How to Choose Great Freelance Clients

When first starting out freelancing, it’s tempting to apply for every job and accept any client that will hire you. Be aware though of jerks that are ready to chew you up, spit you out, and wreck your freelancing career before it’s even started. That’s why you need to be picky with the clients you choose.

Every one of my clients on UpWork has been fantastic. They are hard working professionals. We respect each other. I would meet them for a beer. The reason for this is the way I screen clients.

Screening Clients

So how do you know if a client is going to be a bad fit? Look for things like this:

Poor spelling and grammar

The #1 thing that can make a job go sideways is miscommunication. And miscommunication is more likely to occur when the client is not communicating clearly.

You need plainly stated requirements to do the job properly. You need to have a solid feedback loop when things aren’t going as planned or adjustments need to be made. If someone can’t take the time to write an intelligible job description, what makes you think they will communicate well during regular chat?

Other things that fall into this category are very short and vague job descriptions, like ‘Need a developer for large site’.

Demanding and rude tone

Some clients appear to be hiring minions that need to kept in line. Those are not my type of clients. Their job descriptions will usually contain something like the following:

  • Job must be completed on time or YOU WILL NOT GET PAID
  • Required reports will be submitted on time! Freelancer will stay on task and work within designated timezone (EST).

I honestly think these clients had a bad experience with a freelancer and are trying to prevent it from happening again. The sad thing is that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. With a more demanding tone they are pushing away the quality freelancers and getting more of the lower-tier freelancers they don’t want.

Wants you to jump through hoops

A client may want you to complete a programming problem ahead of time. These are fine if they pay you for it. But some clients take it too far, wanting you to complete full unpaid projects to prove you are worthy.

I typically avoid those jobs. Although I do occasionally take the example project and complete it on my own for fun if it’s sounds challenging. I’m weird like that.

The Ideal Client

My favorite client has a well-written job description. They know what they are looking for in a freelancer. They are looking for a high-quality developer to solve their specific problem, and they respect that it takes certain skills to solve it.

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