Recently, over at Reliable (our new PSD to HTML & WordPress company), we had an interesting situation…
A “tough cookie” wrote in asking for a quote on his project.
But he didn’t hesitate to tell us that he was also looking to outsource overseas, and he was asking for proposals from 10 other companies, too.
We were #11.
Well, we just did our thing. First, we responded about 10 minutes after the email came in (we’re OCD with email like that…). Second, we followed the tips for email communication that you’ll read later on in this post.
This guy, as it turns out, was also an OCD email addict. 10 minutes after we sent our email, we got one back that said:
Wow, well already you guys are ahead of the game. I haven’t heard back from any of the other service providers I’ve reached out to yet. Thank you for such a quick and friendly response.
His tone changed a lot, too. We were super friendly in our email, and even threw in a smiley and exclamation points. His first email seemed very defensive and on guard, like he was expecting us to be cold and mean and stuff. Actually, because he seemed so on-guard and stiff, we made sure to be extra warm and fuzzy :-)
In his second email, we could tell we’d won him over a bit with kindness, and he opened up to us a bit.
It turns out being cool and friendly saved the day. We got the project, and he turned out to be a really nice guy and we’ve started a great relationship.
But it all started with our communication.
In this post, I’m going to go over the biggest mistakes freelancers make with it, and what you should do instead. On we go!
One: the phone.
How you answer your phone is huge.
If you’re just starting out, there’s a good chance you don’t yet have a separate business line. So all calls — both personal and business — are going to your cell phone.
So you might answer like this:
That’s how most people answer their cell phones, right? So what’s the problem? Well, when someone calls in from your website, you’re not a “person”. You’re a company. And the way you answer your phone has to show them that.
Way back in the day, we made this mistake. And the response we’d often get was:
Hi, is this Unexpected Ways? Sorry, I think I have the wrong number… [Click]
Until you get a separate business line, assume every call is a business call, and answer the phone as such.
Say something like this…
Freelancer Joe Designs!
and you can even throw in a…
How can I help you?
Sure, some of your friends or family might get caught by it – but that’s what caller ID’s for, right? ;-)
Pay attention to your tone of voice too.
Sometimes business and customer relations ask us to put on a strong face when we’re feeling tired or out of it or unhappy. But you have to remember that when you answer the phone, you’re answering as the “face” and “voice” of your company.
What kind of voice does your company have?
Cheerful? No-nonsense? Friendly? Serious?
Pick what you want your brand to be. And when you answer the phone, make sure you channel that emotion. Even if you want nothing more than a glass of wine or a beer and alone time with the TV.
But even if you are “faking” it… when you get a positive response from the person on the other end, and you realize your efforts are about to get you a new client…
Your mood just might turn around.
These are the most common mistakes freelancers make with email:
1: Not starting off with a greeting, (Like “Hey” or “Hello” or the recipient’s name)
2: Not fully answering questions or being too abrupt.
3: Not being conversational, kind, and genuine
Let’s look at a real-world example. Here’s the potential client’s email:
I’m interested in a website. What are your prices?
Joe Business Owner
With the above mistakes, here’s what a reply looks like:
$500 – $1000
Can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten replies like this when I asked businesses a question.
The thing is…
To you, this might be friendly. But to most people, here’s what your communicating without even realizing it (unconsciously, as our good friend Freud would say):
“I don’t have time to write your name or acknowledge the fact that you greeted me.”
“I don’t have time to explain what the prices mean or why there’s even a range”
“I don’t care whether or not I get your business”
Even if you had the best of intentions, and to you a short, to-the-point email is preferable… The biggest message emails like this get across is that you don’t care.
Now, let’s see an example of an email that doesn’t make these mistakes:
Thanks so much for writing in. I’d be happy to answer your questions.
Prices can vary quite a bit! Do you have time later today to talk for a few minutes? I’d love to learn about what you’re looking for and see if I can help.
This email communicates:
“I’m happy to hear from you.”
“I’m happy to spend time talking with you to learn about you.”
It’s just words on a screen. But people unconsciously read over them the same way they analyze your posture, eye contact, clothes, and tone of voice in person.
They’re trying to peer through the cracks to see who’s on the other end. Show them that it’s a kind, genuine professional who’s happy to help.
A Few (Important) Last Words:
Put care into how you communicate. Fuss over every word of your emails (at least for a while, until you really get it down). Write them with heart and answer your phone calls with heart too.
Most companies don’t put care into how they communicate. They make you feel like you’re bothersome by asking questions. They make every request you have feel like a burden.
Be the refreshing voice on the other end of the line who actually cares. Or the first freelancer they’ve contacted who actually seemed pleasant.
Have thoughts or questions you’d like to share? Add them in the comments.
I’d love to hear what you have to say :-) Comments here.