"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Care & Feeding of Long Distance Clients-Tips to Make it Work



Let’s face it: long distance relationships can be challenging.
And in the world of freelance writing, it’s no different.

The advent of the Internet has changed the way we work and revolutionized communication like never before. It affords us the privilege of expanding our reach, our strategic considerations and our bottom line considerably. A simple click of a mouse allows us to connect with clients as close as our backyard, as well as those tucked away in Timbuktu.

But there’s a price we pay for progress. If not managed properly, long distance relationships and related projects, can become costly, time consuming, problematic and impersonal.

With this in mind, here are a few challenges you’re likely to encounter, and some savvy tips to help you overcome common obstacles.

The Challenge: The absence of face to face meetings can often carry the disadvantage of not being able to “read” your clients successfully. Did you know that the majority of our communication is actually non-verbal? Social psychologists estimate that about 7% of communication is verbal, while 93% consists of non-verbal expressions such as posture, tone of voice, gestures, and eye contact. Not properly assessing your client’s corporate culture, values, goals, and communication style can cause you to miss out on crucial clues needed to deliver a winning project. Not to mention what you’ll lose in sweat equity.

The Solution: Get as much as possible in writing. It’s hard to “misunderstand” specifics that are outlined in black and white. Reinforce your understanding by asking important questions on any “grey areas” and clearly establishing expectations.

The Challenge: Time zones. I admit that I am geographically challenged. Not only do I have difficulty reading maps, I don’t always remember and recognize differences in time zones and geographic regions. Not to mention, I’ve had the pleasure of working with people who weren’t even located in the U.S.
One time this caused a mishap with one of my new clients, who had a difference of one hour in our time zones. Ouch. Luckily, it wasn’t major and we were able to move beyond it. But, you can bet your bottom dollar that it won’t happen again soon.

The Solution: Keep a chart of different time zones at your disposal. Memorize the ones that are relevant to your particular client base. Make sure to touch base by email to confirm the specifics before the designated times of important meetings or phone conferences.
Better safe than sorry.

The Challenge: Dealing with the mishaps of lost documents and cyberspace "mysteries".

The Solution: Always keep extra hardcopies of important contracts, photos and files. Things get lost in the mail. Computer viruses can destroy things placed on the system that are stored on your hard drive. And trying to recapture and recover these valuable items can lead to loss time and a loss of your client's confidence.

Thoughts? Anything that I might have missed?

Image: Stock Illustration

6 comments:

  1. Sounds like you covered it well! Had a client recently in one time zone over (actually in the Chicago area) and almost tripped over the time zone thing with one of our phone calls. Thankfully I caught it before even speaking to them and it worked out just fine. Have encountered this with editors in CA too - can't all too early in the morning! :) Thanks for the tips!

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    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 18, 2012 at 7:28 AM

      Thanks, Karen. It can indeed be a challenge. But well worth it most times. :-) I appreciate your input.

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  2. Hi Jennifer, you're onto something good here. I love keeping things in writing. I find it makes me more committed to being detailed (as detailed as I can possibly be), and it serves as a great incentive for the client to get their act together! :)

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    1. Jennifer Brown BanksJanuary 18, 2012 at 7:31 AM

      Hi Bryan,

      Good to see you back on the scene. :-) Yep, I agree. Having things in writing creates a win-win situation for all parties involved. Thanks for stopping by and weighing in. Don't be a stranger... :-)

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  3. 'Yes, time zones can be tricky,'

    As comming from Europe I am consiouss about Continental Time Zones, only once when on vacation in the US, I phoned a friend of mine
    in an other state.....,

    Than I discovered that there sometimes can also be something like an Inter-Continental Time Zone between states themselves.

    (Waking up the whole family he stayed at :))

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    1. Jennifer Brown BanksOctober 21, 2012 at 1:24 PM

      Thanks for your thoughts, H.P.!

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