During my “illustrious” freelancing career, I’ve been thankful to be able to turn down projects every now and then. Not necessarily because I’m inundated with project offers, the real reason is because not all projects were a good fit. If I accepted, a few may actuality comeback to bite me in the ass. I know this may seem like a contradiction from a previous article when I discussed, one of the common pitfalls of creative freelancers is the notion of following passion instead of following opportunity. I promise you, this is not contradiction, in fact I’m doubling-down on that statement.
Regardless, if you follow your passion or opportunity there are still hurdles along the way. One of those hurdles is deciding whether to accept a project or not from a potential new client? After a few bad encounters with accepting projects I had no business of entertaining, I decided to take a step back. Case in point, I took on a freelancing job for a growing agency who were working very diligently trying to establish itself. I was recommended by an individual that I worked alongside in the past, who happened to work there. After several preliminary design test and ideology conversations, I started working with the agency. But they had one caveat… “This is only on-site work, no remote!” Are you kidding me? Although it popped up as a red flag, I wanted the extra cash, so I did it anyway.
3 days in, I noticed the person that recommended me had stopped showing up for work. Sad part is they tried to tip-toe around the subject of her not being there anymore, as if I wouldn’t ask. Later I was informed that she was fired. The second flag was that she only worked there for less than two weeks. Clearly, her and the owner did not get along and supposedly expectations were not met. It was hard to fathom, because having worked alongside her, she always was an excellent colleague. Now my eyes are beginning to open.
Skip head, I’ve been there for a little over two months and I’m starting to reconsider the idea of freelancing for this agency. My biggest gripe was the leadership. The owner was mostly unsure of herself and constantly deferred to others for answers. She never pushed back when clients challenged a design or idea, forcing us to re-do, re-compose and re-position the work consistently. I would easily do over 10 revisions for just phase 1 of a project. The last red flag appeared one morning and when I realized “Sara,” another freelancing colleague, was missing from her desk. Everyone in the office seem mildly quiet. Not wanting to inquire openly, I popped open my laptop and logged into the office messenger system, clicked on the first “available” person online.
The story told to me, was of an argument in the kitchen between the owner and Sara, that left Sara walking out of the kitchen tearful. She decided to go home early only to later send an email resigning. Later that day, Sara shared the full story with me. It appears the owner took it upon herself to be a role model to her, although it was not something Sara desired. She did not ask to be groomed, she did not ask for the owner to be her “office mother,” nor did she ask to be yelled at or talked down upon when she didn’t meet the owner’s standards.
That night I knew what I had to do, the decision was easy. The owner was not a good communicator, she refused to be a team leader and she was not respectful to her staff (professionally and financially). I also was not willing to see a fourth flag, three was enough. Clearly, it was not a situation I would like to be a part of again nor the type of client I want to work for ever again.
To learn from this and not make a repeat in the future, I put together few qualities I have found common amongst “Ideal clients.”
I find that I have the best relationship with clients that are equally as hardworking and dedicated as I am. They are enthusiastic about creating meaningful work and achieving great results. It also helps when you as a freelancer have a similar work culture to the client. If not, it will make the work cumbersome. (check out the movie Miss Sloane. That’s a great example of working with others sharing your same culture or values)
Nothing halts a project faster than a flip-flopper, going back ‘n’ forth or deferring the decisions to the freelancer 100% of the time. Either way you look at it, it’s a poor formula for producing a good product. A decisive client has a clear vision from the beginning to the end; while the freelancer just fills in the blocks in-between. This helps work get completed in a timely manner avoiding the dreaded limbo.
Make it your goal to work with a client that respects your time and worth. Just as you would respect the client’s goals of making money from the project. It’s all a synergistic circle!
I eat…you eat… we all eat together!
Down time is just as important as work hours. Clients want to know if there is stability in your life (family, marriage, etc.…) and what you are working towards; and you as a freelancer should do the same. I prefer clients that I can easily go out and grab a drink with and chat about things outside our working relationship. Not because I’m a lush :P, but mainly because and gain a deeper understanding of who you are and “What’s at stake”. This is an intangible that is priceless.
Trust me, I have learned a great deal about some of my clients the Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
Need a little help identifying your ideal client traits. Download this helpful guide to make your “My Client Type Statement”