The biggest mistake a new freelancer can make is assuming they are subservient to their client. This is not the nature of a healthy freelancer-client relationship. The best clients treat freelance professionals as respected equals and this makes working together productive, enjoyable, and successful.
Unfortunately, too many freelancers accept poor treatment, low pay, and a host of other negative behaviors. These can ultimately lead to extra stress and the potential for depression and burnout. It’s also why so many freelancers fail to meet their goals and give up on their dream freelancing lifestyle.
It really doesn’t have to be like this. With some realistic adjustments to your requirements when it comes to client relationships, you can begin to attract a better quality of client. Ones who will treat you with the respect you deserve.
So how do the best clients treat their freelancers?
A strong, fair, and healthy freelancer-client relationship includes:
Clear friendly communication
The best clients are friendly. They ask how you are and share a few other pleasantries when on the phone or during a video call. They communicate with you as they would a likeable colleague in the office. You both know you’re not going to be friends but there’s a feeling of camaraderie where you’re working towards the same goal.
Communication is clear. There’s no fear to be had of asking silly questions or saying the wrong things. If and when innocent mistakes happen or when things don’t quite go to plan, there’s no anger or abuse. There’s respectful discussions about how to rectify errors.
If you’re dreading each client call, then you know you’re not working with the best clients. It might be time to drop those bad clients.
Trust and respectfulness
Good people are respectful of your professionalism and expertise. They’ve taken time to read your website explaining your skills and previous results, which is why they’ve hired you. As such, they know what you can do and place their trust in your abilities. They also don’t engage in sexism when it comes to fair treatment and payment.
They certainly don’t micromanage you and treat you like a servant. Bad clients will expect the world from you and also act as if you are an employee. It’s important to remember, that as a freelancer, you’re a business owner yourself and on an equal footing with your client.
A positive freelancer-client relationship is built on mutual trust and respectfulness. This comes naturally when you focus your marketing on attracting the right type of client.
Acceptance of fair payment rates
Many freelancers undercharge for their services. They’ve grown accustomed to working with less than ideal clients in return for short term financial gains. However, for long-term stability and wealth, it’s vital to charge what you’re truly worth, right from the start of your career.
Good clients know the going rates for professional freelancing work, in whichever field you’re in. They won’t baulk at the rates you give them which ensure you earn a comfortable income. Getting paid what you deserve ensures you do great work and the best clients understand this.
What’s more, the clients you charge the most, tend to be the nicest clients to work with. Cheap clients usually cause a lot more hassle.
Acceptance of fair payment policies
In order to avoid cash flow problems and ensure you get paid on time, it’s sensible to enact fair payment policies. These can include an upfront deposit (i.e. 50% of total fee) prior to the commencement of work as well as late payment fines. You might also set up recurring invoicing for ongoing work carried out daily, weekly, or monthly (see Invoice Ninja’s free invoicing solutions).
The best clients will have zero problem agreeing to your fair payment policies and will not flinch when asked to sign a contract. They’ll agree to pay the applicable expenses. Bad clients, on the other hand, will do everything to wrangle their way out of what are standard freelancing policies. Such behavior should act as a big red flag.
One of the hallmarks of a great client is prompt payment. The best clients pay before the due date on your invoice. It’s rare, if ever, you need to send invoice payment reminder emails. These clients know you’re a professional and will recognize the great work you do for them. So much so, they’ll be enthusiastic to make sure you get paid quickly.
If you’re repeatedly struggling to receive payments on time, then it’s time to reevaluate the type of clientele you’re working with (see also: invoicing etiquette)
A collaborative mindset
As a freelancer you’re hired to get results as well as to free up time for the client to focus on other things. However, the best clients actively work with you to make the process smoother, easier, and more effective. A great freelancer-client relationship is collaborative in nature. You’re both working as equals towards the same goals.
While the workload and levels of expertise might not be equal, the best clients will work with you rather than against you. They’ll provide everything you need, from tools and research to their knowledge and friendly feedback. You’ll be provided with everything you need to do a fantastic job and the results will reflect this.
A goldmine of referrals
The best clients are happy to refer you, without the need for you to even ask. Bad clients just try to keep you to themselves and drain you of all energy. Referrals are an important way for many freelancers to gain new clients. It’s often the case that like attracts like. This means great clients know other people or businesses who will similarly be respectful of your talents and skills.
Once you are working with a few wonderful clients, you’ll find yourself being approached by other high caliber prospects. These will be people who won’t try to negotiate down your rates or demand you work at weekends. They will respect you as a professional who is on an equal footing to themselves.
Are your clients treating you right?
Knowing how the best clients treat freelance professionals is vital to your success in your freelancing career. As a new freelancer especially, it can be difficult to ascertain what are accepted norms and standards.
Many people choose freelancing as a career path because they’re tired of being an employee and treated as such. Yet they then find themselves falling into a position where they are subordinate to a client. This leads to low income, long hours, stress and anxiety, as well as a longing to return to regular employment.
If you’re wondering whether you’re working with the right kind of clients, then hopefully the points above will help you decide whether changes need to be made. In many cases, it’s simply a matter of adjusting your mindset to one of being an equal with your clients and also modifying your marketing, branding, terms, and rates to reflect this. Plus, cultivating self-confidence.