By Vishal P. Rao

Thanks to advances in technology, it’s never been easier to run a home-based business than it is today. Being connected, it’s possible to find a whole world of clients out there, as well as all the resources you will ever need to do a fully professional job with whatever service you’re offering. Be it freelance writing, admin services, filling out surveys or selling products online, you can perform every facet of your business from the comfort of your own home.

Of all the internet technologies, perhaps none are more valuable to the freelancer than Skype. Inexpensive and dead-easy to use, Skype has become the platform of choice for carrying out interviews, discussing projects in depth, and pitching your services to prospective clients.

Skype is where deals are struck and promises are made – get good at “skyping”, and before you know it you’ll have more clients than you know what to do with. Follow these tips before you login and give yourself the best possible chance of clinching that deal.

Get Connected

Before you even think about going on Skype, make sure your internet connection is fast and reliable. Nothing screams “Amateur” louder than a shoddy, warped and dysfunctional Skype connection, and it’s one of the easiest ways to persuade that client to look elsewhere. If necessary, you may have to fork out some pennies for a better connection, but it’s most definitely a worthwhile investment.

Appearance

Believe it or not, appearance is everything on Skype. Just like when you physically go to an interview, you need to look your best, but with video calls this concept goes beyond simply dressing up to the nines. One of the most vital aspects is location – you need to set your computer up in a quiet room, with no noise or distractions, and most definitely no kids running around. The background should be simple yet aesthetically pleasing, so multi-colored wallpaper is a definite no-no, as is plain white. The ideal place to set up would be in front of a window or something like a bookshelf, which gives a clean, eye-pleasing impression without making you look tardy or disorganized.

Of course, you need to look the part also. Just because it’s your own home, you still need to dress respectably, comb your hair, put your make-up on etc.

Lighting

It may sound like we’re going overboard, but it’s worth thinking about the lighting simply because whoever you happen to be chatting too won’t be too impressed if they can’t see you because you’re
sat there in the shadows. Ideally, sit near a window where there is plenty of natural light, or if this is impossible then use a soft table lamp and keep it close.

The Interview

How the interview goes will depend largely on the person you are chatting to. Many people have a light-hearted attitude towards Skype interviews – they see them as very informal, and are quite happy to chit chat and make a few jokes. You may get the odd serious type, but for the most part people are pretty relaxed, so don’t be afraid of making some small talk when you first ‘meet’ someone online.

Before you get down to business, just confirm with the other person that they can see you clearly and have no problems with the sound. It’s much better to fix any problems at the beginning rather than run into difficulties half way through a discussion about the project.

In most cases it’s best to wait for the client to start talking about business. Now and again though, you get the odd person who never seems to shut up, so make a point of limiting the niceties to no longer than a couple of minutes before asking how you can help them. Make sure you listen attentively so you don’t miss out on any key details. Take notes if you have to (this looks good anyway) and be sure to ask questions so that you can clarify exactly what their problem is.

Remember that the whole point of video chat sessions is that they’re supposed to be ‘real’, and so just as in real life, eye contact is crucial if you are to win someone’s trust. Although your eyes naturally gravitate towards the computer screen, you should try to avoid this and instead stare at the camera as you talk, as this will help to make the client on the other end feel as if you are talking directly to them.

Don’t Forget, Practice Makes Perfect

If you can, test your Skype out with a friend or a family member to ensure that everything is working properly and get more comfortable with using video chat. Not only does this give you a chance to make sure you can be seen and heard without any problems, but it will also help to put you at ease for that first big meeting. Good luck!