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


  1. says

    One of the biggest mistakes (in my humble opinion) that I see freelancers make is relying strictly on email for communication. Many view phone calls as a nuisance or interruption of their productivity so they avoid it at all cost.

    Emails do not pick up on the clues you get from the inflections or tones (as you discuss) of the conversation. More than once, I have picked up the phone and called when I felt emails were getting testy or causing issues. It works every time to quickly diffuse escalating problems.

    I also find phone calls the best (when face-to-face isn’t possible) when you need back-and-forth conversation with questions and answers.

  2. says

    Laura, Another great article from you. About listening one advice is just give one more second after they finish their talk instead answer right away. This way they think you truly listened and thinking about it
    Don’t act fake because it will work opposite, just try to make it a habit even in family conversation

  3. says

    I agree with Cathy. I think you get more from phone calls than you do with email. Emails should be used to memorialize the conversation for confirmatory purposes and to cover things that you may have missed or are not to clear on during the phone call.

  4. says

    I agree that miscommunication can cause big problems and brake business relations.
    Nowadays you have really no excuse, even if you’re client is on the other side of the world. Just use Skype

  5. says

    I think the part which mention about “Four Easy Steps to Better Listening” are some very good points. Especially the part about “Observe” and “Listen”. A lot of people like to make assumption without observing.

  6. says

    Great tips. I have always been a terrible listener. Listening is key, especially for journalists like myself. If you miss a comment or a crucial statement from a source, your whole story could change. Being able to listen is very important in any field.

  7. says

    I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely will i encounter a blog that’s both educative and
    entertaining, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail within the head.

    Your notion is outstanding; that the question is something not enough individuals have been speaking intelligently
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  8. says

    I’m really inspired with your writing talents and
    also with the layout for your blog. Is that this a paid subject matter or did you customize it your
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  9. says

    Thanks Laura. I love the four simple steps: Observe, Listen, Repeat, Ask. I think breaking that down- people don’t know how to Observe, Listen, Repeat and How to Ask! These four areas gives clarity on what is lacking and helps people know how and where to develop their listening skills.

    I’ve written an eBook with 30 ways to improve your listening skills. You can download it for free and get it here:

    Hope the book will be helpful to folk and love to chat further on this subject.

    Thanks again Laura.


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