Finding good clients who not only pay well but also treat you with respect, is every freelancer’s dream come true.
I’ve had my share of terrible and wonderful clients over the years.
Now, after over 10 years of freelancing, I’ve learnt how to spot a bad one from miles away. I don’t always get it right of course, but I like to think I’ve developed a good BS radar.
Over the last few years of travelling and living the digital nomad life, I’ve also learned to identify who my “ideal client” is. You know, the client who is the ultimate unicorn and is perfect for a fulltime nomad.
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So today, I want to share some of those insights with you.
Finding Good Freelance Clients: Do You Really Need An “Ideal” Client?
I know what you’re thinking… You don’t even have a single client yet and here I am telling you that you should already be thinking about your ideal client? Shouldn’t you just be happy with whatever clients come your way?
As a freelancer, you definitely don’t want to be working with every client. Yes you’re just starting out and you want to be open to all types of work.
But you don’t want to end up wasting your time on working with all the wrong clients who don’t pay you on time or don’t appreciate the work you do for them.
Of course, in the real world, you’re not going to find your ideal client straight away. You’re probably going to have to work with a few bad clients before you figure out who your perfect client is.
But, that doesn’t mean you should stop looking for the ideal client.
But what should you be looking for anyway?
Here are 9 must-have qualities that you should look for in every client.
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- How to Be a Freelancer While Working Full Time
- Email Signatures for Freelancers: 8 Tips to Make a Massive Impression on Clients
- 10 Essential Elements of a Freelance Portfolio Website
- How to Brand Yourself as a Go To Freelancer
Before we get started it’s important that I point out that these qualities are for the client who is IDEAL for your work from anywhere freelance services business.
Some of these are applicable for a freelance business clients in general, however, some are especially important if you’re planning to travel with your business.
So let’s jump right onto the qualities I like to look for in clients when I’m trying to make a decision about whether or not to work with them.
1. They are open-minded and flexible
It’s important that your client is flexible and open minded about your digital nomad lifestyle.
Meaning, when you tell them you’re going to be working from Costa Rica next week, their main concern will be if you’ll manage to work from there rather than get angry because you’re not based in your home country.
Don’t get me wrong, the ideal client might still be skeptical initially about you running your business while you travel but they will be open-minded about it rather than shut down the possibility immediately.
They will also be open-minded and flexible about how they work and communicate with you. They will understand why it’s more ideal to communicating online instead of insisting on face to face meetings.
2. They treat you as a collaborative partner
Some clients simply don’t have the respect for freelancers. They treat you badly, and often have a very condescending attitude towards you.
Your ideal client however, will not only value and respect your work but will consider you a trusted advisor with whom they can work collaboratively to achieve their business goals.
The ideal client will communicate their needs effectively. They will appreciate your expertise and respect your opinions instead of brushing them off. These are the clients who have no problem asking you ‘what do you think?’ ‘Do you have any suggestions?’.
You definitely want a client who appreciates your skills and who appreciates that you’re an important part of the problem solving process. This will motivate you to always give your best and even go above and beyond for your clients.
3. They can offer you long term, consistent work
Having to look for new clients all the time is exhausting. You are better off having two or three clients offering you consistent work than 10 one-off clients. Long-term clients are better for the growth and success of your freelance business.
If you can find the ideal client who can offer you long term or consistent work, you spend more time doing the actual work and less time chasing work. This may not be possible for every type of work, I understand that.
However, you can always look for bigger and ongoing projects with clients who have the potential to offer you repeat work rather than always working on small, one-off projects for a new client each time.
Personally, we rarely take on one-off projects any more and work with clients solely on a retainer basis. This means we have a guaranteed income each month.
As you work towards growing your freelance business, this should be your goal too. The more reliable income you have, the easier it will be to plan your digital nomad trips without having to worry too much about the money.
4. They don’t feel the need to control you
Some clients have this expectation that you will be online whenever they are online. They will want to monitor your work in and try to control how or when you do your work. Needless to say, this lack of flexibility is hard to work with.
Your ideal client will not want this level of control and will give you the freedom to do your work in a way that is suitable and enjoyable for you.
One of the biggest perks of freelancing is that you get to plan your own schedule. You decide when to work and what to work on.
If you have a client who insists on controlling how you work then you lose this freedom. Don’t allow that.
Go for clients who respect your time. Who understand that you work independently and you have the right to run your own show.
Discuss deadlines and stick to them. Plan meetings well in advance to make sure that both you and your client are happy with the way things run.
5. They won’t mind that you are in a different time zone
As a digital nomad you will often find yourself working from different time zones across the world. Often, your time zone will be different from that of your clients. This however, should not be a major problem.
We are very lucky that we have clients in the US, in Australia and in Europe and it has never really bothered them if we’re in completely opposite time zones to them.
This again comes from our clients trusting us and having faith in our working relationship and it’s the pretty ideal situation to have, to be honest.
However, if currently your clients require that you’re in the same time zone as them, then it’s best to plan your trips to areas within that time zone until you can find clients who are more open to your digital nomad lifestyle
6. They will not try to pay you less because you live in a cheaper country
So you’ve managed to find clients who have no problem being on different ends of the world with you. Great!
The next thing to do is to make sure that your location is not an excuse for them to pay you less than you deserve because presumably the living cost in your current location are lower.
Say you’re living in South East Asia, and your clients are in Europe and a client suggests to pay you lower rates because you can live on a lot less in South East Asia than say in Australia. Say no to that client. That is just so wrong.
These clients already have the wrong attitude to working with you. They see you as an expense, not as a collaborative partner for their business. They are not worth your effort and definitely not good if you want to grow your freelance business.
A good client will NEVER ask you to reduce your rate just because you’re living in a cheaper location.
What happens when you move to an expensive location? Will the clients understand why you need to raise your rate then? I doubt it.
7.They will pay you on time, every time
There are horrible clients around the world who take advantage of freelancers and either don’t pay them on time or worse, don’t pay at all.
We have been there, learnt the hard lessons and it’s not a good feeling.
Before you accept work from a client, do some background research on them and try your best to find reviews from other freelancers.
Finding out a client’s reputation may be difficult. Actually, this a huge reason why I often recommend new freelancers start out on Upwork. You are guaranteed payment when you work on their platform and it’s a great way to start off a new relationship with a client while you’re still building trust.
See also: How to be Successful on Upwork: Your Complete Guide to Freelancing
8. They will be responsive and available to answer your questions
To successfully complete a project you need to fully understand the problem and what the client needs done.
The only way this can be possible is if the client is available to explain their needs to you.
It’s difficult to work with a client who never responds to your emails, who never answers your questions and whose communication skills are downright poor.
An ideal client will be available to answer any questions that you may have regarding the project and will provide you with any necessary information in good time.
This will ensure a good working relationship and will help you deliver your work on time. Allowing you to enjoy both work and play as you explore the world.
9. They will give you constructive feedback
You want a client who is upfront with you whenever you make mistakes. We are all humans and once in awhile we’ll make mistakes.
An ideal client will express their displeasure if something goes wrong with a project or your if your proposed approach isn’t working.
They will respectfully express their views instead of just disappearing on you or waiting until you finish the project and refuse to pay you.
This shows that they believe you’re capable in doing your job and they are interested in making your business relationship work.
So there you have it, your ideal client profile. Use this checklist as a way to evaluate the new clients you take on.
Don’t forget that the key word here is IDEAL. Don’t reject a client just because they don’t check ALL the boxes — if they come close you’re lucky, so grab them with both hands.
You won’t always find someone who ticks all the boxes but always keep this checklist at the top of your mind at all times so you can assess whether or not a new client is likely to be ok with your upcoming location independence plans.
How has your search for freelance clients been? What are your pain points? Share with us in the comments!
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After turning her back on office life in Australia, Radhika set out to create a life lived on her own terms (a constant work in progress). As co-founder of Fulltime Nomad, she is super passionate about helping others live life with more freedom and flexibility, and a bit of travel thrown in for good measure.
I have a client who is constantly sending me things to read and then questions me for my opinion. He gives me no context as to how this document might fit into his business nor how it would fit into the work I am doing for him. I am not on a retainer, I work hourly.
This month I am keeping track of all time I work for him whether it is on a project, talking with him on the phone (20-minute conversations are the norm) are reading a document and preparing (mentally) a response. I am going to bill him at my normal rate and see his response.
What do you think? Any other ways to handle this situation?
I think a lot of the times clients don’t respect our time as business owners or expect you to go above and beyond without realising that time is money. Usually if it’s a small thing to review for a big client, I don’t charge any extra. However, I think it is perfectly fair to bill him for the time as you seem to be doing a lot beyond your scope of work. But, make sure to remind him of this gently because you don’t want it to come as a shock to him later. So perhaps mention to him that you are happy to review documents and offer consultation via phone and email but as you are offering him your services/opinion as a professional, you will need to bill him for the time. Be gentle but firm 🙂
Hi Radhika and Johnny
Thank you for this blog post. Can you tell me what sort of freelance work you actually do as there seem to be several ways that one can freelance while travelling?
Also, I tried to get connected with your “52 Websites to Find Online Work” several times but have yet to receive the download link via my email and nothing in my spam folder. There could be a problem somewhere along the line. Hope you can fix it.
First of all, I’m sorry to hear you haven’t received the ebook! That’s very strange as I can see you’re subscribed. Did you click on the confirmation link? If you still don’t receive it, can you email me at [email protected] and I’ll make sure to send it to you. And with regards to your other question, Johnny and I run a digital marketing agency. Johnny’s expertise is in paid advertising and mine in content and social media marketing. 🙂