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Reader Mail: How do you work virtually with clients?

Today is another male bag day! I received a question from one of our Instagram followers asking me “how do you deal with clients virtually in a COVID-19 landscape.. or in any landscape?

Well @sexyskinny69, that is actually a fantastic question! It is something that we deal with every day, and have dealt with almost every day since we started this agency.

***Insert dreamy music and squiggly lines**

You see, waaayyyy back when we started this agency, we worked solely in the music industry, attended a lot of Music events, and won a few industry awards for design along the way (2015 / 2018). 

Many of our clients resided on the West Coast in Alberta and B.C. and were on average 2-3 hours behind us. Most of them we never had a chance to meet in person and all project, communication  and business was done virtually. This meant a lot of phone calls and many emails back and forth for approvals, design briefs, and anything else related to work.

It was an interesting time and most deals in the music industry were done in person over drinks, and zoom chats weren’t really a thing yet, but we were starting to make a name for ourselves in the industry so people were willing to alter the way they normally made connections to work with us on their artist roster. (Do good work and people will start seeking you out!)

***End dreamy music and squiggly lines***

So what does that have to do with today’s blog? Well, it was a nice walk down memory lane, but it was also to bust the myth that you’re limited to finding clients within your immediate atmosphere. It proves that even before Zoom was a thing, it was still possible to do business all over the world without needed to meet people in person. Sure, it’s nice, but it’s not necessary. In a world of websites, video calls, and internet marketing, you are only limited by your offer.

Now that I’ve blown your mind showing you that you can do business with anyone across the world, are you ready to get started? Yes? Great!

1. Scheduling meetings the easy way.

The first thing you’re going to do is sign up for a scheduling calendar software. There are a thousand different services that offer this, but you just need to find one that looks good to you and stick with it. Now don’t get shiny object syndrome, they may all look different, but they all do the same thing!

A few good ones include:

Each of these services “should” sync up with your Google Calendar, so once someone books a meeting, it will automatically add it into your daily schedule. All of these also offer you the ability to choose what days & times you make available for meetings, so if you don’t want to be disturbed on Tuesdays, just don’t allow any meeting slots on that day!

Lastly, since they sync with Google Calendar, the software also reads when you’ve added your own events into your schedule and will mark those times as unavailable in your booking calendar automatically.

Now that you have that software setup, you’re going to add this link into your email signature allowing anyone you correspond with to easily view your availability and schedule a call with you, without all the back and forth of trying to find a time that works for both of you.

Here’s an example from my own email signature: “Need to chat? Please view my calendar of availability and schedule a call online.”

Most of these can also integrate with your website allowing you to embed a copy of your meeting calendar, but I’ve found that most people prefer a good old fashioned contact form over a calendar, it feels a little more natural to fill out a form for that first bit of contact. Once someone has reached out to you through your contact form, if they want to schedule a call or meeting, then you can send them a link to your calendar when you respond.

I like to ask if they’d prefer to schedule a phone call or a Skype / zoom call. Whenever I can schedule a Skype / Zoom I will, it’s my preference because it gives a face to the person you’re talking with and I feel that it helps them realize there is a person behind the voice they are talking to as well. When it’s just words on a screen or a random voice on a phone, I feel like sometimes people forget that they’re talking to a living, breathing human being with thoughts and feelings and helps build a little bit of trust.

2. Creating clear boundaries.

We you start working virtually, it’s very important to discuss with the client how you work on projects virtually. This can include things like how you handle feedback, how you handle change requests, how you take phone calls, how you schedule work to be done, what your “home working hours” are, and when you are available.

It’s so VERY important to create clear boundaries right up front so there is ZERO confusion. Without clear boundaries, the lines can become blurred on what is acceptable and what is not. If you haven’t let your client (or boss) know that calling at 9pm to discuss something is a big No-No, how will they know?

It seems incredibly simple (to you), but if the person calling you at 9pm is working, their only focus is on what THEY are doing. Whatever they are calling you about is the most important thing to them at that moment in time and they aren’t going to look at the clock and think “I probably shouldn’t call, it’s 9pm”. What they ARE thinking is “I have something important on my mind and you never told me that a 9pm phone call was unacceptable”.

If you don’t lay out the rules of engagement for working virtually with you up front, things can go sour really fast. You’ll start to resent the client, and the only person you have to blame in the end is yourself because you didn’t communicate your boundaries.

You also want to have a conversation about how the other person works. Remember, we’re in an incredibly strange time right now and everyone is still figuring out how to navigate working virtually!

Once you’ve had that conversation everyone knows how they can work together happily without anyone getting upset, or feelings getting hurt, or anyone getting frustrated because they’re not being responded to quickly enough, and whatever you’re working on will run so much smoother!

3. Send the “Friday Email”

Number 3 on this list is sending your client (or boss) a Friday email. EVERY FRIDAY! Not just when you think of it, it needs to be consistent. Every Friday during the life of a project we send each of our active “project clients” an email on Fridays. These are simple little emails from our project manager letting each client know what we worked on in regards to their particular project that week. We also let them know what we have in the schedule to work on for their project the following week. Finally, we’ll let know any risks or issues we might be facing with their project and let them know any questions or request assets we’ll need the client to answer or deliver to us to keep moving their project moving forward.

Now, it can be scary letting someone know if there is a risk or a hangup with their project, but it’s been my experience that it’s ALWAYS better to rip that band-aid off so you can discuss option together rather than hide that bad news and hope for the best. Don’t be the child who hides the broken living room lamp, it never ends well.

I feel it’s very important to any project that you work on when you’re working with virtual clients and you don’t get a lot of face-to-face time to send out that Friday email. This let’s the client know you have a process, you’re on top of their project, that you know what you’re doing, and they feel confident in your ability to deliver. It also lets you (and them) head into the weekend with feeling good about the progress and not worrying about what needs to be done.

We have a rule around the Agency, if the client reaches out to you asking where we’re at with their project…we have failed to do our job properly. Sending these Friday emails prevent this from ever happening.

4. The Wrap Up Meeting

When working virtually with clients it gives you an opportunity continuously improve your process (and show the client your expert chops) by scheduling a wrap-up meeting after the project is complete. The wrap-up meeting doesn’t need to be long, it’s a simple series of questions that you will go through with the client and will create a better relationship in the process.

Once the project wraps, schedule a video chat or phone call with your client, be prepared with a small list of 4 or 5 questions that make sense for your industry that you can use to measure the success of the project, and will give you insight into where you can make improvements moving forward. Make sure you start the conversation by letting the client know that nothing they say will hurt any feelings, you’re always looking to improve how you serve your clients and this feedback is beneficial in making that happen. If you need an example, below are the questions we use for our wrap up meetings (feel free to use them):

  • How did you feel about the process we followed during your project?
  • Is there anything you felt we could have improved on to make the experience better?
  • Is there anything you’d like to see us change on a future project with you?

These questions not only help you improve, but they also help in building relationships with your client. Your client now feels valued and that their experience matters to you (and it should), so when you move into the next project with them, you know both know how each other works, and you know how to make the next project even more successful than the last one.

Once that wrap up meeting is done, you 100% want to make sure the client is leaving happy, and if they aren’t, you want to do your best to address their concerns, make them feel hear, and repair that relationship.

Happy clients refer you on and referrals are the life blood of EVERY business.

When wrapping up, don’t forget to ask for a Google review, because you’re going to use that in your next portfolio piece! If you’re not asking for Google reviews on a regular basis, or you just want some pointer on getting better Google reviews, check out our recent blog post “6 Tips for Better Google Reviews“.

That’s it for this blog, that’s all the advice I have about working virtually! Let me know in the comments down below what your experience working virtually with clients has been like. Let me know if you have any feedback or your own tips and tricks for working virtually. If you have any feedback on my tips and tricks, I’m always looking to improve our process so feel free to comment on that as well!

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Dickens Yard Dental

Meet Dr. Sahil Thakkar. Owner, founder, and principal dentist of Dickens Yard Dental, a dental practice based in West London. As a brand new business, the main goal was to increase the number of new patients to kick things off.