests and questions well so we can stay on task.
2. Consider a regular production call
If you aren’t currently doing a weekly phone or video call with your subcontractor (or client), you may want to add one to your communication procedures. Speaking face-to-face (even on video) helps you build a relationship quickly and convey a lot of information in a short period of time. A 15- or 20-minute call every week can gather and share a lot of information. Then manage the remainder of the week via email or with a project management system.
3. Verify receipt of emails
When you receive an email, don’t make the sender wonder if you saw it or what’s happening with their request. Respond simply that you received their message or request and provide an appropriate response. Not knowing the status of a request accounts for most of the anxiety that clients feel around working virtually.
4. Clarify unclear stuff
If you’re the outsourced team member, make sure you understand the task fully before starting the work. If a client’s request is unclear, get the details worked out so that you don’t waste your time or their money. It takes only a moment to verify the details of any task before you begin.
5. Check in regularly
My clients hire me because they’re busy and often overwhelmed. When I take the initiative to reach out to them to keep everything we’re doing together on track, they feel supported and less stressed. That’s why you should check in regularly to make sure your clients are sending you the work they are supposed to (or that your freelancer has everything they need to do the job). For long-term tasks (over a few days or a week, for instance), implement a system for status updates.
6. Be brief but detailed
Don’t write an essay every time you send an email. Focus on being concise in your messaging: greeting, purpose of email, items or information required, brief details, and expected delivery. Keeping your messages brief allows you to leave out unnecessary “stuff” and focus on clarity in your communication.
7. Incorporate your personality
Being brief and focused in emails doesn’t mean you need to be boring. You still want to build a good working relationship. On production calls, greet the caller and ask about their weekend and show interest in them, then move on to busines.
In emails, include friendly wording (but don’t get carried away with stories or explanations!), and if something requires a detailed explanation, jump on a quick phone call to do that.
Always be friendly and supportive
Communicating well with your clients will help you to build a very loyal client base, which helps you get clients more easily. Plus, when you communicate well, you’re more relaxed and confident.
Take charge of the communication in your business relationship
If you’re the outsourced team member, you’re the support professional; your client is relying on you to make sure your work together runs smoothly. The more supported your clients feel, the better your working relationship will be.
If you’re leading an outsourced team, remember that virtual work is very different than the work done by your on-site staff. Freelancers are expected to meet your deadlines, but they set their own schedules, which means it’s very important to be clear about how you’ll work together to get the job done.