During your journey as a freelancer, you’ll encounter many kinds of clients, each with their own unique personality and expectations.
In my experience, learning to build relationships and deal with each character will help you prolong your business agreement, as well as prevent any misunderstandings down the line.
Here are five typical clients I’ve encountered, and you will too.
“But can we try a different shade of dark blue?”
We’ve all experienced that overachieving, highly-motivated boss at some point. They’re the ones who workout at 4 am (listening to Eye of the Tiger no doubt), keep their desks organized, and have their next month planned out.
Perfectionist clients like things a certain way. They want projects done on time, with very little issues. Coding projects need to be bug-free, and written work needs to have zero typos.
For example, I once had a client send back a document because the title wasn’t the right color. Another client’s SOW I had to update to 4 revisions, as they kept sending back new requests. It happens.
Dealing with the perfectionist: When you’re dealing with perfectionists, it’s best to come up with a Scope of Work or Brand Guide or similar document that lays down expectations. A good motto to have is “under-promise and over-deliver”. Go the extra mile and your client will notice.
“Can you write 1000 words for $5?”
Inevitably, you may accept a lower paying gig. But beware of the moneysaver, the client that likes to cut costs where they can- starting with your compensation.
You’ll most commonly find the moneysaver on freelance marketplace websites, where clients are looking for freelancers from developing countries. They typically don’t care about quality or effort–just that they save as much as they can.
Take a look at the job posting below–this is what a moneysaver client looks like.
Beware of freelance clients that ask you to 'write 1000 words for $5'. They typically don’t care about quality or how much effort you put into your work. Click To Tweet
Dealing with the moneysaver: Evaluate your relationship with this kind of client. Do you really need the work? Is the project interesting or enjoyable? Or are you just grinding teeth? If you must stick with it, show value in your work wherever you can.
“I’m still waiting to hear on the client.”
Sometimes your client will actually be working for another client, like an agency account manager.
While their personality will typically be on the professional side, the work is usually outside their control. Clients may request several revisions, or take weeks before assigning a new project.
Dealing with the middleman: Be patient but also show initiative. It’s likely that the agency or middleman will have other freelancers on their roster, so stand out by proving your worth.
“So is this the right way to do it?”
Not all clients will be seasoned, experienced veterans. Some could be students building a startup, a family member working on a side project, or an entrepreneur transitioning from a previous industry.
Regardless of their background, this client is recognizable by their hesitation. Sometimes they won’t be able to make a definitive decision, especially in terms of design or style. They won’t have experience with invoices, average rates, contracts, and the other typical freelance steps.
Dealing with the rookie: be understanding. Walk the client through each step, explaining how it’s typically done on your end. Your client will appreciate the guidance.
“That’s not how I would do it.”
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the know-it-all, the client who believes they’re experts in their niche or industry, and even think they can do your job better than you. There have been many cases where I’ve thought, “why don’t you do this yourself then!” (but no, I didn’t say it).
Know-it-alls will track everything you work on, commenting slyly on how it can be improved or how it lacks in some way. Even when everything goes well, they’ll either find something to criticize. Just realize it’s more of their personal problem than yours.
Dealing with know-it-alls: Don’t take it personally. Although this is difficult especially for creatives, you have to treat it as a business relationship and a learning opportunity. Thank them for the feedback, then move on.Every difficult client you encounter is an opportunity to learn and improve. Treat them with respect and move on. Click To Tweet
As you gain more work, you may find yourself dealing with other types of clients that don’t even fit these archetypes–some could be more ludicrous, others may be hybrids, or some may simply be average people.
The dream client is out there. These clients are informative but open-minded, and critical but constructive. You may have to go through 4 or 5 know-it-alls before you meet a dream client.
Just don’t stop grinding!
Leo Herrera is a freelance writer based in Chicago, IL. His writing has been featured in Profile, Chicago Mag, Buffer, and more. When he’s not writing, Leo spends his time designing video games, producing music, and working on short films.