A year ago I loathed Skyping with clients or talking to them on the phone. I didn't offer free consultations unless a client requested one. Don't get me wrong- I didn't hate these calls because of my clients. My clients are wonderful! I hated them because I'm an introverted person and the prospect of having to sit and awkwardly talk to a computer screen was daunting, to say the least.
I was always scared that they'd ask something that would catch me off guard, or I'd get nervous and babble.
I also thought, 'What's the point in Skyping or calling clients? We can discuss everything in email! At least everything is written and documented that way.'
I can't express how wrong I was. Totally wrong.
These days, I don't take on a client unless we've spoken over Skype, and here's why:
- When you have a real discussion with someone and actually hear their voice, you can usually determine whether they're a good fit for you or not.
- I like my clients to hear my voice and build their trust in me. I don't want them to think I hide behind emails.
- Most of the potential clients I consult with over Skype become paying clients. In fact, my conversion rate is more than double what it was when I didn't offer free Skype consultations.
Skyping or calling your clients is definitely worth doing. But it can take some getting used to before becoming comfortable with it. Here are my top 10 tips for Skyping with your clients:
01. Limit the call
I tell all potential clients that I offer free 15-minute consultations, and most clients kindly stick to that timeframe. Some go over it a bit but I don't mind. As long as there's a boundary in place, I have a reason to gently bring the conversation to a close if it gets too long.
02. Turn off the camera
Some people hate talking to computer screens, myself included. It makes me feel really self-conscious and awkward, and I don't want people to think that's what I'm like. When people book a free consultation, I email them with a confirmation and tell them we'll chat without the camera on, like we would over the phone. None of my clients mind, and ever since I made that change I've been really happy and comfortable Skyping! Some people think the only 'proper' way to Skype is to turn on the camera and talk face to face. But here's the way I see it: I'd rather not have mini panic attacks before Skyping. I'd rather talk without the camera off then not talk at all.
03. Type while you talk
As your client is talking, open up a blank doc and make notes. If you don't, you could risk forgetting something that was said. Don't worry- your clients won't be able to see the doc on their screen.
04. Record the conversation
If you don't like typing as you talk, you can buy an add-on for Skype that records your conversation. You can then relax on your calls and stop stressing about remembering everything that has been said! Try Callnote.
05. Create a script to direct the conversation
If you're really nervous, create a document that lists key information about the client, points you want to discuss, questions you want to ask, and answers to common questions. You may not even use this document much when you're on the call, but it's comforting to know that there are talking-points in front of you if you get stuck.
06. Be friendly, helpful and nice
Now is not the time to put on your telephone voice. Just be yourself. Be kind and friendly and aim to answer all of their questions in a calm and collected manner. Try to avoid using filler words like 'um' and 'like'. Instead, keep a glass of water by your side and take a sip before before you answer a complex question. It gives you that little bit of time to think about things and compose yourself.
07. Look out for warning signs
You won't always be able to spot bad clients from Skype conversations, but you usually can. If the client is demanding, picky, confusing or really indecisive, think carefully about whether you'd like to work with them.
08. Use a scheduling tool
I use Calendly to schedule Skype consultations and I love it! It has a simple interface and lots of options for the owner. You get to decide what times you're available, and the client chooses the best time for them.
09. Remind them of their session with you
Even though Calendly and most other scheduling tools remind both parties of upcoming calls, it's nice to drop your client a personal email. I simply tell my clients when their call is, remind them to accept my contact request on Skype, and wish them a happy day. It hopefully shows that I care and that I'm organized!
10. Be wary of clients who keep rescheduling their call
If the client has missed their session with you without providing an explanation or apology, think carefully about whether you want to work with someone who isn't good at time-keeping. It could mean they'll be one of those clients who never provide feedback or files on time. Picking up on this could save you from going weeks over the deadline, or sending dozens of email reminders.
A lot of my freelance friends have said they don't like Skyping, and I understand that. But it really is worth it! You'll book more clients and you'll give yourself a better chance of discerning the bad clients from the good.
Tell me in a comment- do you Skype with your clients? If not, why not?