Improve Your Listening Skills, Become a Better Freelancer

Have you ever had a communication problem with a client?

Of course you have… and you’re not the only one.

As with other relationships, miscommunication with clients can be a huge problem for freelancers. Miscommunication can keep you from getting freelancing work.

Fortunately, there are many ways for you to improve your communication skills. Good listening is one key to good communication. The best freelancers understand that how well you listen is as important as what you say.

In this post, I’ll provide some easy tips to help you improve your listening skills. At the end of the post, you’ll get a chance to provide even more communication tips. You can also share stories about how you communicate with your own clients.

What You Need to Know About Communication

When most people think about communication, they think of the spoken word. (In the case of email communications, that’s the written word…) While it’s true that the spoken word is a very important part of communication, that’s not all that there is to good communication.

There are actually two different types of communication that you need to understand:

  • Verbal communication–This is what most people think of when they think of communication. Verbal communication is the actual words that are written or spoken.
  • Nonverbal communication–These are the unspoken signals that people send out. Nonverbal communication can include body language, tone of voice, and facial expression.

While most freelancers focus mainly on verbal communication, you need to understand that nonverbal communication can be equally important. There are times when a client may not say everything that he or she is thinking. They may even be lying to you or they may just be leaving something out.

Nonverbal communication lets you know that you should dig deeper to find out more about what the client really means.

Even if you don’t meet a client face-to-face, you may be able to find clues about what they really mean by noticing the tone of voice that they use during their phone calls with you.

Improving your listening skills will reduce client/freelancer miscommunication and ultimately help you to become a better freelancer.

Four Easy Steps to Better Listening

Are you ready to put some of this information about communication skills into practice with your freelancing clients?

You can use the following four easy steps to become a better listener:

  1. Observe. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. If you are in a face-to-face meeting, notice the client’s posture and facial expressions. Do they seem relaxed and open, or are they uptight and tense? Body language can reveal a great deal about a client. A tense client could be hiding something or they could just be anxious about the project.
  2. Listen. When your client speaks, give them your full attention. Don’t interrupt them and don’t be thinking about what you are going to say to them next. Take very careful notes. Also, be sure to notice their tone of voice when they are speaking. A sharp, impatient tone may indicate that the client is irritated or it could mean that they are under stress.
  3. Repeat. Some people just don’t express themselves very well. They aren’t deliberately trying to lie to you, but they may accidentally leave things out. Repeating your understanding of what the client said back to them helps them to get their full message across.
  4. Ask. Relevant questions can do a lot to reduce freelancer/client miscommunication. If you don’t understand a point the client mentioned, ask for a clarification. Don’t limit questions to just what the client said verbally. Instead, ask about nonverbal signals that you noticed as well. You could say something like, “You seem really nervous about your website. Is there anything else that I need to know?”

By following these four simple steps for better listening each time that you communicate with a client, you can eliminate many communication problems. Don’t let poor communication derail your freelancing business.

Your Turn

What tips for improving client communication did I miss? Add your own client communication tips in the comments.

Have you ever experienced client communication problems? Share your stories (without mentioning client names, of course) in the comments.

Image by woodleywonderworks