Dealing with clients can be a real joy or an absolute nightmare when you’re a freelancer. And it depends on the types of clients you have.
It is possible to work with ALMOST any type of client if you know how to handle them. But there are definitely some types of clients that are easier to work with than others.
In this article we are going to look at the main types that you are likely to encounter in your freelance journey. Hopefully, this guide will assist you in identifying the different types, deciding whether you will work for them, and what rules you might want to have in place should you do so.
If you want to learn about Ben and Alex’s experiences with the different types of clients, then you can get all the juicy details in this fun podcast.
Where can I find Clients?
The main ways that freelancers find clients are through personal referrals, job boards and freelancing platforms, but there are plenty of other options. Just remember that you should not just be looking for clients, you should look for GOOD clients.
Which is the Best Type of Client?
The best clients are always going to be those who mesh well with your style of doing things. Obviously, other details like prompt payment and the volume of work they have to offer will affect the relationship.
Ultimately you are looking for the clients that will cause YOU the least number of headaches so that you can focus on the work.
Are There Bad Clients?
General Tips for Building a Good Relationship with Clients
Regardless of what types of clients you are dealing with there are some practices which you should adopt in order to build strong long-term relationships:
- Set clear ground rules about your working hours.
- Make sure that both sides understand the rates you charge, the payment schedule and method, and the consequences if payment is not made on time.
- Communicate regarding any questions or changes. Depending on the type of client and size of the project you may also want to provide periodic progress updates.
- Do NOT miss deadlines!
- Be honest with yourself and your client.
If you follow these tips they should help improve all of your interactions with clients. Of course, each type of client needs a slightly different approach, so we have included those tips alongside the information about the types of clients.
Seven Types of Clients
This is one of our least favourite types of clients at HomeWorkingClub. Ben calls them Mr. Flash and Alex calls them “shiny-suited chancers.”
This type of client will try to impress you with their money and influence, but more often than not it is just a façade. If the client does actually have a lot of money it is probably because they have persuaded people to work for experience, exposure or peanuts instead of actually paying them for their work.
You need to be very, very careful when dealing with this type of client.
- They will offer you lots of work.
- They might actually be able to give your work some “exposure”
- Mr.Flash clients are notorious for not paying.
- The big plans and ideas that they have often don’t materialize.
- Do some basic research on anyone who seems like a Mr. Flash. Their reputations usually precede them.
- Ask for a deposit or upfront payment.
- Understand that this type of client is not going to be totally honest with you – they are salesmen through and through.
- Although these clients tend to be male (hence Mr. Flash), there are plenty of female clients who fit into this category.
The Late Payer
Ultimately these are clients with a trait that you do not want. After all, you are working in order to get paid. The problem is often that the Late Payers are great to work with.
Large companies often fall into this category because payments need to be approved and processed by different departments.
It is important to evaluate whether a client is really a Late Payer or simply slow to pay when deciding if it is worth accepting a Late Payer as a client.
- Projects are often big, interesting and/or well-paid.
- Not being paid on time.
- Having to waste time and energy chasing down payments.
- Find out ahead of time if there are payment policies that will affect how quickly you get paid.
- Prepare your invoices carefully, submit them as soon as possible and make sure you follow up.
- Get friendly with the finance department at large companies where you do freelance work.
- Learn how to chase outstanding payments so you are prepared if the worst-case scenario should play out.
- Never allow a late payment to slide. This encourages repeat performances.
The Minimal Communicator
The Minimal Communicator simply pays you to get the job done. This work is more of a transaction than a relationship.
If you do not need a lot of feedback and have a similar communication style this could be your ideal client.
The problem with this type of client is that working with them can be a little nerve-wracking due to the lack of input. These clients are particularly difficult for new freelancers who may need more information in order to complete the tasks, and who will undoubtedly want to know if their work was good or not.
- This type of clients will not waste your time.
- You will usually be paid promptly and adequately for your work.
- Long-term working relationships are less likely.
- Sometimes minimal communication can become insufficient communication leading to misunderstandings.
- Show this client you respect their needs by avoiding unnecessary communication instead of trying to draw them into chit-chat.
- Stay focused on the task at hand.
- Produce the highest quality of work possible in order to get repeat business – the Minimal Communicator tends to be very goal-oriented.
The Penny Pincher
Penny Pinching clients are always looking for ways to save money. Nothing wrong with that, you might say, but the issue is that they often fall for false economies.
The desire to save costs often leads these clients to avoid investing in the right people and the right tools. As a freelancer, these types of clients tend to become problematic when you have a longer-term relationship. In order to save costs they may ignore your advice or they may decide to hire someone else if you increase your fees.
- Can be great clients on a one-off basis, especially if you also tend to be frugal.
- Will have the budget to pay you set aside before hiring you.
- Will find it hard to understand the long-term value, especially if it costs more in the short term.
- Money matters more than relationships.
- Try to understand that keeping tight control of costs is important in business.
- Know when to stop working with this type of client. Once you find yourself constantly explaining why a cost is necessary or notice that your advice isn’t being taken it is time to move on. It is better to end the working relationship before it turns toxic.
This is perhaps the hardest client to handle because they like to get very involved in the work you do. A clear sign of a micromanager is when the instructions are longer than the task itself.
Very detailed instructions might seem ideal, especially to a new freelancer, but it shows that the client has a very specific idea of what they want and they will not be happy with anything that deviates from that vision.
Micromanagers will look for constant updates – and don’t be surprised if they change the original brief. Amendments are almost par for the course with these types of clients.
The good news is that they are reasonably easy to spot. They are usually people who have never hired someone before or people in large companies who have too much time on their hands.
- If you can learn to work with their style of management they can be very reliable clients.
- Unclear or overly detailed instructions.
- Managing the client´s expectations will probably require more work than the task itself.
- Avoid these clients if you do not handle stress well.
- Understand that the micromanagement is due to their issues, not your work.
- Spend the time to build up trust as it can really pay dividends, especially if the micromanagement is the result of inexperience. With time their meddling should decrease and they will give you more freedom to get the work done.
The Realist is a client that has a very good understanding of the work they are asking you to do – so the brief will be tight and the work will tend to be collaborative.
They generally hire freelancers to help spread the load rather than because they are not capable of doing the work. So they expect freelancers to be on the ball! They will trust you to get the work done and will often welcome your input, but you may find that their busy schedule can sometimes make them slow to respond.
- They will respect and value your input.
- Tend to create strong, collaborative relationships whilst working on a project.
- They will generally pay you well for your work as they understand what is involved and value quality.
- They will not necessarily share more information than is necessary to complete the task.
- They tend to forget about you unless you are in the middle of a job or they need your services. This can sometimes result in delays in payment and almost always means periods of silence between jobs.
- Remember that the Realist is busy. Absolute silence on their part after you finish a job is due to the fact that they are focused on something else, not because of the quality of your work.
- Offer input. Realists are looking for value and will be grateful for any ideas that you may have on how to do things better.
- If they are late paying you send a GENTLE reminder. It is most likely an oversight.
These are the types of clients that really understand what your needs are and will work with you so that you can complete the work they give you. These are people that are characterized by their honesty and the respect with which they treat others.
The Gem will share information with you, keep lines of communication open, and make you feel like a real partner in their success.
Unfortunately, they are often easy to miss. You probably won’t realize that you have found a Gem until you are actually working with them.
- Treats you with respect and makes you feel like you are in a partnership.
- Is open and honest, freely sharing information.
- Good communicator.
- Pays on time.
- Very hard to find.
- May not have much work.
- May not be able to give you the best pay in the world.
- Do Not take the Gem for granted! This type of client will understand when problems arise but you should always take the best care possible of them as you never know if you will find another.
- Be totally honest with them. This relationship might start with a simple job but it is built on trust and mutual respect.
My Personal Experience
I must admit that I have been very fortunate in my freelance career to have mainly come across good clients. The Late Payers are usually my biggest problem clients since I have learnt to avoid clients whose approach to work does not mesh well with mine.
Nevertheless, I have made some major blunders throughout my career. One of the biggest was almost missing out on getting to work with Ben simply because Podcast.co includes transcription facilities!
I had noticed Ben talking about needing transcription services for a podcast in the Facebook Group and contacted him to offer him my services. A few months later the first episode of the podcast, complete with transcription, appeared on the site. I felt gutted since Ben had indicated that he would have me do the transcriptions on a trial basis.
To be honest, part of me wanted to write him a nasty note but since the advice on this site had helped me a lot I decided to let it go instead. In the end, I wrote to Ben telling him that I regretted not being able to work with him on the podcast and wishing him the best.
Not slamming closed that door of opportunity was one of the best things I ever did as a freelancer!
Ben is one of my favourite clients and, despite Alex’s teasing, really is 100% a Gem. But I would never have found that out if I had been rude or if I had not given him a chance.
This list of the different types of clients you are likely to encounter is obviously a generalization, but hopefully it will provide some guidelines to help you form positive working relationships with your clients.
Every client is unique and you must invest time and effort in order to build a good working relationship. Understanding these common traits will simply allow you to set some clear ground rules and help you pay better attention to the alarm bells.
No matter what types of clients you may come across, there is no reason why you should not be able to work successfully with them.
Just remember that it is a two-way street. If you want to have a good relationship with your clients then you need to be the best freelancer when it comes to meeting their needs. Perhaps that’s the reason why the Gem clients are so great – they have often honed their interpersonal skills as freelancers themselves.
Karen Fleming is a writer, translator, and teacher with more than 10 years of freelance experience. When she isn’t reading, writing, or taking yet another online class, she is probably doing some one-on-one tutoring or enjoying a good movie with her husband and two daughters.