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.

Comments

  1. Gwyneth says

    Hello Laura,
    I read this with interest as I only started freelancing in August last year and will admit to never giving a thought to what a good client is; I was simply desperate to get work!
    However, I think the biggest point is the communication part. Twice now I have been ‘caught out’ with poor instructions which necessitated a rewrite; seems odd that someone else’s poor instructions mean that I miss out by effectively spending more time on a re-write?
    I now seek clarification rather than just throw myself in. Love this freelance stuff, such a great learning curve!
    Gwyneth

  2. says

    Like always, great content. Just a follow up with Gwyneth, and Laura, communication is so important! I actually feel like it might be the most important thing. I’m glad to see it listed as number 1. Issues will always come up. It’s how you work through them that makes all the difference!

  3. says

    I love your point about clients being “realistic”, Laura. Whether it’s the response from copy you’ve written, the implementation of a social media strategy or the execution of an search engine optimization program, being realistic with goals, expectations and results is so incredibly important. I’ve been blessed to work with very realistic clients, but I’d like to think that I can spot them in in an initial consultation.

    As others have said–solid communication cannot be understated. I know some will disagree, but I don’t think we can ever truly “over-communicate”. Communication is integral in helping establish, encourage and enforce a realistic outlook for any clients you work with.

    Great post! Love the content and conversation that takes place here. :)

  4. says

    Hi Laura

    As someone who provides Affordable Web Design with a set pricing structure there are two things I look for when someone contacts me for a website:

    1 – How much time are they going to take up?
    2 – Do I like them/have a good rapport with them?

    A good customer to me is someone who doesnt take up more time than they are paying for and someone that I enjoy working for.

    If I think they wont fit those requirements they are told they don’t fit my business model.

    That may seem harsh to some but it’s essential for the survival of my business.

    Mark

  5. says

    James,

    I definitely agree with you about the importance of communication. :)

    Justin Romack,

    Thanks! The conversations here are one of my favorite parts of the the blog. The comments are often as instructive as the posts thanks to the readers here. :)

    Realistic clients are important, but if you’re careful when defining the project’s scope and terms you should be able to identify how realistic a client is.

  6. says

    Red Website Design,

    Thanks for chiming in.

    Yes, having a good rapport is very important. I have often thought that it is better to be a competent and pleasant professional than a cranky, unpleasant genius. I know that I’d rather work with the first and you just confirmed that I’m not alone with that.

    As far as time goes, personally I like to work mostly independently. So I tend to gravitate toward those who are similar. If someone needs frequent meetings, that’s not a good fit for me. (Although, I’m not opposed to an occasional meeting). This is true whether I’m hiring (which is rare) or being hired.

  7. says

    Hi Laura, I really think it’s important that the client has both a good employee rating as well as an employer rating. It may be a little hard to determine this, but it demonstrates that they’re generally easy to deal with, fair and a well rounded individual. Can’t ask for more than that!

  8. says

    Thanks for your tips. In this freelancing profession there should be a understanding and good relation in-between freelancer and clients. Because if any freelancer facing against several bad clients he/she might be lost interest about it. So it is very much important.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>