How To Choose Your Clients, and How To Say No / by Chris Skyes

Whilst most writing in regards to freelancing revolves around how to win clients, we often don’t discuss about how to pick your clients well.

To clarify, when you’re just starting out as a freelancer, you most likely won’t have much choice. It's often more prudent to simply accept the job, and put up with any frustrating situations that might arise.

As long as you keep your client happy, they will give you good feedback, which will help you get more clients down the line.

That being said, there comes a time where you will have quite a bit of work, and you will be approached by potential clients, trying to hire you for their project. When this does eventually happen, it is important to know what to look for, and what to avoid, as this can save you headaches and frustration.

Let’s begin!

The Client Has Poor Feedback

On platform such as Upwork, it is possible to view what feedback other freelancers have left the client. Sometimes, red flags will immediately be raised as you read through their profile, and you discover that multiple freelancers have complained about poor communication on part of the client.

It is important to weight the pros and the cons. If there’s a chance that the client might take a while to respond, consider whether the payment, along with the deadline, are worth it.

In other words, if the client takes a long time to respond, but the payment is good, and there is no specific deadline associated with the project, then you should consider taking it. If the payment is good, but the deadline is close, consider the fact that an unresponsive client might still blame you if the project is not ready on time, even though they did not give you feedback on time.

Unexplainable Deadlines

Sometimes, when a client posts a job, they might add something along the lines of 'It shouldn't take an expert more than 15 minute to complete this task.' 

If you see this, my advice would be to run as hard as you can in the opposite direction. First of all, you shouldn't be charging by 15 minute increments, but that's something for another article. 

If a client says this, it means that they want the job done as cheaply as possible. Now, whist there's nothing inherently wrong with this, and it might be worth considering if you're a beginner, it's not a game you should play if you have a bit of experience.

When the potential client says that they believe it shouldn't take an expert more than 15 minutes, what they mean is that they're not willing to pay you more than a quarter of your hourly rate. 

If there is something I've learnt during my time as a freelancer, clients who pay very little tend to not be pleased very easily, which is exactly the opposite of what most people think. 

You'll end up with an unhappy client, begrudgingly paying you $5, and most likely also giving you negative feedback. 

It's not worth it; just keep looking.

Future Promises

Something you will occasionally encounter as a freelancer, is a potential client attempting to negotiate by using the promise of future work. They’ll say that they have loads of projects incoming, and they want to hire you to do them, but they don’t have a huge budget for the current project.

They will then proceed to promise you that if you do this project for the lower fee now, you’ll get the future work.

Here’s what the problem is: Even though I’m sure the client has the best of intentions, and truly does have work incoming for which they want to hire you, there’s no guarantee that the work will actually come in.

Additionally, someone with malicious intentions will just tell you that, in order to get cheap, or even free work out of you. Take the current project if you really want to, but please be aware that the chances of future working actually coming through are not great.

How To Say No

This is the most interesting, and the most difficult part, and there is no way around it. Sometimes, when you feel like the project doesn’t quite seem right, or you simply don’t want to take it on, what do you say to the person?

What I would recommend, is telling them the truth, even though you will occasionally be tempted to do otherwise. If you feel like the project would not be a good fit for you, tell them that. If you’re unhappy with the fee, or the deadline, say that, and walk away.

Whatever the reason is, be it the deadline, something about the project, or even the fact that you might be busier than you initially realized, just let them know

Most people are professional, and they’ll understand. If, on the other hand, the potential client becomes rude or unprofessional after hearing that you won’t be going ahead with the project, well then, you’ll know that you’ve made the right decision.

These have been my thoughts on how to pick your clients, and how to say no. If you want to be kept up to date with my articles, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.

Until next time!