As an e-learning pro, is there anything so important as your skills and expertise? Yes! Your survival as a freelancer absolutely depends on the relationship you establish with your clients. Because if your chops are solid and clients enjoy working with you, you’ll eventually have plenty of work. Are you friendly? Do you seem genuinely interested in the client and the project? Do you deliver what you say you’re going to deliver? To clients, the experience of working with you is likely as important as your wizardry with Articulate Studio or Articulate Storyline. Check out the testimonials on well-respected freelancers and you’ll see that this is true.
To build strong relationships with your clients, consider these tips from the Freelance Heroes discussion thread:
Be a consultant, not an order taker.
Often clients will ask you to build a course a certain way. Usually what they ask for initially won’t make much of an impact on learners or the organization. They need you to be the e-learning pro and ask the important questions:
- What problems or issues are we trying to address?
- What’s causing those problems?
- Is e-learning an effective way to solve them?
- If so, what course design best addresses those problems or issues?
When you act as a consultant, you have the best interest of the client in mind. And this is an attitude that will come back to bless you again and again.
Shape your clients’ expectations.
Many of your clients will be new to e-learning, and so may have unrealistic expectations. This is especially true for timelines and qualitative aspects of the course, such as its look and feel. So at the beginning of the project, set realistic timelines. Create some buffer in the schedule, so if your client doesn’t meet a deadline or two, you still have a good chance of delivering on time.
Regarding course look and feel, do a little exploration with your client before you develop anything. Show your clients examples of existing courses (see resources below) so you are all on the same page about the course you’re going to build. You should discuss things like voiceovers, custom graphics, interactivity, and anything else that takes a significant amount of time to build.
Get comfortable saying “no.”
As you become successful, you’ll have to say “no” a lot. Maybe a project doesn’t sync with your skills, or you simply don’t have time for it. Or, maybe you’re already working on a project and your client requests an interactive element that would be great—except it falls outside the original contract. Saying “no” can actually raise your worth in the eyes of current and potential customers. It communicates that you’re a professional, and that you have other options.
For more on establishing strong client relationships, check out these resources:
- The Secret to Getting a Lot of Design Work: This article explores how to be more likeable and referable to your clients.
- How to Build a Strong Consulting Practice: This article gives tips on consulting with your clients, especially focusing on value rather than price.
- Existing courses on the web to help you shape clients’ expectations:
- Recommended books on consulting:
I hope this series about freelancing has been helpful to you. A big thanks to all the Freelance Heroes who generously gave their time to this thread. In particular, thank you to Sheila Cole Bulthuis , Holly MacDonald , and Bruce Graham for helping me find my way.