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How To Find The Good (And Avoid The Bad) Freelance Clients

March 12, 2020

Freelancing can be extremely rewarding. You know the drill: you get to be your own boss, you have complete autonomy over your work ands schedule, you have better work-life balance.  At the same time, it offers many challenges, one of which is finding great clients.

You’ve probably heard of horror stories from other freelancers who were not paid on time, or worse, not paid at all. There are also clients who try to micromanage freelancers, which totally defeats the purpose of being your own boss. And then there are clients who want you to do more than what you were paid for, or initially agreed upon.

Because a freelancer’s journey will always entail finding clients, it’s important to know how you can land the good ones. Here are a few ways you can find high quality freelance clients you’ll want to work with long term.

Watch out for client red flags

Who says screening should only happen from the client side? In the same way that you try to find out about a potential full time employer and whether you’d be a good fit, you need to do the same about your freelance clients. During a client meeting or interview, be on the lookout for the following red flags:

  • They ask for a free trial or work. Say it louder for the people in the back: freelance is not free. The only exception to this would be if you don’t yet have a portfolio or any references to back you up.
  • They expect urgent responses. Good freelance clients realize that you are not their employee, but instead a separate business that is not at their beck and call.
  • The complain about deposits. If you ever need some form of security deposit before starting a project, a good client will never complain about you asking for it upfront.
  • They question your rate a lot. Of course negotiating is not necessarily wrong, but if a client repeatedly brings up how high your rate is then they also question the value of your time and skills.
  • They don’t know what they want. If they can’t define the scope of work, how can you? As the expert you can of course make recommendations, but they need to at least have a vision of what they want to avoid disappointments later on.

Learn to say no

Understandably, this one will be pretty hard if you’re still in the process of building your freelance business. At the same time, don’t cut corners and learn to say no—to clients who won’t pay your deposit, to unclear scopes, to unrealistic expectations, or even to work that you cannot add to your bandwidth. Here are three ways you can say “no”:

  • Saying it directly. “I’m sorry but upon careful consideration I will have to turn down this project. I wish you the best of luck in finding the best person to work on your project!”
  • Negotiating an alternative. “I cannot work with you, but I do have someone I’d like to refer instead.”
  • Asserting your own terms. “I would love to do this job, but to provide you with the best results I will need six weeks instead of four and the payment terms would be 50% upfront and 50% after completion.”

Build a great portfolio

The only way you can attract great clients is by having a great portfolio. Nothing beats showing off client work, but if you don’t have a lot of that yet, then work on personal projects. If,  for example, you’re starting out as a web designer, then work on sample website designs or maybe a redesign of popular websites. Also, if you’re a writer, start a blog. It showcases your writing skills and you also get regular practice — even when paid work gets slow.

Bottomline is you don’t always need someone to pay you to put work up on your portfolio—if you love what you do then you’re most likely already doing it for yourself unpaid.

Be searchable

Have you ever tried googling your name? Ideally you’ll want to be on the first page for the keywords of your name plus what you do (e.g. Jane Doe Freelance Writer).

You can of course use websites like Dribbble, Contently, or social media platforms to put yourself out there, but the best way to approach this is to build your own website. A homepage where you get to not only showcase your brand and your work, but also generate quality leads with a contact form.

Always be networking

Whether online or in real life, always be networking. Join Facebook or LinkedIn groups to find professionals in your industry or become an active participant in industry-specific forms. Go to conferences and join meetups. Work at coffee shops or coworking spaces a few days a month and introduce yourself to people. You never know who might need your services.

On an important note, referrals are probably the best way to get great clients. If you are now working a great client, then there’s a good chance someone they refer you to will be great as well. So continue building a good professional relationship with your favorite clients—they’re likely the same ones to give you new work.

For more articles about how to advance your career as a creative, visit the Crafters.

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How To Find The Good (And Avoid The Bad) Freelance Clients

March 12, 2020

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How To Find The Good (And Avoid The Bad) Freelance Clients

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March 12, 2020

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