In this very technologically connected age, there are boundless and endless methods of communication tools out there to choose from. But, the question is, which ones would be the best to use?
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We can best list the top ones most in the industry use and from there picking the top 2 that are the best to work with. Keeping in mind, you also need to factor in your own boundaries when it comes to communicating with your clients.
Some businesses like the instant communication (chat) style method – others like the breathing room of emails or project management software to allow you time to address it. At the end of the day, like your choices in software to actually run your business, it is very personal to the business owner and the type of business you are trying to run.
These suggestions are just that, suggestions! If you have others – please forward them to us! We love to hear about new and innovative software to better see if it can improve workflows and possibly, join together the best of multiple software into one essential tool!
So let us break it down into the two types: Instant versus Controlled.
The OG of online Virtual Conferencing and Communication. This tool started out as a means to get around international calling without the large expense (before cellular phone plans or international plans got a major facelift!)
This software could do it all (it predates Facetime and Facebook Messenger! Hard to believe!!) – you could chat, you could Call and video conference clients and other colleagues at a quick click of the mouse.
This chat software allows you to break things down into rooms – meaning that you can allow everyone or only certain people in each room. It keeps the topic streamlined, allows you to share software and does have internal calling functionality
Most freelancers utilize the Google Platform, so within your email, you can have chatting ability (meeting ability as well) and it is very integrated – be it from your computer or your phone – the accessibility makes this a quick choice as well.
This video conference software isn’t as instant as the others, however, all it takes is a quick share and you are on a call with your client without the long-distance charges! Also, you can record your sessions in case you need to refer back to the conversation for clarity on a task. This is useful in its own right. The limitations are the number of people on the call for about 40 mins in the free version but definitely is handy to have in your toolbox.
Simple, straight forward – but you need to share your phone number (there are other software options there that a centralized number is used and forwarded but that is for another discussion at another time!). You get instant responses and sometimes if you are on similar devices, you can use the chat function to see when your messages are being seen.
Like Skype, this allows you to be not only in front of your client but also the ability to bypass the long-distance charges like Zoom – phone or video. You would need to have each other as a contact (via Facebook or in your contacts) in order to chat but in theory, discovery calls can be done on Zoom first before getting more personal from there. It is a great way to communicate (like the others).
Our choice for best option – Slack. The reason for this, is the integrated features but best of all you can set your ability to receive messages to “sleep” so to speak so you will get pinged when back online but allows you to shut down and take time to not think about working from time to time.
When we say control, I’m speaking about the ability to open a discussion when your schedule permits. Usually, this method is to set the boundary that you would get back to your client as soon as you were able (or in some cases, within a set amount of time i.e. 1-2 business hours). I will simplify this section a little bit.
Project Management Software:
Utilizing programs like Asana, Teamwork, Basecamp, etc so that not only can you comment on tasks as you move through the day, but you also can direct message each other within the app (for the most part) to ask questions and ensure clarity or to assign the tasks needing to be done with the proper due date.
Advantage to this, it creates your to-do list accordingly to make sure you block the time off to complete it and also keeps the lines of communication open (usually with the partnership of the next Controlled Communication method).
An oldie but a goodie – Email – whether you have a free Gmail or Hotmail account or paid URL-linked one, this method allows you to organize your thoughts, tasks to be done and to set the boundary that you will answer your client (like the project management software) when you are available, but unless the function is set, that you can read the message without the other knowing and adding it to your task list.
Bear in mind, if you sign up for different newsletters, you will need to set up the filters to allow you to receive them but not lose the important client emails in the jumble of the day.
You can set the boundary there as to when you will reply and not worry about unnecessary chit chat in the process. It sounds cruel but sometimes, you just need the facts only and email allows you to pull that info without getting distracted (though that can happen too when those Pinterest or Recipe emails come in – but email organization can be for another time!)
Our choice is to work with Email – this allows you the best method of prioritizing the tasks and to make sure the time block you have set up for your client is best utilized based on your own workflows as well, keeps your process simple especially as you are just starting out and creating your own workflows and relationships with your business.
I hope that this gives you something to think about – if you have suggestions about how to handle Client Communication – tools, methods, workflows – let us know! We are interested in what works for you as well, as it could be something we hadn’t thought of!