What I’m reading: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
What’s on the iPod: Keep It Simple by Martin Sexton
A quick note — visit the All Indie Writers Freelance Theater page this Friday to hear Jenn’s interview with yours truly. We’ll discuss easy ways to market your services.
I’m staring at a pretty busy week ahead. I spent last week finishing one client’s projects and getting another client’s projects well under way. This week will be spent finishing that batch and moving on to a third client’s wish list. And marketing. Always marketing.
Sending out introductions often leads to deeper conversations. As I connect with new client prospects, I realize there are some pretty telling behaviors that indicate we’re not a match. Not that every behavior is an automatic rejection, but I consider them warning shots and I proceed cautiously.
Here are some of the things that could indicate the client isn’t for you:
Balking at the thought of limiting revisions. That tells me three things — the client doesn’t know what he/she wants, may be a micro-manager, and could be viewing freelancers as extensions of their typing pool. If three rounds of revisions (I usually give just two) aren’t enough, maybe it’s an indication there will be headaches later.
Lots of talk at you. In one long-ago client encounter, the client said on first meeting “You need to be writing this down.” And yet I still took the project. And it was a disastrous relationship. Clients need to tell you about their projects and company goals, but they need also to listen. Your advice should matter to them, particularly if they’re not used to writing anything themselves.
Wanting all your free time. No client should require freelancers to be available 24/7, yet invariably someone will come to you with a project at 4 pm the Friday before a holiday weekend. It’s up to you if you take it, but know that the client who can’t understand or respect your professional and personal boundaries is going to be the problem child who haunts your every weekend.
Consistently short deadlines. Right up there with expecting you to work when the rest of the world is having fun, handing you a project to have done in 24 hours — and doing so more than once — isn’t fair. Also, it’s not up to you to put out the fires they start via bad planning.
Expecting you to check in/check out. Every client deserves an update on progress. What they don’t deserve is the right to tell you when you should be working and expecting you to alert them to when you’re not going to be near the phone or computer. I remember working with one resume group that wanted this very privilege. That relationship lasted about a minute — I didn’t become a freelancer to be told how to act like an employee. And for them, it’s a dangerous practice to treat non-employees like employees.
Asking the price up front. To me, that’s the biggest red flag there is. If they’re basing their entire decision on price and not so much on quality and skill, that could be trouble later on. When potential clients ask me up front about price, I give it to them without any thought of following up. Rare is the client who has decided, even after hearing the price, to hire me because I’m worth it. It could also mean you’re aiming too low on the food chain.
Expecting a price break on the first project. There’s only one time I consider a price break for new clients — when it’s coupled with an ongoing, written commitment for more projects. Otherwise, the price stands. Not every client can afford you, but the assumption shouldn’t be that you’ll bend on your rate. Instead, the client who asks if they can get some of the work done for that price is the real gem.
Writers, what red flags keep you from taking on clients?