Creative collaboration can be tough both for businesses looking to outsource work and for freelancers looking to get work done. Below are a few tips for maximizing the collaboration between you and your clients.

1. Communication. Communication. Communication.

It goes without saying (no pun intended) communication is the key to successful collaboration. Communication channels should be identified and setup before work begins. These can be any number of channels such as Skype (or Google Hangouts), Text Message, E-mail, Project management system, or a chat application like Slack. Most of us have our preferred mode of communicating with the client – be flexible. It’s often unreasonable to ask the client to learn an entirely new piece of software to communicate with you. You want your relationship with the client to remove burdens from their lives not add complexity.

2. Set Clear Expectations

Setting expectations before you begin is paramount to success. It seems simple but this is the number one reason projects fall apart. Expectations have to be managed every step of the way through a project. If you can get good at managing expectations and picking up on client cues that help you read their expectations, you will excel. Be explicit with written expectations and leave as few gray areas as possible.

3. Set Deadlines and Milestones

Looming deadlines make all of us tremble but working without them gets toxic quick! Deadlines and milestones are healthy components of any project. After a clear statement of work has been developed, it’s time to break up the project into smaller milestones and set deadlines on those to track progress throughout the process. After the completion of a milestone, you should have a review meeting with the client to let them know you’ve completed a component of the project and show them what you’ve got. Milestones also make great intervals from which to bill or invoice time spent up to that point.

4. Continuous Feedback

Getting feedback throughout the process is important. It ensures that you are indeed moving in the a direction the client will be pleased with. It's easy to wait until something is near completion (or "client ready") to get feedback but you may end up working down a path that doesn't work for the client. Get the feedback as early and often as possible.

5. Keep an Open Mind

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you know what’s best. I mean, come on, the client hired you because YOU are the expert. Keeping an open mind will keep you sharp. Hearing other’s ideas and filtering them out to find diamonds in the rough can be the differentiator between you and your competition. Some of the best ideas you’ll have will be those that come from brainstorming sessions with clients. Listen to your client, wait to critique their ideas and try to find ways to build on them. Your client will love working with you because of it and they’ll have buy in on any ideas birthed from working together.

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