Here is how to avoid freelance clients from hell

Oh, do you also have to deal with this tiny issue? Wanna know how to avoid bad clients? We’ve got your back!

So yeah, you finally made the decision of going full-time freelancer. You wake up in the morning, take a sip of your cold home brewed coffee, the scottish eggs are to die for, the birds are singing outside, life is damn perfect. You sit down to work on your productivity booster home office. You open your emails. Oh no, not this again, you think.

You almost start to take pity on your ex boss and to wish you were back to be and employee.

Take a deep breath, read this guide and start to practise today the art of avoiding bad clients.

Do you also have to deal with this tiny issue? Wanna know how to avoid bad clients when freelancing? We’ve got the solutions for the most common disputes.

Step Number 1 – Qualifying Your Clients

Have you ever had the feeling that some clients come to you with the only proposit of sucking your brain and your great talent just to have their projects produced in the China of Designers? You’re not alone. It’s time to stop spending time with clients that will not convert, that will gather your best ideas and execute them with a lower-cost buddy. By developing a method of client-qualification, you’ll concentrate your time on exchanges with real potential buyers. We know, we know, all of us freelancers need clients, and it’s hard to identify which will bring just a huge headache, and which will bring actual business. It’s a bit time consuming, but at the end you will have a client pool that is both profitable and productive. Let’s see how we can make this qualification process easier, by asking 10 simple questions:

1. Do they really need what you’re selling?

Sometimes it might look like a client will offer a big demand of work. But maybe they have a fixed staff? Or maybe people that they’re already used to work with, and aren’t willing to change that? Before investing lots of your precious time, a good investigation is worth it.

2. Have you executed this specific task before?

Design and creative work have lots of branches. Once in a while we get offered a project that is not exactly our most swimmed waters. We know how it is to have a deep love for new challenges (and subsequently new clients), but think for a second: will you need to invest on a new tool, or software? Do you need time to research and study to get filled in? It’s ok if you do, and if your willing to. But you ought to be honest with your client and check how THEY feel about it. If you’re honest, there’s a great chance that they will be cool with it, and you’ll all be stress-free.

3. Will they pay you?

A background check never hurted anyone. Your new-client-to-be seems trustable enough, but do ask around to see if anyone has worked with them before. Did they pay alright? And in time? Were there any problems with payments? You might wanna check How To Get Paid On Time For Your Freelance Designer Work to learn some necessary actions to take so you guarantee you’ll allways get your money.

4. Will they stick around?

That’s a no-brainer: will your new client be a premium member of your Fidelity Program? Will they offer the opportunity for repeat busines? Because finding new clients require marketing and time, and having an on-off list of clients can reduce financial stability.

5. Do you fit in their budget? Can they afford you?

Often, clients are clueless about how this whole creative freelancing business works. They might have trouble defining to themselves what your work is worth, or accepting how time consuming (therefore expensive) it can be. Throw your numbers on the table. Tell them exactly the price range that a say, website can follow in. And make sure it fits their budget.

6. Can you put up with their deadline?

If you’ll have to overload your work cargo and rush a lot for the project to be done, better consider not taking it. Especially if you already have another project in progress that will be impaired. Plus, you might get angry with the client, when you were the one that took the project knowing their tight deadline in the first place.

7. Have they worked with a designer before?

Taking new clients is educating them. Many times they aren’t aware of what they want / can accomplish in terms of revenue and conversion with their new website, or design work. Do you have the time for that? And most important, do you have the patience for that?

8. Are you dealing with the right person?

Meaning the decision maker. It’s very usual that people try to appear to have more authority than they do. And whyle you’re doing the best you can to land a project, you might wanna make sure you are being noticed by the person that’ll actually hire you. Settle it from the very beggining. A simple question like “Who, besides of you, will be responsible for giving approvals?” will graceful save you time.

9. Do you guys match?

Friends, friends, business aside. Yes, and no. You’ve got to get along with someone to work well with them, and they sure have to like you a little to be hiring you again. At the end, we’re all people. So be careful if not to invest in a work relashionship with someone you can’t stand.

10. Always trust your instincts

Because they’re almost always right. Make a list of things you don’t like about an ongoing conversation and things you might not like about your future client. Can you fix something? Is there something that can get better with a simple, honest talk?

Do you also have to deal with this tiny issue? Wanna know how to avoid bad clients when freelancing? We’ve got the solutions for the most common disputes.

Ok, so now that we went through the ways of understanding if a client is worth the effort or not, let’s take a look at a few examples of client-hellness that you can spot right away and avoid at all costs:

Step Number 2 – Learning How to Deal With Problematic Clients

Raise a hand those who have never finished a project just to have to spend days discussing its price. Or those who have never worked in a project that got cancelled hafway through? All this unnecessary stress can be avoided from the beggining, or better dealt with if you already find yourself into it. Here is how to:

1. The Client That’s Just Not Into Commitment

And there we go again: pricing issues. It seems that is very comfortable for some clients to try and negotiate an insulting quantity for what you and your work are worth. Not ok. To test if your relashionship is doomed to last, ask for an advance payment. In fact, you should ask for an advance payment every time, at least for bigger and time-consuming projects. If they say no, well, you know what to do.

2. The Client That Thinks They Can Change Stuff Forever

Big issue here. It’s off course ok for clients to want to make adjusts on your work. Completely normal. But then, to ask you to completely change directions, and to do it many times is to make you lose profit. Your time = money. So the best to do is first to have very well described in your contract the amount of times you’ll make changes before starting to charge extra. Then, spend some 20% of your project time on research and composition. When being briefed, make sure you squeeze until the last information on what are your client’s needs and desires towards your work. Then spend some 70% designing, and maximum 10% reviewing and changing it.

3. The Client That is Ghosting You

What to do about the client that simply disappears on you? Or that tells you that they end up not using what you did for them, or that they no longer need what you were working on? It’s a good idea to include a termination fee in your contract. You’ll then be covered in case of any misfourtune happening.

4. The Client That Insists You Should Take Your Time

When a client tells you that there isn’t a deadline for a project, you might think you hit jackpot. But then this same attitude may apply to your paycheck. For you not to end up having to ask for your payment, always be clear on when you’ll be delivering a final product, and insist that they do the same regarding your payment.

Do you also have to deal with this tiny issue? Wanna know how to avoid bad clients when freelancing? We’ve got the solutions for the most common disputes.

Step Number 3 – Handling The Anoying Issues of Being a Freelancer

Freelancing has its ups and downs. Some of the downs being the uncapacibility of people to understand / respect certain boundaries, given that your work schedule / places are not what they’re used to. Again, is up to you to educate them. Here are some examples and their respective quick fixes:

1. When They Make You Hurry and Then Make You Wait

A client comes to you and asks you to design their product A.S.A.P. You don’t have time, but you rush a lot, letting them know that you’ll (obviously) need the content that’ll be uploaded. They never send it to you. Then it’s YOUR turn to keep asking and begging for them to do their job, so you can keep up with yours. Nothing. Then after weeks, they tell you that something came up and they’ll have to put the product you’re working on hold. What happens months later? They suddenly send you the content and what do you know, ask you for the product to be ready like, tomorrow. You basically have two choices. One: you tell them that because of their delay, you had to get involved with other projects and now you’ll finish their project whenever it’s possible (off course, specifying when). Two: you already made use of that termination fee on your contract, because you haven’t heard from them in so long. It’s up to you.

2. When They Think You’re Sitting Put The Whole Day Waiting For Them To Ask For Something

It’s a hard thing when you’re a freelancer: you must determine (and thus inform people) of your work hours and days. Is it ok for a client to ask for a change or fix at something in the middle of a Saturday afternoon whyle you’re drunk stuffing your face with cake? Yes. Is it ok for them to expect you to answer and do what they’re asking for right away? No. Clients should off course demand the best response and the highest quality work from any professionals. And they shouldn’t necessarily know when to expect you to do what they’re asking for. So again, it’s your job to specify it all from the beginning. And even better, to have it all written at the contract. Only then you’ll leave no margin for misunderstandings.

3. When They Pretend Not To See Your Invoices

Maybe they think you just design for hobby, or that you don’t have the resources to fight for your payment. By now you should already know what to do right? Contract, contract, contract! Go here and check exactly what and when to take action.

4. When They Keep Wanting To See Your Face in Person

We all know this already: time is money. Specially if you are a freelancer and get payed hourly or by project. What to do whenever you have a client that keeps wanting to schedule pointless meetings? You introduce him to Skype! 🙂 Voila!

Do you also have to deal with this tiny issue? Wanna know how to avoid bad clients when freelancing? We’ve got the solutions for the most common disputes.

Share it to help other freelancers to avoid clients from hell!
And read this if you want to know how to get more clients when you’re freelancing.

Do you also have to deal with this tiny issue? Wanna know how to avoid bad clients when freelancing? We’ve got the solutions for the most common disputes.

Tatiana Bastos

The Content Pac-Man: Born and raised in Brasil, studied advertisement at Mackenzie University in Sao Paulo. But from a small child knew to be taken head over feet by fine arts, illustration, and photography. For that reason, attended Panamericana School of Art and Design, also in Brazil, and then ventured to learn some more at The Art Students League of New York, in Manhattan. After years spending time traveling the globe and living on an inspiring island at the center of the blue Aegean Sea, in Greece, settled to be based on electric Berlin, Germany. Still a world traveler, healthy eater, art lover, diy do-er and a words-addict.


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