The ultra-fast growth of information and communication technology has been a boon to freelancers. We’re no longer limited to the prospective clients in our communities. Nowadays, we can market to and collaborate with clients–even if they’re half the globe away from us. We can accept payments instantly from almost any country.
The world has become very small, indeed, for freelancers. Communicating with clients has become easier, faster and cheaper than ever before.
Here are the top ten ways freelancers can communicate with long-distance clients:
Good old email is still our standard means of communication, whether our clients are a five-minute drive or a 24-hour flight away. Emails are fast, free, and–if you have a smart phone or other mobile device–accessible anywhere.
This free online voice and video chatting service has revolutionized the way freelancers work and communicate. You can chat, talk to and see your clients. Skype also offers voice and video group conferencing, which comes in handy when you need to brainstorm or collaborate with several people. You can also share files of any size.
Best of all, your voice or video call can be recorded (a third-party software like Pamela or eCamm Recorder is necessary to record voice and video calls), so you don’t have to rely on your memory or note-taking skills.
Yes, the telephone still makes the list.
Let’s face it. Sometimes technology fails. For instance, when my client couldn’t get her mic to work during our Skype call, I called her on the phone. I could see her on my computer monitor and hear her on the phone.
In addition, some prospects and clients prefer to talk over the phone with their outsourced staff. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Maybe it’s a matter of knowing you’re a real person with a telephone number. These same clients are probably not on Skype. Fortunately, phone rates seem to be going down, so making telephone calls is still an option.
For conference calls, a teleseminar facility is another option. You can find free teleseminar service providers by doing a quick search online.
4. Google Voice
This is a good telephony service that links your landline and mobile phones to a single telephone number. It will also transcribe your voice mail. Texting and phone calls to the US and Canada are free. BUT Google Voice is so far only available to users who have a US ISP and telephone number.
Line2 is an iPhone and Android app that gives you a second phone line. Since the app works on iPod Touches and iPads as well, you don’t even have to have a phone to get a phone line! It turns these mobile devices into a phone. Texting and VOIP calls are unlimited within the US and Canada. It works on WiFi, 3G or cellular networks, depending on the device you’re using. This can be an inexpensive way to get a phone line for your freelancing business.
Twitter is great for exchanging short messages with your clients. When your client isn’t responding to emails or picking up the phone, check their Twitter profile. If you can see that they’re actively Twittering, then sending a DM can be the best way to reach them. Do remember to use direct messages, which only your client will see, rather than @ replies for project-related messages.
I don’t recommend you get “friendly” with your clients on Facebook. I prefer to have that space where I can vent about freelancing to my real friends. However, if you do have clients who are also your friends and already connected with you on your personal Facebook account (not your Facebook page), then it’s another avenue of communication you can use. You’ll be surprised how often people log into their Facebook accounts, and how much time they spend there (not speaking from first-hand experience, of course, ahem).
A webinar conference room is an excellent communication tool you can use to collaborate with long-distance clients. You can share your computer desktop with them, so you both see the same website or document you’re working on. Your client can give you feedback and you can incorporate this into the project right then and there. A webinar is perfect for rush jobs, or for times when it’s better and easier to show rather than tell. No need to keep emailing each other back and forth!
9. Apple FaceTime
If you and a client are both Mac and/or iPhone users, you can use FaceTime for Mac. It also works with the iPod Touch and iPad 2. This 99-cent app allows you to make video calls with other FaceTime users. Not as feature-rich as Skype, but it comes in handy when you and/or your client are on the go and need to connect.
You can get either a free or paid custom phone number with your Voxox account, and have calls forwarded to any or all of your phones. You can also send and receive text messages and even faxes. Other features include voice mail, free Voxox-to-Voxox calls, conference calls for up to 20 participants, and integration with popular instant messaging applications and social networks. Use Voxox to send files up to 100MB in size. Unlike Google Voice, Voxox is already supported in over 40 countries.
With all these communication options–and new ones coming up all the time–there’s no reason freelancers should be limited to local clients only.
How do you keep in touch with your faraway clients? Do you use a service or facility I haven’t mentioned in the list above?
Share the resources you use with us so other freelancers can benefit from your experience as well.
Image by Seattle Municipal Archives