The Freelancer Bible: How to Identify Your ‘Ideal Client’ and Avoid the Bad Apples

When you’re just starting out, or if you’ve only been operating for a while, it kinda feels like you’ve got to go with whoever throws you a bone. This isn’t the case, however, and can actually lead to more trouble than the work is worth.

While being a Freelancer is great, you don’t have the protection that being under the employ of a business can offer. This means that if a client screws you over, you have to resolve the issue yourself.

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So, how can we identify our ‘ideal client’?

If you haven't heard of the term 'ideal client' before, it's essentially the perfect client for you (although there's a little more to it than that.)

Your ideal client operates within your niche (if you've picked one specifically), who gives you a thorough brief, pays on time, replies swiftly and most importantly, pays your ideal amount.

Here’s an exercise to help you visualise your ideal client:

Visualise the kind of person you’d like to work with.

  • What gender are they? Does gender matter?

  • What is their niche, market or sector?

  • Why do they do what they do? Do they want to help people? Do they want to be a dominating force in their market?

  • Are they funny? Intellectual? A hippie? Kind?

If you’re a visual learner, draw them out as a character. When you know your ideal client, you’ll know what you’re building towards.

Your ideal client will work with you and will treat you like an equal. Remember - they're your client, not your boss. You’re collaborating to create something together.

Your ideal client will be kind, hold up their end of your agreements, and respect your rates. However, if a client tries to push down your rates, it’s for one of two reasons:

  1. They will try and squeeze you down for money because they’re shameless and think you’re an easy target. If this is the case, they are not your ideal client and I would strongly advise against working with them. This is the kind of client you can expect to never show up with your payment.

  2. They genuinely don’t realise just how valuable great copy is for their business. If that’s the case, educate them!

However, as a freelancer, you’re also a business person - so don’t be afraid to enter into a little negotiation and bartering! If done with respect for both parties, it can be healthy and helpful.

Arrange a call with them on the phone or via a video calling service like Zoom. Don’t treat it like an interview - it’s an opportunity for you to both put your feelers out and see if you’re the right fit for each other. Have a chat, get to know them and their core values, and ask questions about their business - it’s not just for them to get to know you just because you’re the one getting paid!

So how can we identify the ‘bad apples’?

It can be hard to know which apple is going to turn rotten quickly when at first glance, they all look red and sweet. You’re putting your trust and faith in someone to pay you for the work you’re doing.

Some glaring red flags are:

  • Not respecting your prices.

I don’t mean everyone. Some people will disagree with your rates, or genuinely just be unaware of how much it can be worth. If they get nasty during negotiations or still don’t respect the prices you’ve quoted, give ‘em the chop!

  • A complete disregard for proper communication.

  • Refusing to sign any documents you may have in place to protect yourself.

  • Being rude, irritable, ignorant or unkind.

  • Refusing to explain the subject matter.

  • Not taking into account your working hours.

  • Making things personal.

If one or many of these things pop up, take it from me - it is not worth your time, effort or sanity.

So, now you know what your ideal client and the client from hell you should avoid looks like, you can put it into practice next time you’re submitting a proposal or trying to schmooze a prospect.

"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. – E.L. Doctorow

Do you have any tips to add to this chapter of The Freelancer Bible?

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