An (Unofficial) Client Rating Scale

The (Unofficial) Freelancer's Client Rating ScaleAs a freelancer, I have witnessed many different relationships that my peers and I have with our clients. Some clients we love, while others we rant endlessly about. Some freelancers badmouth their most difficult clients, while others only sing the praises of their favorites. But, we all know that without clients we would not be able to support our freelance businesses. Therefore, we must learn to work with, manage, communicate with and do our best to keep our clients coming back for more.

Still, it is worthwhile to sometimes step back and take a look at things from a different perspective in order to determine the best ways to proceed and progress. So, I have come up with The (Unofficial) Client Rating Scale to help us all evaluate and categorize our clients from 1 to 5. While hopefully somewhat humorous and irreverent, this scale should still be helpful in identifying your “keeper” clients and those that perhaps your business may be better without. Try rating each of your clients based on the following criteria and see how you fare.

Disclaimer: Any representation of actual clients in existence and/or their behavior is purely coincidental. No clients were harmed during the creation of this rating scale.

1. The Client from Hell

  1. Wants their project completed before they ever even made first contact with you.
  2. Professes to have worked with others in your field who charge significantly less.
  3. Tries to bargain and nitpick at your proposed charges.
  4. Attempts to rewrite your contract before and during the project.
  5. Micro-manages every step of the way.
  6. Calls and emails constantly for updates, even after they’ve already been updated.
  7. Demands unlimited revisions of mockups/proposals.
  8. Disregards your experience and professional advice because they “have a better idea”.
  9. Fails to pay for completed work in a timely manner.
  10. Rude, impersonal, demanding, disrespectful, selfish and cheap.

2. The Client Who Visits Hell Regularly (Taking You)

  1. Items 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 from the previous list, yet in less constant production. In other words, this client only drives you crazy three to five times a day rather than 24/7.
  2. Dangles payment like a carrot on a string while requiring “just a little change” here and there until they have managed to gain as many unpaid extra hours as possible.
  3. Has a relative or friend who supposedly can do portions of your work to help them save on charges.
  4. Wants everything done “yesterday,” but takes three days to respond to an email or give written approval throughout the process.

3. The Client with One Foot in Hell & One in Heaven

  1. Understands that you have other clients and projects, but still wants to be your top priority.
  2. Values your opinion and input, but has a need for control that sometimes leads to unwise decisions on their part.
  3. Appreciates the quality of your work, but always needs to make an adjustment (there’s that control thing again).
  4. Upon completion of the project begins the payment process immediately, but their company policies and red tape delay the check’s arrival for at least two weeks.
  5. Is verbally encouraging, supportive and complimentary, but their actions sometimes conflict with how much they say they love your work.

4. The Client on the Road to Sainthood

  1. Accepts your first proposal with minimal dispute or concerns.
  2. Responds to all communication within 24 hours.
  3. Understands and respects that you have time off, friends, family and other responsibilities besides their project.
  4. Regularly asks for and often accepts your recommendations and advice.
  5. Checks in regularly to see how things are going.
  6. Appreciates the final product and requires minimal changes.
  7. Pays in a timely manner.

5. The Dream Angelic Client Saint

  1. Begs you to work for them whenever you can fit them into your schedule.
  2. Offers to pay extra for rush projects and gives bonuses upon completion.
  3. Is enthralled with your suggestions and recommendations. In fact, they begin to ask you for advice in other areas of their life because they think you really have it together.
  4. Leaves you alone to work uninterrupted and is satisfied with the regular updates whenever you provide them.
  5. Responds immediately to communications and approves every step of the process without question.
  6. Regularly takes you to lunch, dinner and drinks for meetings and always pays the tab.
  7. Marvels at the finished product and is thrilled that it exceeds their wildest expectations.
  8. Hand-delivers cash payment to you the moment the project is completed, along with a large bonus because they are certain you should have charged them more for such exemplary work.
  9. Sends numerous other clients your way with the highest possible recommendation and quotes them a higher rate than what you charge because you deserve it.

Share Your Thoughts

Where do your clients fit on this scale? Has it been helpful to you in identifying your best and your worst experiences? Be sure to let us know your thoughts and any stories you may have about your experiences with any of these types of clients.


  1. says

    You have this down to a T.

    I reckon i could count on one hand how many clients fall into 4 or 5, most seem to be in the region of 2 or 3.

    That being said i have had my fair share of hell clients.

    2 hours on the phone telling they aint paid for stuff they want, then argue that the changes they requested haven’t been done. Well duh!! thats because i spent 2 hours of work time argueing with you, lol.

  2. says

    Good calls on all, though truth be told I’ve never met a category 1, (please God, puh-leeeeese send me one). I really want one so I can introduce them to my clients from hell so they can be taught how real clients ought to be.

    Good post :)

  3. says

    I must say most of my clients are in 3 or 4. Some of them can actually be placed in 5th category. But when I stuck with 1 or 2nd sometimes, and they ask me for next work few weks later I just set a price 10 times then normal with upfront payment. They get the message. ;)

  4. says

    As you gain more experience, is easier to distinguish “hell” clients from “angelic” clients. It would be great if we could only have “angelic” clients, but the ones from “hell” often come our way and we have to be very delicate, and steer them off.

    Clients from hell can consume a great deal of your energy, which eventually can make you feel that your work is not valuable or can even cause low self-esteem. So pay close attention to your old and new clients, a single sign of “hell” client, can turn your like into literally “HELL”.

    Good luck to all.
    Bruno Lima

  5. says

    Bravo Brian. Your post is fun yet encouraging.
    I just had a ‘client’ from hell yesterday. He accepted my job application but with a trial.
    Said that I should use a ‘free trial’ article spinning program and gave me the link.
    As I expected, I was given the runaround and was led to a sales site. There was no free trial. What galled me even more was that he thought I would use spin programs even though I manually spin news pieces without cheating.

  6. says

    maybe its unofficial, but seems standard and very true
    Make my best to avoid type1 and never met type 5
    and most of my clients fall in between type 3 and 4
    nice post Brian

  7. says

    It’s funny, because it’s true! As Bruno notes, fortunately we get better with experience at spotting the clients from hell and targeting the ones from heaven. I believe it’s one of the keys to maximizing profitability and improving your results long-term.

  8. says

    Interesting list – the one thing I would say is that sometimes clients make suggestions that actually make my work better and you don’t allow for that in these lists.

    I don’t always get everything 100% right the first time (shocking!) and when I get those suggestions I really appreciate them.

    So I don’t think my ideal clients would necessarily be ones who just accept what I’ve done as the be-all and end-all. I think it’s all about the quality of the feedback.

  9. says

    Amazing, so accurate, a beautiful and hilarious reflection of pretty much every industry, especially ours since it has so much to do with personal opinion.

    Honestly, id like to say we have mostly 3 and 4, but 2 and 3 are what we usually get, and have had more 1′s then i want to admit. Some customers simply need to put themselves in our shoes. If they had a customer do this to them, they wouldn’t deal with it, they couldn’t cope, and could quite possibly spontaneously combust, in which case, why dish it out to someone else, its just going to get your designer unhappy, and if we are unhappy, your project is likely to look like a jackson pollock, and not in a good way.

  10. says

    Wait….does a 5 even exist? That seems so unrealistic. Back when I worked in corporate America, we were probably 3′s or 4′s to our freelancers. Now that I’m a student, I’ve tried taking on free design work to gain experience and I’d be blessed to work with some 3′s or 4′s! Makes me not want to freelance at all…granted, I guess that’s what I get for working for free…

  11. says

    This is an interesting one. The two extremes are rarely happening in life of a freelancer, at least from my own experience. We get vigilant as we grow, so that 1 & 2 don’t really happen anymore. I’m still waiting for that 5 ;)

  12. says

    True, so true.

    I may have like tons of 1-3 clients and just one, yes one, 5 client. They are very, very hard to find.

    Or better yet, I sometimes get a “5″ client at first, then as time goes by turns out to be a “3″.

    Thanks for this post Brian!

  13. says

    Kellye hits it on the head, its all about spotting them early, and when you sit back and observe from a distance it really is quite funny! ;)

  14. says


    Thank you for this well thought-out and entertaining description of clients. As I was reading I was picturing in my mind those clients that fit the #1 and 2 lists. Fortunately, it reminded me that most of my clients are 4′s which I am very grateful for.

  15. says

    Very cool article, and I’ve dealt with pretty much every Client type you listed as well. I also just created a site for us freelancers that allows us to rate the clients that we work with on several different categories. It’s mainly to help other freelancers out when it comes to deciding whether or not to take on a project. It’s called Freelancer Reports and I would love for some of you to check it out and see if you find it useful. It currently is only for clients that you deal with on Freelance websites but I hope in the future to make it for any client, anywhere, on or offline (that’s the goal at least!). Look forward to the constructive criticism!

  16. Melanie says

    The one trait of Clients from Hell that you missed are the ones who want something that is impossible, then get mad at you or insult your skills because you can’t do it. These are the ones who want you to add a DVD menu to a VHS, or “zoom out” of a photo so you can see a person who wasn’t caught by the camera, or to erase things from other people’s sites. When you try to explain it’s not possible, they get mad and tell you that you’re no good at what you do and so they will hire someone who knows what they are doing instead.


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