The Clients You Want
I think most freelancers have some conception of what a bad client looks like—those of you who aren’t yet freelancers, imagine one. It probably exists.
But what about the good ones? What do you want to look for in a client to make sure you don’t get a non-payer or an ego-tripper or a possible relapsing sex offender? What type of client deserves you to hold on to like a sweaty hand in an action movie?
The Beautifully Naive
I don’t mean to say you should take advantage of people who don’t know your industry, but sometimes you’ll find clients who hire you to do what you do because they literally have no idea what it is you do. These are clients who think freelancers who create websites are magicians, who think every writer who can use an adjective is a master of emotion, who think anyone who can make a sunset on Photoshop is a modern Monet.
What’s great about these people is they’ll appreciate you, a sometimes rare commodity in freelancing. This doesn’t mean to sell them short because they won’t know any better, though no one will stop you from (or blame you for) doing that. It just means you’ll have somebody with whom you are free to do your thing and not live in mortal fear they’ll send the project back thirty more times.
Yes, these people exist. I’ve had clients ask me how much they owe me for something I just did and then round it up another $10 because they’re spending someone else’s marketing budget. I’ve had clients give me a bonus for doing multiple revisions. I’ve gotten bonuses for working fast. I’ve gotten a raise just for getting on LinkedIn and adding a business to my profile.
These are like Secret Santas. You never know for sure who might pan out to be like this, so you have to work hard and not expect special treatment. Work like you’re working for a bonus—it just might happen.
The Jaded Manager
One of my favorite experiences was working with a guy who clearly found nothing but assholes on Elance. He hired me just before I went on vacation and I told him I probably wouldn’t be able to get back to him soon, but I’d still like to work his job if he was alright with a loose deadline.
Turned out the guy was so fed up with hiring people who wouldn’t respond to emails and sent work late without even a courtesy excuse that he was just happy to get someone who’d warn him they’d be late. He hired me again after that.
The Uber Professional
I’m not very professional. I have a beard and currently sport a greasy man-pone (a ponytail for men). I often wear the same stretched out t-shirt and hole-ridden hoodie for a week straight and tend to turn off video during Skype meetings. I sometimes watch Sports Center during these meetings. I take business calls while walking my dog. Hence I’m always impressed by people who take our business transactions far more professionally than I do (not that I don’t take mine seriously, potential clients out there).
These people pay you advances without you having to ask for them (or even thinking about them). They actually pay you for the time it takes to talk to them about the work they’re going to pay you to do. They refer you to a lower-down who will fill you in on everything you need to know and seems to exist only to read and respond to your emails. They offer you bonuses for things you already do, like finishing a two-hour job within a week. Find these people, and never, never let them go.
The Hip Young Dude
Some of my favorite client types are the cool twenty-somethings who make quirky websites and do things like make videos for nonprofits or run community theaters with kids or make glasses for old people in Ethiopia. These people not only know where you’re coming from as a freelancer, but they want you to help them do something significant with their lives or for their communities.
They also tend to have lots of money from past investments, lucrative side businesses, or trust funds. But you’ll still mostly get people hiring you to help them sell marketing courses and shoe racks.
Always look out for someone who has long-term needs. As a freelancer, you’ll spend a lot of your time not actually making money, but looking for work and wasting away talking to a hundred different people if you don’t get consistent work from a few people.
Often these are people who work as hiring managers or PR people or marketing managers for larger companies, or who run their own third-party company and need to contract out to people to get jobs done for other companies that hire them. Of course, this now puts you several rungs down on the income food chain, but there’s a reason you’re not the one hiring freelancers like you.
About the author:
Bryce Emley is a freelance writer and editor in New Mexico. He writes regularly for Matador Network and blogs about advertising at advertventures.wordpress.com.