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Contractors are great at providing the skills needed to complete projects that bring to life the visions and dreams of average consumers and creatives. However, what separates the most successful contractors from the rest is how well they build their relationship with a client.

As the expert, it is the contractor's responsibility to inform, educate and most of the time guide a client through the process on how to best complete the project. The more simple the explanation and the less the client is stressed out the happier they will be. A lot of times contractors throw out an estimated price for a project before an explanation of how the process will work is given. It is better to explain the process first then give the cost so they are hearing a price that is backed by an educated thought process.

The first tool a contractor should use is a request for proposal. The importance of having a tool like this is that it lays out exactly what the contractor can offer and anything requested that is not included in the RFP can be easily disputed or added depending on the circumstances. This is one of the first tools a contractor should present to a client after the initial call or conversation. This starts the process of determining all the major details including the budget of the project, an estimated timeline, an outline of goals and the objectives for the project.

After the proposal is finalized by both parties, the next tool that should be agreed on is the scope of work. The SOW helps provide clarity for both the client and contractor by establishing a timeline, deliverables and expectations. This essential tool outlines what the independent contractor is and is not responsible for, which protects the business, the contractor and the client.

The SOW is important because it includes the responsibilities of each party including who will purchase the resources and materials needed to complete the project. When the client receives this type of agreement it creates a strong sense of trust between the contractor and the client because a high level of consideration can be seen through this process. When the client feels like they’re being thoroughly taken care of, it empowers the contractor. Complications in a project occur often, but establishing a high level of trust at the beginning of the process can make the difference between a reasonable client and an angry one.

Make your client feel a part of the team and the process. When partners or collaborators have mutual respect for one another and have a feeling of “we’re in this together,” it not only makes a project run more smoothly, but it also builds a positive relationship that can exist well after the time of completion of a project. Even if a client does not want to feel like they are doing work, include them in the process and sustain a consistent level of communication. The last thing that should happen is for a client to feel like they have been forgotten.

The last major thing contractors fail to implement is effective technology. Many times contractors or project managers simply do not use up-to-date technology that can improve the efficiency of all of their processes. Clients like to see and use technology that is seamless, especially if they want to check in on the status of an ongoing project. Researching client management, project management and task management software is worth the time and money, even if it takes a long time to learn how to use them. When a client sees that a contractor communicates effectively not only with them but also with their staff or crew, it reinforces the level of trust and professionalism between the contractor and the client.

Technology is one of the most important factors that enable the success of a project, business or individual. In some cases when a potential client does not see advanced technology in use, the perception of the contractor, their credibility and expertise can be viewed as lower. Researching the right kind of technology is equally important—not every application or software is designed for every type of work. The important thing to understand is that technology exists for every type of work.

The majority of the time, a client is going to continue the working relationship based on their first impression and the level of consistency given throughout the length of the agreement. Having a strong onboarding system with tools like a RFP, SOW and client management software provides clarity and a seamless process. This is critical to managing expectations, protecting the contractor and client from miscommunication, in addition to ensuring the best chance of an enjoyable experience for all parties involved. With these tools, a contract should operate from start to finish with little to no complications because of poor client relations skills.

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