Communication compatibility is the number one thing that’ll make or break a biz relationship. Whether or not your communication preferences work with your client’s likes and dislikes is vital in keeping you both happy.
What is communication compatibility?
It’s not nightmare Whatsapp voicenotes at midnight or 5am emails with 12 follow ups before noon. That kind of communication sucks for everyone I think and are huge red flags for any client to show! Communication incompatibility doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the way one person communicates, but rather that how one of you llikes to communicate is a nightmare for the other. I’m a fan of long emails a few times a week over multiple little emails every day. But some people see a big wall of text in an email and break out in hives. Some love to receive calls from clients during office hours to go through anything they need to deal with, but my phone has been on silent since 2007 and the thought of a surprise phone call fills me with dread.
In any relationship compatibility is super important.
No matter how much you like someone’s work, appreciate their talent, value their skills, or think they’re awesome as people if you’re incompatible then your relationship is gonna require more hard work than perhaps either of you are able to put in. And as far as compatibility goes, I think communication is the most important aspect to consider when “interviewing” new clients.
You chat about scope of work, about timelines and about other random stuff to see if you’re a good fit for them and they’re a good fit for you. You should totally also chat about communication preferences. Do you like Whatsapp or prefer emails? Do phone calls make you wanna puke or are you all about those quick little calls? You’re gonna need to communicate a lot during the project, so if you don’t like doing it the same way then it’s gonna suck for you both!
Quick and easy or long and detailed?
Are you all about those quick little messages back and forth or would a phone call do better for you? Perhaps you like to schedule in longer Zoom calls and then chat through each thing on your list in detail. Or maybe you’re all about those long emails that cover everything in multiple paragraphs (with headings and everything)!
12 little Whatsapps a day or one long email? What both you and your client prefer is very important! I recently connected with a rad #girlboss and was super keen to work with her and her team. But she’s all about those quick little messages back and forth and I’m all about detailed long emails. So I felt attacked by the quantity of her messages and she felt exhausted from my essay length emails. It was clear that we were both gonna have a bad time working together. We recognised it, acknowledged it and decided to part ways on good terms. Nobody had hurt feelings and we were both very relieved to move on. If we hadn’t addressed the obvious incompatibility in our communication styles then we would have suffered through the project together and I know I would have been extremely stressed out the entire time.
Another important factor is response time expectations.
Even if you’re both a fan of emails and happen to keep the same hours and don’t mind sweary long emails or quick-fire ones then you’re still not necessarily compatible. Everyone has different expectations on response time. Do you expect a reply within 12 hours? 24? Three days? A week? If you send through your mail and then wait with bated breath for the reply only to hear crickets for five days then you’re gonna be bummed. And if you have a tight deadline then the longer response time is also gonna stress you out.
But if your average response time is three days and your clients expect a response within 12 hours then you’re likely to be faced with multiple follow up emails in that time (and maybe even Instagram messages and *gasp* missed calls) because they’re eager for your response. Those follow ups are gonna really stress you out. So both you and your client are gonna have a bad time and feel poop emoji feelings towards each other and the project.
You can set expectations from the start.
“But Amy,” you say. “You can simply set expectations clearly from the start.” And you are right. You can. But just because you set those expectations and explain how the communication will go, doesn’t mean that your client will be happy with it down the line or stick to your preferences. We all default to our most favoured/easiest communication method and style. So if what you expect (and expect your client to expect) is different to what they are used to and do by default – then shit will go bad at some point. Or you’re both gonna have to work really hard to make it work. Which is totally possible, but do you have the energy for it? Is the project worth that for you? The answer almost always is no.
Don't forget about communication compatibility!
Discuss communication preferences from the discovery call and during the initial discovery phase before the project is booked and deposits have been paid (even before quotes are sent). Look out for any deviations from what you prefer. In the discovery call potential clients could say they are very happy to do emails, but then they send you a few Insta messages and ignore your email. They are showing you that they prefer quick Insta messages over emails so consider that carefully before taking the project on. Don’t underestimate the importance of this aspect of a biz relationship – it’s one of the most important things to consider.
When your communication preferences align with your client’s communication preferences then everything is just so much easier and the project will go so much more smoothly! There’ll be rainbows and unicorns and little woodland creatures will come through your window to dress you while you sing about the sunrise!