You are waiting with anticipation for a prospective client after a meeting. The phone rings with good news the company is interested in working with you. What do you do next?
It is exciting to start a new project. The future of the freelance economy is expected to rise. At the same time, you need to take a careful review of the entire initial experience before moving forward. The reality of working with the wrong client can result in a loss of money, time, and stress.
Freelancing is a Business, Not a Hobby
Your freelancing years can last a lifetime if you build a reputation for excellent service. Time is precious because unlike an employee; you do not get paid for sick time, receive benefits, profit sharing, or other perks on the job. If an employer is selective with hiring top talent, you should practice the same philosophy.
Even if you are in a tough spot, being selective can put you back in a good place to success. Here are things to consider when selecting a new client.
1) Stick with an Industry
As your career starts to excel, companies in industries you are unfamiliar with will request your services. The longer that you freelance in one industry, the higher the rate you can negotiate as time passes, which will make you an expert. If you accept work from any industry, your rates will be lower, and the project focus will be scattered. Also, companies have more confidence in subject matter experts versus generalists that freelancers accept any opportunity.
2) First Impressions Mean Everything
It is important to pay attention to the first impression with your client because it will determine if you get paid on time if the company plans to take advantage of you as a solopreneur, and the entire experience.
Here is a list of characteristics of reliable clients:
- Response within a few days
- On-time for meetings
- Understands the company vision
- Practices open communication
The characteristics that will cause problems:
- Unprofessional communication style
- Shares misleading information
- Not following through on promises
- Response within weeks
Your time is priceless. Once you find a way to select the right client, it will make the freelancing experience worthwhile.
2) Project Budget
A company with a low project budget is most likely to lack appreciation for working with freelancers. The more a company has to spend, the respect level for working with freelancers is higher.
You can work with companies with a low budget, but expect to be asked to do the following:
- Requests for multiple changes to assignments
- Long waiting periods for compensation
- Cancellation of the project before completing an assignment
It is up to you to decide whether to work with clients with a small or unlimited budget. Remember to set up a freelance contract payment terms to ensure you get paid on time. Remember that it can be risky to put yourself in this kind of situation.
3) Online and Offline Presentation
The first place to start is the company’s website. Is the website outdated? Are there photos of the CEO or employees?
The online presentation will show if the potential client is committed to branding, which is a representation of how they will treat you.
If you meet in person, look around to see if the employees look happy. If the company has a small office, it might mean there is a limited budget for spending.
You are being interviewed by a company, but the same applies to find out your standards of clients you want to do business in the future.
4) Project Goals
It can be challenging working with a company that does not have a short or long-term vision for a project. The reason is, if after completing a project, the client is not satisfied, you will be the blame for not creating a vision for them.
It is best to tell the company that after a scope of work or long-term vision for the project is arranged, that working together will be best. It opens the door to work with a company that needs you for your services vs. acting like a consultant, which is not your job.
Long-Term or Short Term?
Your income is dependent on the number of times companies will do business with you. A short-term opportunity can become long term. A long-term gig can also end quickly.
Ask a client at the first meet up of the desired timeframe for the project. Remember to find out what needs to be done to win consistent work and deliver on this every day.
5) Analyze Everything
Ask for references, read online reviews, check for testimonials; these are things most freelancers will tell you to check at first. It is the factors that you cannot readily see to consider.
Here are some examples of things to consider:
- Offline reputation
- Community involvement
- Public Relation scandals
- Bad press
A company with a long history of scandal can put you as a freelancer in the same category. Work with businesses with a strong reputation in a community and one that you would purchase products if you were a consumer.
6) 30-Day Trial
You are in the right to ask for a 30-day trial with a company that you are unsure of for freelance projects. A short-term contract should be provided based on your municipal freelance laws. Share in the first meeting that working with quality clients is a high priority to avoid bad feelings. It can give the company a chance to do the same.
It can also work in your favor if a request to increase prices is included in the contract.
Here are things to consider in the first 30 days:
- On-time payment
- Honest feedback
- Open communication
It will help you to walk away from non-desirable clients and collaborate with high-quality organizations.
7) Accepting High-Quality Referrals
Save your time by accepting referrals from other freelancers, entrepreneurs or professionals that you trust. You can offer a small percentage of compensation to people that refer to quality clients. It is an incentive for professionals to only share your business card or contact information to companies that will be a pleasure to do business.
As a freelancer, saying no to referrals that will not benefit your business long term is a good idea. It will position you in the community as a professional freelancer.
8) Listen to Your Intuition
The inner voice that tells you to accept or reject an opportunity is the one to listen to all the time.
At the moment, it might seem that an opportunity that does not sit well with your intuition was a lost opportunity, but as time passes you will see that it was for the best. It, when using logic over emotions, can often help you to notice the signs of the quality of a company.
9) Find a Mentor
A successful freelance mentor can share stories of client experiences. They might have experience working with a company and can offer tips on how to develop long-term business relationships.
Mentors can help you be successful with the following:
- Interviewing advice
- Personal branding tips
- Communication strategies
- How to respectfully reject clients
Mentors can be online or offline. The experienced shared with you can save years of mistakes to avoid in the future.
10) Professional Personal Branding
Your appearance, attitude, website, business cards, and other branding materials will attract the same quality of clients. The opposite is, top clients will be hesitant to reach out to you for services.
Be honest with prospects by sharing what you can and cannot offer. It is better to refer a company to another freelancer that can do the job if you are unskilled to do so.
You are responsible for paying attention and making changes to all aspects of your branding. Feedback from existing customers is important to take into consideration.
Your freelance business should be run professionally to attract top clients that can turn into long term business. If you pay attention to companies from the moment you meet in person, to every interaction, it will make it easier to select companies to do business.
As an expert, you can set yourself apart from other freelancers and attract a high volume of clients to be in a position to pick and choose the right opportunities.
Set short term trials to learn about the company’s reliability, communication style, budget, and overall to see if it is a good fit.
Accept referrals from people you trust. A mentor can also provide you with more insight not shared in this blog. Most importantly, trust in your intuition to make the right decision.
Freelancing is a life-changing experience when the right clients are chosen. The most important thing to think about is your time and peace of mind. A client might be interviewing you, but it is essential to carefully assess potential clients to run a successful business. The gig economy is thriving and choosing high-quality clients can help fund your business for a lifetime.