Are Your Communication Skills Clear Enough?

Are Your Communication Skills Clear Enough?

Dealing with clients can be one of the most challenging aspects of contract work. Your clients might not understand the lingo or they may question everything you choose and every process you use. But since they’re writing the check that keeps your business afloat, in some cases you’ll just have to grin and bear it.

This can be particularly challenging if you’re dealing with clients who have never worked with a contractor before, or worse, you’re coming in to fix what another company screwed up.

Although communicating with clients might be your least favorite part of your job (past the desired, “OMG I LOVE it!!!” and “Here’s your payment” comments), it’s still part of your job, and it would serve you well to be good at it. So here are some tips to help you keep the communication flowing so you can stave off (or at least minimize) any unpleasant encounters.

Let Them in on the Game-plan

Unless you’re brand new to the contracting field, you should be able to analyze a job and put together a relatively accurate estimate of time and costs. Sidenote: if you are new and don’t know how to do this, learn. Quickly. If a client has an idea of how long a project will take and the approximate cost, they won’t inundate you with questions about how long it’s going to take and how much it’s going to cost.

You’ll want to leave a little wiggle room for the unforeseen, such as the price of materials increasing or an unexpected step due to previous work or construction but you’ll want to make that estimate as accurate as possible. Just include this as part of the contract and make sure everyone has a copy so you can all literally be on the same page.

Offer Regular Updates

This is especially important if the client isn’t on-site daily, such as a new build or major renovation. Someone who is getting a new deck can see the progress because they’re probably still living in the house. But even they might appreciate you checking in every couple of days and letting them know if you’re still on target time and budget-wise. A client who feels they are in-the-know won’t bug you about what they don’t know, even if what they don’t know is a lot, you know?

If You Have to Make Changes, Tell the Client

And do it sooner rather than later. Clients have a way of knowing when things aren’t going as planned. They might not say anything, in the hopes that you can quickly rectify the situation and things continue to progress. But they’ll notice. And eventually, if you don’t say anything, they’re going to ask.

It’s better that you tell them before you get to that point. If needed supplies are slow to arrive or are on backorder, tell your client what’s going on. If you need to rethink an approach because of an existing element (plumbing is on the wrong wall, the wiring is wrong for the kind of outlets desired), let your client know.

Keep them in the loop and include them in the discussion. They might decide to go with different lighting or that they aren’t as in love with that lavender backsplash that’s on backorder after all and choose another color you can get immediately.

Be Nice!

Exchanging pleasantries with your client won’t kill you. It could even lead to more work. Say hello. If they ask you questions (not too personal) answer them. Explain why you’re doing something if they ask. A little courtesy can go a long way.

Be upfront, honest and nice to your clients, and they’ll pay you what you want and might even tell their friends about you. It’s really that simple.

How have you communicated with your clients in the past?