How to be a great freelance client

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a freelance writer is building relationships with clients. Probably 95% of my clients have been good to work with. There have been a few that weren’t the best fit for me, or something wasn’t right with the project. But for the most part, I’ve been fortunate to work for some really great clients.

What makes a great freelance client?

  • Great clients like your work. If you find yourself encountering clients who are constantly dissatisfied or asking for significant revisions, maybe you’re not on the same page with the expectations of the project – or maybe the client isn’t the best fit for the kind of work you do. The best client relationships have a level of mutual understanding and an ability to anticipate needs – you can predict what the client is going to want for a certain project, and the client trusts you enough to let you work independently.
  • Great clients pay their bills on time. Freelancers depend on multiple clients to pay their bills promptly – instead of one steady paycheck, we rely on many smaller paychecks from different sources. The best clients will pay their bills on time and without making you jump through too many hoops – if you’re constantly having to call and serve as your own collection agency, that might be a sign that it’s time to cut ties with a client.
  • Great clients communicate promptly and reliably. One of the hard parts of being an online freelancer is that there’s no direct personal connection to “the office” and co-workers/colleagues. Most communication is by e-mail – so if a client suddenly stops replying to e-mails, the freelancer has no way of knowing if everything is OK or not. “Did they like the work? Am I going to be paid on time? Is something wrong?” Great clients don’t “go silent” like this – they stay in contact, even if it’s a brief note to say “I’m busy with other projects this week, but I’ll get back to you soon.”‘
  • Great clients trust you. Some of the best clients I’ve ever worked with are the ones that invest their trust in me – they want my help to build their businesses and deliver great results, and they’re willing to work closely with me and confide in me to help convey the full scope of what they want to accomplish. It’s better to be a trusted advisor than a “hired hand.” Great clients will share their ideas, hopes and dreams for their businesses – rather than holding you at arms-length.
  • Great clients pay you what you’re worth. It always amuses me when I’m talking to a new prospective client, and before we’ve even discussed the project, they immediately ask me to discount my rates. (I once had a prospective client call me to ask if I would work for $15 an hour – the answer is “No.”) Do these people do this to other professional service providers like mechanics, accountants or orthodontists – “Uh yeah, I need to get my car fixed – can you do it for $5 an hour?” Clients that try to undercut your pricing or that act suspicious/incredulous about how much you charge aren’t worth the trouble – they’re not used to hiring professionals and paying professional rates. There are always going to be bargain-hunters and tire-kickers out there. Let them go, and instead focus your energies on clients who understand and appreciate the value you provide.

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