Freelance Guide: How to Know if a Client is the Right Fit
written by regular contributor, lisa crocco
One of the best aspects of being a freelancer is having the power to pick and choose who you want to work with and what projects you want to take on. Unlike a “traditional” 9-to-5 role, you can accept or reject offers that come across your inbox — you hold the power.
And with all this great power also comes great responsibility. The responsibility is to ultimately decide if this client is going to be good to you and good for you, as well as vice versa.
Not every client that comes your way will be a perfect match.
Once you have had your fair share of shady clients, clients that demand too much, neglect to pay you, scope creep, or even ghost you, you quickly learn to look for those red flags right away.
Those red flags could also come in the form of a difference in a matter of philosophical, business or personal beliefs, work styles, etc. If you don’t believe or support the mission of the company then you shouldn’t be forced to work with them.
Here are some simple tips to help you decide if a client may be the right fit.
Conduct a Phone Screen
You might have clients reaching out to you through your website, LinkedIn, email, referrals from connections, third-party matching platforms, or even Twitter. With all of these leads, you have to first sort through them and then figure out what services of yours they need.
It’s great to start this conversation about what they need and what you can offer through email or questionnaire. But then you should always follow-up with a phone call. A quick phone call is all you need to reassure yourself that they are serious about working with you. It also lays a solid foundation for your working relationship.
You can detect a lot from a call since you have their undivided attention to ask all your questions, understand their needs, and confidently move forward from there.
Provide Them with a Questionnaire
Many freelancers and solopreneurs set more of a screening process in place in the form of a questionnaire. Create a quick questionnaire or survey for your lead that they will have to answer before taking any further steps.
Even though each one should be personalized for you and your business, the questionnaire could include the following:
- Budget and timeframe
- Preferred method of communication
- Roles and responsibilities
- Goals or vision for the brand or company
- Contact and general company information
Having them fill out a questionnaire streamlines the process and helps you decide right off the bat if they are the right fit for you or not. Or if you even have the bandwidth to take on the work in the first place.
Research, Research, Research
In order to fully understand what you may be getting yourself into, you need to do your research on the client. That means digging around on their website — pay attention to their mission statement or company motto. Get a feel for the company culture by scrolling through their social media channels. Also, read reviews about their company on LinkedIn, Glassdoor or other job sites.
You will find out a lot of information quickly this way. If you have any questions about what you find while doing your research then present your questions or concerns to the client.
Work With Them on a Trial Basis
After all of that, if you are unsure of whether or not you want to work with this client long-term and how this relationship will go, present them the option to work with you on a trial basis. You can agree to work with them for a month or two months so you both can see if this relationship is one that can work long-term and you are meeting their expectations and vice versa.
Even after a couple weeks of working with someone, you will know if they are someone you can continue to work with. Either the relationship clicks or it doesn’t. Either you both trust each other or you don’t. Either you enjoy the work and your managers or you don’t.
Set Your Expectation for this Client
Decide what you need from this client and your relationship. This way you have a solid expectation on what this relationship will be.
For example, if this isn’t your ideal project but they are offering great pay and you need the money, then this client is probably the right fit for right now. Another example might be if they are a low-paying client but it’s a company that you have always wanted to work with, then they are probably the right fit.
There are plenty of ways to figure out if a client is the right fit for you, your business, and this time in your career. At the end of the day the most important thing is to just trust your gut.