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Freelancer : How to select your clients

Arnaud Champavert
Arnaud Champavert

Finding the good clients is one of the biggest struggle for most freelancers.

If you’re just getting started then chances are you have no idea how to select a clients with who you'll have good professional relations during the mission.

You have become a freelancer to free yourself from managerial constraints, to be able to decide who you want to work with. You want decided on the quality of life you want to have. So you decide on the salary you want to get over the coming year by setting a turnover goal to achieve. You can modulate this goal according to your future claims of improvement of standard of living.

It can sometimes seem hard to understand; we live in a society and in an economic context that pushes us to take all the job opportunities that come with gratitude and recognition ...

There are two main reasons that make you may refuse a client and a job :

- When you feel that you will never be able to satisfy this customer or to deliver.

- You're having trouble getting this client to pay you.   

But how can i know ? Well, we can never be totally sure, but there are some signs that are not deceiving. During your career you will realized that these signs systematically led to complicated work situations. Here are some ways to spot potential bad customers.

They have unrealistic expectations

A good customer needs to know who he is targeting and what goals he wants you to accomplish through the job. These goals can be ambitious but must be realistic.

They always want more

After a first interview, if everything seems ok, and you both decided to move forward on the project, the next step is to send a quote. If a customer send you an email following the receipt of one of your quotes and disput almost point by point every element of it, there is a problem. He could not be agree with your payment statement, your projected schedule...

Be always careful that your proposals are consistent with the expectations of the customer and rather accommodating when it comes to make them evolve. Ask yourself this question: "If this client has so much problem with my way of working now, what will happen to me during the design and creation phase ? ".

The client is tardy

If a client seems to be in the style of letting a long time pass before answering in the early stages of the project, there is little chance that his responsiveness will improve over time.

Regular round trips and no unnecessary delay, this is a necessary pace in your work. If you start working on a simple project spans several months because you have to wait weeks before getting the customer's corrections, the work necessarily suffers.

There is a good chance that your mind is focused on another job when you finally get the comments. So if you find that your customer takes several weeks to respond to your quote, take it as a warning sign. You may be working with someone who is at a different pace than you, but you seldom choose that kind of client.

Different timeshift & languages 

When starting freelance work, it's better to limitate the risks. Different time zones doesn't help with communication. Same thing with languages. A perfect first customer would leave in the same time zone and speak your native language.

They are not a fan of your previous work

When you are a young freelancer, the first consequence is that you generally practice lower prices than senior freelancers who have more experience. Unfortunately for you, some customers are still looking to get a discount to make a good deal without considering your previous work.

You'll find out quickly because they will certainly say something like : "We really hope you can do a better job with our project than you did with that one." If you hear that kind of thing, run ! If you are hired by someone who does not believe in you, then you have lost the battle even before it started.

Thus, the fact is that "the dream client" is a myth. Nobody is perfect, so the relationships we develop are very rarely perfect. Bad prospects are generally spotted at the beginning of the process, and knowing what to look for is the key to avoiding them. Never let your desire to work disturb your judgment when it comes to collaborating with the wrong people. It's never worth it in the end.

A last tips that might seem obvious when reading it : beeing in a "good" network brings other "good" customers. Beeing in a "bad" network, for example with low budgets will bring you other clients with low budgets. Client of a certain kind have a tendency to cluster together.