At my core, I am a computer nerd. I am excellent at talking to computers. Not so much when it comes to other human beings.
For a long time, this was the only thing I would do. I was the happiest when I got the project specs on paper, so I could read them and implement them, by myself.
But when I decided to become a freelancer, I realized that I had to talk to other people. I had to talk to the people I wanted to serve about their goals and their vision, but also about money. There were times when I knew had to say “no,” but I couldn’t. There were times where there was a conflict that had to be resolved through better communication.
I wish I could say there is an easy “how-to guide” to learn to communicate better, but there isn’t. I just had to practice — one awkward conversation after the other.
And it is still hard at times. Especially when I need to make a change in how I price things, or in the terms of the engagement.
So why go through all this trouble and stress of learning to be a better communicator?
Although it seems obvious now, here is the lesson I resisted the most: to find clients and to keep finding better clients, you need to learn to communicate. There is no way around this.
You need to know how to tell your story compellingly; how to communicate your pricing and how to negotiate in your favor. You need to be able to use your conversation skills to determine how you can best create value for your clients. And, in some cases, you need to know how to let some clients go.
By avoiding communication, I would frequently make wrong assumptions about what was valuable for my client, and that would jeopardize the relationship and the project.
If you don’t learn to communicate better, you will have to let someone else do the talking, write the copy on your site, create the video, and tell your story. And even if they do a good job, they are not you :). You will continue to depend on someone else. It will be comfortable, but you will be limited to your view from the “back seat.”
If you are still not convinced then maybe this will shake you up a bit (as it did me):
“The better communicator will determine the price.”
A business-savvy website should consider money, and therefore price. And you can spend a lot of time and money optimizing the technical bits, but if your communication is off, your success will be limited.
I will end this post with a book recommendation. It is the most expensive book I’ve ever bought, but it’s worth every dollar: Pricing Creativity by Blair Enns. Don’t think that if you don’t work in the creative business that this book does not apply to you. It does! And it is all about communication.