We asked 8 remote workers and freelancers for communication tips on how to better interact with clients and colleagues - here is what they said.
As a fully dispersed team, we are always looking for tips on how to better communicate with our colleagues and clients. While we certainly have some things that work for us (see the last tip from Visiple’s CEO, Evan Andriopoulos), we really wanted to see what communication tips were working for other remote workers.
So we asked.
The result was 8 awesome tips that touch on everything from the routine used to answer emails to how to structure your day around different time zones and meetings.
Andre Gussekloo | http://www.andregussekloo.com/
Andre is a freelance writer and author of Digital Nomads: How to Live, Work and Play Around the World.
I'm a big fan of Google Docs for writing text documents and creating spreadsheets and sharing them with clients. Multiple people can work in the same document together and see live changes. If I mark a bit of text and place a comment next to it, Google sends an email notification to the other users.
I'm all for fluid communication but I haven't jumped on the Slack bandwagon. To me that's just an excuse to chat, and I don't want to encourage my clients to do so. Since I'm a father, I have to be very efficient with my time. For me it's just plain old email!
Adam Groffman | http://travelsofadam.com
Adam is a travel blogger currently residing in Berlin. His focus is on travel tips for the gay community .
I find that making sure I set aside time while traveling to work or respond to emails makes me more productive. To really help facilitate that kind of focus, I don't have Facebook, Facebook Messenger or even Mail (or any email app) installed on my phone. If I really need to access my email or Facebook messages while out and about on my phone, I can use a web browser, but forcing that extra step makes me check less frequently and therefore focus more on the tasks at hand.
Nathan Williams | www.blackrain79.com
Nathan is professional poker player that now publishes books aimed at helping others perfect their game.
Communicating with my followers and customers is something that is very important to me and my business. I always try to respond to emails in particular within 24 hours. I think that it is important to have a set routine in order to make this happen. I set aside time at the end of my work day every day to answer every single email. I only check my email once per day and I never check it on my phone. This strategy ensures that I keep a clear division between my work and personal life. It also means that my fans and customers get quality replies within a reasonable amount of time.
Warren Talbot | https://www.anunclutteredlife.com/thepodcast
Warren started An Uncluttered Life with his wife, Betsy, and have helped 80,000 people achieve more freedom in their lives.
The most important element when working with remote teams is specificity. The more clear you can be on the goal you have for a project, the more likely your resource(s) will be able to reach the objective. Plus, by focusing on being clear on the goal you may discover some ingenious ways they will achieve it. The more open you can be about the direction you are going the more likely you will be happy with the results you receive.
Ryan | http://jetsliketaxis.com
Ryan and his wife, Ang, are designers that travel the world with their dog, Louis.
I try to be proactive as possible with email and I definitely have a routine. I hate when people don’t email back, or take weeks to reply, so I tend to be very on top of things and have less interest in dealing with people who are not. I check my email before I do anything else work-wise in the morning, and I reply to everyone. If I have an open issue that needs further attention, I leave it in my inbox and get to it as soon as I can. Once an email task is completed, it gets filed into a folder in Outlook. I currently have three emails in my inbox. Two of them are reminders from me to myself, another is a long-term project that needs attention. That’s it. Not replying to email, or using excuses to take a long time to reply, are both poor communication and bad business. I find it rather unprofessional.
For business, I tend to simply use email and sometimes Skype for chat/video and FaceTime for video. We have sales venues that have their own internal systems, so I will communicate with customers there, and I do that every day when I do my email. I don’t do business on Facebook or other social media – I direct those inquiries to email. I try to keep it at that, since I find additional apps, software, etc. just make things more complicated. I don’t feel the need to have 5, 6, 10 different programs to communicate with people. I also use WhatsApp and SMS to talk to friends and family, along with email and video chat. WhatsApp is a dream for international travel since we know people all over the world, but I wouldn’t use it for business.
Niall Doherty | http://www.ndoherty.com/
Niall is a web designer and author now working to disrupt the rabblement from Berlin.
I try batch all my Skype calls on Wednesdays, so that's usually a bit all over the place. Last Wednesday, for example, I had five 30-minute Skype calls scattered throughout the day. Between the calls I try get a bunch of quick and easy tasks checked off my to-do list. Nothing that requires prolonged focus or deep thought.
Philip Bowles | www.philipbowles.com
Philip is a web designer working from his home in the US.
One important thing that I’ve learned through working with various other freelancers and clients remotely is to figure out your client’s best method of communication. Depending on your client’s business and background, they may or may not be able to communicate clearly with you through e-mail. I will usually set up a phone call or video chat early on in the process to get to know the person and determine what might work best in terms of communication throughout the project. I always make it a point to ask the client before the project starts what their preferred method of communication will be, how often I will be contacting them, and the best ways to reach me in case they need something. Setting clear expectations for communication from the beginning can help keep a project on course from the get go and make everything run more smoothly. I’ve had some clients who are brilliant and know exactly what they want but when we try e-mailing their responses are short and unclear. A quick phone call and it’s a completely different story. It may seem like an extra hurdle to accommodate their needs and change your habits from project to project, but I’ve found it proved to be worth it every time.
Evan Andriopoulos | http://visiplevc.com
Evan is the CEO of Visiple, a company dedicated to simplifying the online meeting process.
Having worked the majority of the past 5 years remotely I start each day with an email review and a good cup of coffee. For international meetings, those in other time zones I plan my week around those meetings primarily Tuesdays and Thursdays (either I start earlier or later pending). This allows me to maximise my time use without just adding more hours. From managing a business with globally remote employees (California,Connecticut, Scandinavia, and Asia) I have weekly or bi-weekly pulse meetings to bring the team together for just a few short minutes. This is done on video and allows us to further strengthen our team. Chat, the phone and email are good but not good enough. It is all in the planning...
What's your favorite tip? Let us know in the comments below!