During your freelancing career, you’ll work with many different clients. The great thing about this is you get to choose your clients! In a lot of ways, choosing a client is like choosing a friend or significant other. An ideal match should bring together two people with a shared interest in success, similar working styles, and equal amounts of trust on both sides. Ultimately, your goal should be maintaining long-term relationships with your clients. After all, good clients can be hard to find.
What Type of Client Are You Looking For?
Your working preferences should point you towards your ideal client. If you want to hold traditional 9-5 hours then working with a night owl entrepreneur may not make sense. If you want to work at any time of day then a CEO at a Fortune 500 may not be the best fit. In addition, it depends on the type of freelancing work you’re doing. If you’re a virtual assistant, you may need to have regular check-ins and be available all day on email; this may not be the case for a website designer.
Other facets to consider are a client’s communication and management styles. Some clients are hands-off while others are micromanagers. Some want to speak daily while others prefer shooting off weekly emails. Being aware of your preferences can help you find your ideal clients.
I don’t like talking on the phone. I can do it, and I have a professional and friendly demeanor that would not tip anyone off to the fact that I don’t like phone conversations, but being on the phone is my not favorite thing to do. Adding a loud toddler to the mix has only furthered my dislike. I express myself more clearly and succinctly in writing and I like having a paper trail that I can look back on and double check for accuracy and completion. Regular phone calls are not a deal breaker, but they are something I’d consider a “con” when choosing a client.
Finding Your Best Client Fit
There’s something special about finding the right client; someone who just gets you. You don’t have to worry that an email came off too brusque or that the client didn’t think your joke was funny. People that don’t make you feel like you have to be “on” are good fits for clients.
However, you are still running a business and delivering a service so you don’t want to be too casual. You’re not doing a favor for a friend, you’re being paid for your services and that deserves a certain level of professionalism.
My ideal client is tech-savvy and wants to communicate primarily over email, text, or messaging service. I prefer someone who can give me orders then trust that I’ll have the vision to carry them through. I prefer an easy-going personality and don’t like clients who try to make their urgency my emergency. I’ve found my best clients from a variety of sources.
When you’re choosing clients, two things are important to keep in mind.
Know Your Interests
If I have no interest in agriculture then I’m probably not going to look for a client who runs a family farm or sells pesticide. Although I’m confident that I could research the industry and gain a working knowledge over time, I would find absolutely no joy in it.
Time flies when you’re doing things that interest you. You should look for clients that are working in fields or industries that you feel a connection to. It’s tempting to grab whatever clients you can get when you’re just starting out, but that strategy will ultimately cost you time (and money!). If you have to do a lot of background work before you start the part of your job that you get paid to do, you’re going to make very little or even lose money. For example, if you need to research trends in industry X to write a blog post, because you have no familiarity with the industry, it may take three hours to pull together a few reputable references. A person who is already interested in the industry may be able to get their sources within 15 minutes. This could be the difference between making $100 per hour or $10.
Know Your Deal Breakers
Do you hate when people are late? Are you allergic to small talk? Knowing your deal breakers will give you a better sense of who your clients should be. Even when you work for yourself, you still have to work with and for other people. If you can’t get along or see eye-to-eye, you won’t be able to achieve your goals. Don’t waste precious time trying to force a relationship with a mismatched client. There is a client out there for everyone and you cannot be the best person for every job. If you keep your standards high, your profits will be too.
Clients are the lifeblood of your business. Although you can’t please everyone all the time, you have a much better chance of keeping clients and making them happy if you only work with people who are a good match. Take your time vetting potential clients before starting work together. You may not earn as much as someone who takes every client, but not having to work with difficult people is one of the greatest perks of being a freelancer and you can’t put a price on that.