I am the first to admit, I stink at turning down work.
Writing is my full-time job, and when rent comes due I need to be able to pay it. Which, when I first started out, meant saying yes to every bit of work that came my way.
But not every client is going to be a good fit for your and your business. Over the last year I’ve figured out five sure-fire warning signs to watch out for.
1. They Don’T Trust Your Expertise.
If someone wants to hire me, I assume they’re doing it because they trust that I have expertise they lack.
And yet I still have had clients and potential clients treat me as if I don’t know what I’m doing. (Usually this includes some sort of questionable “5 Things You Should Do on Social Media to Make $100K Today!” article that they found in the middle of the night and have decided is more reliable than I am.)
I don’t claim to know everything there is about content writing or blogging or anything I do, but I know more than the average business owner because it’s my job to know it. As soon as someone treats me like I don’t know my own business, I politely move on.
2. They Over Or Under Communicate.
The lead who says they want to hire you, then disappears for three weeks? Bad news. The client who sends you three stream of conscious emails of several paragraphs each in under five hours? Even worse. The client who expects you to know everything about their business even though they never tell you anything or answer your questions? The worst.
When you are a freelance worker, reliable, respectful communication is essential to getting your job done.
Whether it’s not providing information or deliverables you need to do your work, or expecting you to answer your phone at 10:00 at night, poor communication is a sure sign of a bad client fit.
3. They Pay You Unreliably.
Freelance work often gets treated like a hobby, but it’s not.
This is my job. While I certainly understand that sometimes invoices get lost or small businesses have cash flow problems some months, I still expect to be paid in a timely manner for the work I do. If a client can’t do that, that’s not someone I want to keep working with.
(If you have a moment, read this article from The Write Life on an unexpected danger of being paid by unreliable clients.)
4. They Ask For An Unreasonable Discount.
I’m never opposed to negotiating with a client, and I always try to offer my clients package rates (per 2 blog posts, per 5 web pages, etc) to give them the best deal for their money.
However, this is still my time and my work, and I need to be paid reasonably for that.
If a job is going to take me 10 hours of work, and a client only wants to pay me $50 for it, I will politely tell them I don’t think we’re a good fit.
5. They Want Everything Right Away.
Remember the Freelance (or Quality) Triangle?
If a client wants a rush job that doesn’t stink, they need to be willing to pay for it.
It’s unreasonable to expect you to drop everything in your life (including work for other clients!) without paying you anything extra for it. And unreasonable people do not make good clients.