There is no arguing working virtually is different than working in an office setting with others. While it's different, however, it's not foreign. There are plenty of similarities in the virtual work world and cubicle work world.
While those similarities exist, sometimes there are practices or precepts lost in translation when they are happening over the computer and not in person.
In order to bridge the gap between both working worlds, here are four critical tips to remember when working virtually with your clients.
1. COMMUNICATION IS KEY
You cannot do well if you do not communicate. I don't mean call once or text now and then. I mean communicate all day every day!
You should be having at least one weekly check-in call with your client to share what is being worked on, what needs to be addressed, progress on tasks or projects, and any new goals for the upcoming week.
Don't ever leave these calls with unanswered questions. If you're not sure if you're supposed to be in charge of something - ask! Don't leave things hanging at the risk of seeming foolish. You'll look more foolish if you didn't do something that was expected of you, even if it was only ever implied.
Ask clarifying questions
Repeat back what you're understanding your client to be saying
Go over your list of assigned projects to make sure it aligns with what they expect
Don't ever leave out the details
2. DON'T SPRING SURPRISES
I remember from my corporate days when a big-wig CEO said, "You can tell me good news. You can tell me bad news. But don't ever surprise me."
She wasn't talking about party or gift surprises - she was talking about responsibility. If a victory occurred, she expected you to share it with her. If a mistake was made, she expected you to own it...and immediately.
In her mind, there was nothing worse than finding out news from someone who was too busy trying to cover up their tracks than to be honest and forthright about it.
3. DELIVER, DELIVER, DELIVER
There's a grand assumption about those of us who work from home. That assumption is we stay in our pajamas all day and spend more time in front of soap operas than our computer screen.
When that targeted expectation of falling short is already on your back, you MUST deliver on the work you promise you'll do.
Whether it's contracted or otherwise agreed upon, if you commit to doing work, you not only have to do the work, but you have to do it with excellence. Doing the bare minimum will earn you as much in respect and repeat business - the bare minimum.
Do what you promise (saying "yes" is making a promise!)
Do everything with excellence
Finish ahead of time, or on time. Don't ever delay your delivery.
4. REMEMBER: THEY'RE HUMAN
Sometimes through incessant electronic communication, whether email, text, or Slack, there's an element of humanness that gets lost in all the noise.
We put our perceived tone in place of theirs, we skip over reading essential parts of messages, and we end up frustrated and fed up with the very people we're trying to help.
Remember... they're human. They're real people doing real work and having real thoughts and real conversations. If electronic communication is hindering your relationship rather than improving it, set aside time to connect. Whether over the phone or over video-chat face-to-face, be sure you're talking LIKE a real person TO a real person.
Now put these tips to good use and serve your people well!