When I was a new freelancer, I struggled a lot with knowing which clients to take on and which to avoid. So, being three years into my business, I decided to put together something to help newbie freelancers avoid some of the red flags I encountered and to give insight into what to expect when interviewing freelance clients.
When investigating a job opportunity, there are several factors that must be seriously considered. You should assess how reliable the client is by asking questions like ‘How often do you work with freelancers?’ and ‘What can I expect from working with you?’.
It’s also important to make sure that you both have similar project goals and expectations. You should also make sure that the client understands the legal obligations surrounding freelance contracts so there’s no room for misunderstanding later down the line! Without these considerations in place prior to taking on a project, it could be difficult for you to succeed as a freelancer.
1. The Vague Client
Interacting with clients is one of the biggest parts of any freelance job, so it’s important to be clear on expectations from both sides when interviewing.
If a potential client doesn’t know what they’re looking for, then how can you give them what they want? Asking pointed and insightful questions during the interview process will help ensure that your clients’ instructions are crystal clear.
If they come across as vague and uncertain about what they’re looking for, it’s probably an indication that they don’t actually have a firm plan yet – and that means there could be trouble down the line.
Always stand your ground when talking with clients, and make sure they understand not just what skillsets you bring, but also how all those skills can lead to success in achieving the results they’re looking for.
If all else fails, it may be best to just move on in search of clients who have clearer goals and timelines.
2. The Cheap Client
When you’re interviewing potential clients, it’s important to ensure they are willing and able to pay you what you’re worth. Don’t be tempted to settle for less than your desired rate; there are always other clients out there who will value the quality of your services.
Taking on a client that cannot afford your rate is a huge step backwards – not only will it be a fruitless investment of time, but money as well, when you could be using that time and resources towards an agreement more suited to your needs.
When this happens, it should immediately alert you that the client doesn’t have your best interests at heart and probably didn’t do their research before approaching you with their project.
Freelancing services are valuable and going too low on pricing will only lead to more headaches down the road. Discounts are fine but they need to still reflect fair market value – don’t be afraid to set firm boundaries in negotiations and set yourself up for a healthy freelance relationship with your client.
3. The Needy Client
As a freelance worker, it’s important to be aware of your own boundaries and enforce healthy lines of communication with your clients.
When working with colleagues online who don’t operate in the same time zone as you, there must be clear cut guidelines in terms of when to expect feedback and what type of response is considered appropriate. The best freelance clients understand this, respect it, and observe limitations accordingly.
Without establishing these boundaries, you could end up feeling overwhelmed by constant requests or micro-managing interactions that sap your energy without returning worthwhile benefits to the business relationship.
Make sure that whoever you’re working with understands what your limits are; if they respect them, then you can look forward to a successful partnership.
4. The Unethical Client
Another warning sign to watch out for is when interviewing freelance clients is a client that asks you to do something that goes against your professional ethics.
This could include anything from producing dangerous content, plagiarism, spinning articles or even copying competitors.
Steer clear of anyone that expects you to break the rules, as these kinds of requests don’t bode well and can put your reputation in jeopardy. Seeking out some form of amicable negotiations is always the better option – that way everyone’s boundaries stay intact.
5. The Uptight Client
When it comes to finding the perfect freelance client, compatibility is key. Think of it like a first date: you want somebody who doesn’t make you cringe when they open their mouth! And just like dating, when interviewing freelance clients, assess whether you and your potential client are a good fit — make sure their working style resonates with yours.
Don’t be blinded by big money; if the time and energy required to satisfy their needs isn’t worth it, simply say goodbye (literally)!
After all, one long-term client that suits you perfectly is better than 50 clients who leave your energy tanks empty. So go ahead and take the plunge— but assess their “contractual chemistry” beforehand so your relationship will be strong on both sides of the ledger.
6. The Too-Good-to-be-True Client
When interviewing freelance clients, there’s often nothing more important than trusting your gut. If you get that niggling feeling in the pit of your stomach that something’s not quite right, it’s often wiser to trust yourself than take a risk; no matter how great the gig could be.
After all, if a client isn’t trustworthy or reliable during the interview process, chances are they won’t be in the future either. Don’t underestimate your own judgement – if something feels off in the meeting or over email, it probably is. It might mean missing out on a great job opportunity but remember: you have to protect your name and your business.
7. The Pay-You-Later Client
Definitely avoid is someone who is unwilling to sign your contract – contracts are essential for delineating expectations and tasks for both sides fairly and ensuring things go smoothly.
Additionally, be wary of anyone who wants to pay less than the agreed upon percentage up front – if they can’t afford even a small downpayment, chances are they won’t be able to make all the payments towards the end of the project when they’re due.
Don’t be afraid to ask these types of questions upfront when interviewing freelance clients; trust your gut because these are telltale signs that spell trouble down the line.
Good questions to ask when interviewing freelance clients
- What is the project timeline and what are the deadlines for each milestone?
- Who will own the copyright to the finished project – you or the client?
- What kind of feedback loop is expected – daily, weekly, or only at specific milestones throughout the project timeline?
- How will payments be made – up front, in installments, or upon completion of the project milestones/deliverables agreed upon by both parties involved in the contract negotiation process?”
- In what format do you prefer to receive design files from your clients (e.g., PSD, AI, JPG, Google Doc)?
- If changes need to be made to a design after it has been approved by the client, how will those charges be billed and tracked (e.g., hourly rate + change order fee)?
Red Flags when Interviewing Freelance Clients
So there you have it, folks – 7 clients to avoid to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success when looking for reliable freelance clients. Of course, if you want to avoid all this prep work altogether and just wing it, that’s totally your prerogative.
But if you’d rather increase the odds of things going smoothly (and getting paid what you’re worth), then following these steps should help get you there.
For more advice on red flags to avoid, here’s a good resource I found.