Communication tips for Independent Engineers

Communication tips for Independent Engineers

Many freelance architects and engineers find that communicating with clients has a steep learning curve when they’re just starting. But, chances are, you’ve gone freelance because you’re good at what you do. You’ll have certainly had some dealings with clients in the past, but you probably won’t have much experience finding new clients and closing deals. As a freelancer, you’ll need to learn how to do both.

When working through Workalike, learning to communicate with clients is a skill you must master. Here’s how to communicate with clients throughout the entire process, from pitch to completion.

Before the Contract

When you’re pitching for a new business at Workalike, the most important thing is to sell yourself. As a freelancer, you’re not just an architect or a civil engineer. You must also be selling yourself to any potential clients.

Workalike does some of that hard work for you by connecting you with potential clients who need your skills. Even so, once you’ve been connected with a potential client, it’s still your job to sell yourself, build trust, and assure them of your credibility.

When you open a dialogue with a potential client, here are some tips to keep in mind. 

Firstly, be professional but not overly formal. 

Second, strike a balance between building a rapport with them while keeping in mind that you are trying to win new business.

You should explain what skills you have and the relevant experience to back it up when selling yourself. If you have any relevant examples of achievements or large projects you’ve worked on, this would be a great time to bring them up.

Finalising your freelance agreement

Once the client has selected you as the preferred freelancer, the first thing to do is finalize the agreement on the scope of the work. What exactly will you be doing, and over what time? How will you be paid?  You and your new client need to work together to come up with answers to both of these questions before you start working.

Unless the work is completed in a short space of time – a week, for example – you should establish project milestones, after which you expect payment. For example, if you are carrying out a project over 6 months, agree with the client that you will be paid monthly or on the basis of completing the project or milestone.

Once all of the finer details have been agreed upon, you can get started on the work itself.

During the Project 

While the project is ongoing, it’s essential to stay in constant contact with your client. It’s best to speak to them and determine how often they’d like to be updated on progress. Some clients are pretty low maintenance and only require updates every so often, while others expect to be updated frequently.

When reporting back to a client, you should give an update on progress, as well as the next steps you’ll be taking. If you need any input from the client before continuing the work, this would be a great time to ask for it.

Frequent communication also allows you to manage expectations if necessary. If you don’t contact a client frequently during a project, they are likely to assume that everything is going fine and that it will be delivered exactly as expected by the deadline. If that turns out not to be the case, they will quite rightly be annoyed, and this could scupper your chances of getting any repeat work with them. In addition, it can be perceived as being untrustworthy, as if you have attempted to hide issues from the client to make yourself look better.

By contrast, if any delays or issues are raised with the client and when they occur, this helps manage their expectations and increase their trust in you. Open and honest communication is the key to a successful relationship with your new client.

It’s also important to be flexible when dealing with clients. They may have new requests to add to the project as it progresses, and you should cater to that where possible. However, be careful not to be taken advantage of. 

Any reputable client will gladly pay you for your time if a new request will add significant amounts of time and work to the project. Therefore, make sure to quote a price for any additional work that goes far beyond the original scope.

Completing your project as a freelance engineer

Assuming your project was successful, you should use this experience to help you gain more work in the future, whether with your current client or other clients. In Workalike, the best way to do this is to get a good review. Once the project is completed and the client has indicated that they’re happy, ask them for a review. 

It’s essential to do this right away. If you leave it too long, they’re less likely to leave you a review. As long as you’ve done an excellent job, the client should be more than happy to do this. However, if they choose not to give you a review, don’t push the issue. This could even increase the likelihood of getting negative feedback.

Once the job is complete, you should also clarify to the recent client that you enjoyed working with them and would like to do so again. They may have some more work for you or have contacts looking for a freelancer with your skills.

More and more freelance engineers and architects are going freelance these days. Check out what possibilities are there for you at Workalike