• Advice

8 tips for working with clients from long distances

This quarter, I have decided to focus on e-coaching which means that I will be working with several clients from long distances. The professor in me loves it! In fact, as soon as I finish this blog post, I have to prepare for an e-coaching session with a client who lives in Massachusetts. Last week, I had sessions with clients in Texas, Tennessee, Illinois, California, and New York.

Having long distance clients is a great way to increase your client roster. However, if you are not accustomed to long-distance relationships—because indeed business relationships are relationships—there are a few things that you should consider in order to be successful.

Be clear about time zones

Please don’t laugh, but you can really create havoc when setting up appointments, scheduling, and even confirming sessions if you are in one time zone and your client is in a different one. Just imagine sitting in front of your computer waiting to begin a virtual meeting and your West Coast clients are no shows. To be on the safe side, always ask. Depending on the scheduling system that you use, it will convert the time change for you on your master calendar.

Include phone consultations

Once a client has expressed serious interest, you may want to consider picking up that phone. There is a strong possibility that there are other people who live in that same area who do exactly what you do, so try adding phone consultations so that potential long distance-clients can get to ‘know’ you.

Think of this as a professional ice breaker because it is critically important that your client trusts you.

Offer testimonials or referrals

It is not uncommon for long distance clients to ask for the input of others who have used your services. For each category of service that you offer, have 3 to 5 testimonials and referrals readily available. This reassures your client that others have used your services and they’ve had positive experiences.

Post your services on national job boards

Job boards are fertile grounds for getting long distance clients, but they can also be landfills if you are not careful. Make sure the board is reputable and make sure that you have a vetting process for determining which clients will be a good fit for you. If you are contracted to do a job, do you have a legally-binding contract? What payment methods will you accept? What is your refund policy?

Focus on great customer service

The downside about distance is that you don’t have the luxury of actually seeing someone face to face. The human bond is a strong one and even computer screens obscure that. So, go out of your way to make sure that your long distance clients—most of whom you will never meet you face-to-face—feel as if they are receiving the same quality and caliber of service that they would if they were actually closer to you.

Ask for referrals

One of the reasons why I have picked up so many clients in the Atlanta area in particular is because my clients there have referred me to several of their colleagues. And it all started with me saying, “If you know of anyone else who may be in need of our services, feel free to share my contact information.”

The reason why this is so important is because people may assume that you are at capacity or that you are not taking new customers, so this is a reassuring way to let them know that you value and respect them enough to offer your services to people within their networks.

Be clear about how you will deliver your services

With technology, there are so many ways to stay connected with people, but some people prefer certain mediums over others. Again, I don’t assume. Depending on the service, I will often ask if my long distance clients would prefer emailing, teleconferencing, or videoconferencing. I then customize that particular service so that it’s aligned with their preference.

Be clear about your payment methods

And, unlike brick and mortar businesses, taking cash and personal checks are not practical. Apps like Square, PayPal, and CashApp are great for working with long distance customers.

Tyra Seldon Tyra Seldon is a former English Professor turned writer, editor and small business owner. Her writing addresses the intersections of race, gender, culture and education.