How I worked completely changed as soon as COVID-19 hit. I encountered a lot of issues that I hadn't encountered before. Currently, I am a college student working as a freelance web developer for one of my school's services. It was easy to have quick face-to-face meetings to iron out issues or help my client, who is a designer, who was less familiar with a lot of modern apps that streamline the work process such as GitHub, video calls, Figma, etcetera.
Post pandemic, everyone switched to online communications such as Zoom/Google Hangouts, email, etcetera. I started communicating with my client primarily via email and over the phone, but of course, there will always be complications such as the inability to see the other person's screen or facial expressions to gauge what they're thinking or to see if they are confused. After encountering a frustrating amount of emails and an influx of files I think I've learned a few things.
1. Make sure your files and code are organized.
This is honestly a tip everybody tells you, but you take for granted when push comes to shove. Once you're handling more than one page on a website or changes this becomes sooooo ESSENTIAL! I recommend that you push your changes regularly onto GitHub so that you have a record of every change you made. If your client decides to pivot, but still wants the previous layout, make a new folder with the original file and make changes to files in that new folder. Keep layouts separate! Otherwise, you're going to receive a lot of angry calls because you keep mixing up files. This also makes your workflow much more efficient.
2. Do not forget to test your code!
Test your site! If you have one styling sheet and multiple classes please make sure to test the other pages. Changing one class in a styling sheet can change other pages too, which will make a very unhappy client.
3. Ask for a timeline.
Sometimes your client may not have a specific deadline for things or the changes aren't urgent. Even if this is the case, get in the habit of asking for a rough timeline or make a rough timeline for yourself and communicate this with your client. Put it in a calendar and make sure you're following it. This will ease the anxiousness of not knowing if you are on track or taking too long on something. If you can't make the deadline communicate early on with your client why this is.
4. Check with your client frequently to make sure you're on the same page.
Try not to read your client's mind. Make suggestions, but never assume what they want. It can definitely be hard to communicate when your client may not be the most tech-savvy person so ask them to give clear instructions using images of their ideas and ask them if you can schedule a video call. Sometimes a phone call and a million emails don't cut it so you have to pivot to video call. If your client is not so keen about a video call because they don't know how to use it help them out by sending out a quick easy guide.
5. Organize your emails
Emails are often long and annoying to read especially if you have more than just a few every day. Make sure to have a specific folder for your client and project so that you can access them easily and at any time. You can also automate the emails to move to a specific folder to keep organized as well.
5. Ask your client to show what they want if they can.
Everybody is always saying a picture is worth a thousand words and IT IS TRUE! The image doesn't have to be professional-level it can be an image drawn with a black pen with a few notes about what the client wants. Ask for a simple image of what they want for desktop and mobile view and you will breathe a lot easier because you're not struggling with angry emails about how your website doesn't look or work the way it is supposed to.
A lot of times we have to cater to our clients. This means forgoing tools that streamline a lot of processes that make your life easier in favor of the comfort of our clients but don't let this get you down. Remember to do your best and that mistakes happen, but it doesn't mean you can't acknowledge them and do better next time. Keep calm, keep cool, you got this!