Choosing your Clients

Posted by | April 2, 2014 | Client Advice


Just because a client pays well and pays on time doesn’t mean they aren’t a stressful, rude, big pain in the neck to work with.

So how do you find clients that you actually want to work with? Follow these tips…

Know thyself

You can’t know if a potential client is a good fit if you don’t have anything to fit them with! Take a look within yourself to determine your strengths and weaknesses not only as a freelancer but also as a person.

  • How do you prefer to communicate?
  • When do you prefer to be available to your clients?
  • How patient are you?
  • How well do you handle criticism and critique of your work?
  • Do you enjoy learning about your clients as human beings, or do you prefer to keep it strictly professional?
  • In what ways are you / are you not willing to be flexible? **this is a biggie**

Knowing where your boundaries lie BEFORE your initial consultation will help you sound more professional when you’re engaging with a potential client.

Now that you know who you are (personally and professionally), you can develop criteria for what makes a client a good fit for you.

Examine your existing clientele

First, take a look at your existing clients. Which ones do you look forward to hearing from and which ones are programmed into your phone so you can ignore it now and email them later? (Guilty.)

Why do you enjoy working with some and not others?

Here are some common reasons:

  • Their personality and general attitude
  • Their respect / disrespect toward you and your work
  • How often they contact you
  • Their organizational skills
  • The quantity and type of questions they ask / reassurances they need
  • Their professionalism (or lack thereof)

Develop your criteria

Next, based on your personal strengths and weaknesses as well as your existing clientele, determine which characteristics are most important to you.

  • Which traits are you willing to compromise on and which are rigid boundaries?
  • How would your ‘perfect’ client behave?
  • How would they approach confrontation or a misunderstanding?

Example: For me, the perfect client is friendly, cheerful, mostly organized, and looks to me as a trusted source of design expertise. I’m perfectly fine with constructive criticism of my work, but rudeness and aggressiveness or finger-pointing is not something I’ll tolerate.

Measure their ‘fit’ness

Now you’re ready to have that first initial meeting with your potential client. Remember, it’s just as important to learn about your working relationship as it is to discuss project details!

Pay attention to the following details that are great indications of how they’ll act as your client:

  • Their greeting: are they friendly, cordial, brusque, rushed?
  • Do they interrupt you, and how do they react when they do?
  • What language do they use? (Yes, I have had a potential client cuss frequently the first time I met them!)
  • Do they regard you as a professional or a minion?
  • What do they say about the previous designer?
  • How much control do they seem to want?
  • How much do they know / want to know about the ‘whys’ behind the design?
  • Do they sound organized?
  • How do you feel at the end of the meeting?

Note: It’s okay if you assess your client based on what might be perceived as ‘shallow’ judgments. If you can’t stand the sound of this person’s voice, you’re going to procrastinate like crazy when you have to call them.

Don’t ignore your gut feelings

Are you getting a good vibe or a bad one? Listen to your intuition – it’s probably right. (Nerves are okay – even veterans feel anxious, especially on projects that push the limits of your expertise.)

If you find that you have to talk yourself into a project, it’s probably not for you.

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