This post was written by nDash community member Steven Westwood.
I’ve been a freelance writer for over a decade now, and I must say, the journey has been epic. I’ve been lucky to get clients that I absolutely love working with. But, things haven’t always run smoothly.
Have you ever:
- Accepted a job that barely pays so that you can gain “experience” and pay your dues?
- Had a client refuse to pay you or even ghost you after you submitted your work?
- Felt that you’re not good enough to freelance because of the way your client has mistreated you?
- Had a client tell you that the first piece is cheap, but they can offer more work?
- Had a client changed the project’s scope after you already started (also known as scope creep)?
You aren’t alone – I’ve had all the above and learned a lesson from every single one, and I want to pass this on to you.
You see, as a freelancer, you are a business, and just like any business, you will come across people who will try to take advantage of you. Your relationship with your client should be a partnership – one where you both work together towards a common goal. Just like a failing marriage, a bad client will be memorable, leave you miserable, and could affect your health.
Over the years, I’ve created a list of qualities that I look out for when starting with a new client. I’m here to pass this onto you to learn from my experiences and know how to get high-quality work to keep your freelance business growing.
#1. Clients Should Have Realistic Expectations
We’re all human, and it’s only natural to want it all – and want it now!
But realistically, expectations that clients have stemmed from one of three things, past experience, the pressure they are under, or inexperience.
If you’re experiencing the first one, you may notice that the client speaks negatively of previous freelancers they have worked with. This may not bold well for you, especially if they are giving too much information about that past experience. It can also indicate that they have unrealistic budgets, deadlines, or ideas around the expected results.
The pressures the client may be under could heavily impact the project’s success; it can also impede communication and leave a sour taste in your mouth.
Fortunately, in both cases, you can have a conversation around the particulars and get to the bottom of what it is that they really want.
The biggest indicator of a client having realistic expectations is someone who communicates with you and is willing to collaborate with you to problem solve and get the project off the ground.
In the case of someone being inexperienced, if they are like number two on this list, then you’ll be fine.
#2. Good Clients Value and Listen To Experts
Good clients want experts – their biggest fear is choosing a freelancer who cannot complete the job to a high standard. You can tell if a prospect is a good client because they won’t focus on cost. Instead, they will listen to your expertise, take on board your advice and guidance, and allow you room to make this project successful.
Clients that focus solely on cost and getting the work done quickly and cheaply, in my experience, tend to be the most demanding. They try to monopolize your time, efforts and expect you to be at their beck and call. Ultimately leading to the genuine possibility of burnout, disillusionment, and feeling like a failure.
I’ve also experienced clients who have developed tunnel vision when it comes to their business. They haven’t fully understood their target audience, the pain points, and how their business helps customers overcome these.
This is a relatively easy thing to fall into – after all, that business is their baby; they’ve raised it, nurtured it, and invested time, money, and effort in it.
A good client understands that there is no place for ego, especially when attracting new customers. I can actually remember one such client who refused to listen to anything they remotely perceived as negativity towards their business. They became protective and combative and burned more than a few bridges by the time I came along.
It wasn’t until I pointed out the glaringly obvious that they began to understand and change. This client quickly realized that only one opinion of their business actually matters – that of their customers. And by listening to me, they were able to not only save their business but thrive.
Which leads quite nicely to the third quality.
#3. Good Clients Work With You
This sign is one that comes through as the project progresses. It’s all down to how your client communicates. The success of a freelancer is determined by how well they communicate – the same can be said for the clients. A good client will see you and your services as part of a team and work with you to succeed in your project.
They will also be clear from the get-go and happy to answer/ask any questions for clarification. Good clients provide regular constructive feedback, keep you updated, provide a single point of contact (usually), and turn up for meetings.
A bad client will be either one of two things when it comes to working with you:
- They will be near impossible to reach, take far too long to respond to messages – thus preventing progress with your project. Or
- Micromanage you, requesting updates 24 hours a day, provide you with impossible deadlines and keep changing the project’s scope.
Both of these situations will lead you down the path to subpar work, a bitter taste at the thought of working with these people again and leave you feeling deflated.
To gauge how the client will be before you even start the project, you must set up boundaries and milestones. The boundaries will keep the micromanagers at bay by gently reminding them of your expectations. And the milestones will keep both types in regular contact with you. You must also stress that it’s important that there be open, honest, and straightforward communication during your work schedule for the good of the project.
#4. Good Clients Pay The Agreed Amount On Time
Freelancing is a way for me to earn the money I need to live my life. If I don’t get paid, then I lose the ability to do that. The same can be said to you, whether this is a side hustle to bring you extra income or if you’re full-time.
I’m not saying that this always happens, but there have been occasions where I have had to chase clients or (as I said earlier) been ghosted completely – losing out on my hard-earned money.
If it’s a case of late payment, I will send them a final notice, reminding them of our agreement and the repercussions laid out in our contract for failing to pay. Obviously, if a client has already expressed that a situation has caused them not to meet the payment, I will work with them until they have paid.
Unless you’re working through trusted sites, like nDash, then I highly recommend setting up a deposit to be paid upfront. When working with clients directly, I ask for 50% upfront and the other 50% on completion of the project.
A good client is always happy to do this – and it helps to build trust, especially when the client is new to you. If the client haggles or makes excuses, then maybe they are not the client for you, and you can decide not to work with them after all.
If a client ghosts you, then try and find their contact information (if you don’t have it) and give them a call. Sometimes it could just be that they are busy and haven’t seen your email. If you exhaust every channel and still nothing, decide on whether or not it’s worth pursuing.
#5. Good Clients Will Speak Highly of You
Sometimes, appreciation goes a long way. A good client will thank you for your work and reward you in more ways than just payment. The best clients will spend time cultivating a relationship with you. Through this relationship, they’ll build trust and (hopefully) turn to you for new projects and ongoing work. They will also refer you to colleagues within the industry and will leave you fantastic reviews.
Remember, clients are human too, and because of this, they can make mistakes, be demanding, controlling, and forgetful. A good client will not only be professional and understanding but will actively build a working relationship with you that will benefit both of you for years to come.
Excellent communication is key to the success of any project, and a good client will value your time, effort, and expertise to complete their project.