How to Recognize a Good Freelance Client

We freelancers talk a lot about Bad Clients and How to Avoid Them. But we rarely talk about the good clients.

In a way, it’s perfectly understandable. Almost every freelancer whose been at it for more than a month or two has a horror story about a client who didn’t work out. It helps to vent about those bad freelancing experiences.

However, identifying the good clients is just as important as staying away from the bad ones. All freelancers should develop their own checklist of what they are looking for in a client.

In this post, I’ll discuss good freelancing clients and explain how to recognize them. I’ll list fifteen characteristics that many good clients share. This is good starting place for developing your own client checklist.

10 Characteristics of a Good Client

Good clients are out there and you can find them. You just need to understand and be able to recognize the qualities of a good client.

Some time ago, we listed the traits of a good freelancing client here on Freelance Folder.

To refresh your memory, those traits were:

  1. Communicates expectations clearly
  2. Allows a reasonable amount of time for the work
  3. Available for questions
  4. Pays a fair amount for the work required
  5. Pays in a timely fashion
  6. Has high integrity
  7. Allows the freelancer to do their job
  8. Seeks an ongoing relationship
  9. Gives credit where credit is due
  10. Committed to quality

The original list is pretty good, and touches upon many of traits that most freelancers look for in a client.

(Most of those points are self-explanatory, but review the original post for a complete description of each characteristic.)

However, since we published the original post I’ve realized that I missed a few very important traits.

5 More Traits of a Good Freelance Client

Here are five more very important characteristics that you should look for in a new client before you start working for them:

  1. Respects the freelancer–Respect is probably one of the most important characteristics that good freelance clients share. A client who respects you and your abilities is far less likely to abuse the relationship by not paying on time, haggling over price, changing the scope, or a myriad of other bad behaviors that freelancers hate. If a client doesn’t respect you, then your client/freelancer relationship is in trouble before you deliver a single project.
  2. Allows for Growth–Over time, a good client will allow you to develop as a freelancer and trust you with more comprehansive projects. He or she will also adjust your pay according to how your value increases over time. Too often I hear of freelancers who are still working for the same rate they earned last year, five years ago, or even ten years ago. Don’t get stuck in the past. Look for clients who encourage you to grow.
  3. Stable–A good client won’t disappear without a word. The Internet is full of new and would-be business ventures, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some of the best business success stories have come from those startups. But for every startup success story, there’s a failure. The best clients for most freelancers are financially stable and in business for the long haul. These clients aren’t about to disappear without a trace.
  4. Realistic–Good clients are realistic. They don’t contact you at 4:00 p.m. on a Friday with a huge project due at 8:00 a.m. on Monday. They don’t expect you to work miracles on a dime either. They know their business and they know what they want. They don’t keep adding to the scope of a project without adding to the price. Their focus is on quality output (as yours should be) and not quantity.
  5. Has a good track record–A good freelance client treats others well. If another freelancer has been mistreated by a particular client, why would you think that you would be treated any better? If you can’t find information on how the client treats freelancers, look for information on how they treat their own customers. Chances are good that if a potential client has lots of unhappy customers, they will be difficult to deal with.

Your Turn

What do you look for in a client? Share some of the traits of good clients in the comments.