Without clients your freelance business isn’t really going anywhere. And while you’ll come across great clients who you may even consider a friend, you’ll also have to deal with those clients who you wish you never met.
Regardless, of which end of the spectrum you’re dealing with, working with clients is essential. And, here are the best ways to start working with client so that your experience will be as painless as possible.
Be on the Same Page
That may sound obvious, but when working with a client both parties need to be on the same page. This begins during the pitch phase by being aware of what exactly the client is looking for. If you’re unclear about what the client is looking for, don’t be afraid to ask question. It’s not fun working on a project, turning it in, and having the client reject it because you misunderstood what they were expecting.
Specifically, you and your client both need to agree on important components of a project like deadlines and a budget prior to starting a project. Let’s say that you design a website and the client is upset because there aren’t any images when it’s all said and done. That may not be something that you normally do, but now the client is furious because they assumed that there would be images. This should have been discussed prior to the launch of the project.
Get It in Writing
One of the best ways to ensure that both parties are on the same page is by having a contract. Not only does this help prevent any misunderstandings, it also protects you in case a client pulls out of a project or refuses to pay you.
The contract should at least include the following:
- Names of both parties – the freelancer and the client
- Title project
- Starting date of project
- The project’s deadline
- Payment terms – when and how you’ll receive payment
- Specific terms or project
- Signature from both parties
The contract should also include clauses like kill fees. This means making sure that you still get compensated for your work even if the plug is pulled on the project. You may also want to discuss copyright options. For example, you keep ownership until the final payment is received.
If you don’t have an attorney, you can find a contact templates, examples, and additional information from the following sources:
- California State University Sample – Freelance Writing Contract
- Docracy – Designer Contracts
- Stuff & Nonsense – Contract Killer
- Elance Sample Contract Agreements
- Smashing Magazine – How to Spot A Sketchy Client (Plus a Contract Template)
Think about all the times that you’ve had a problem in either your personal or professional life. I bet you’ll notice a common theme – the source of the problem comes back to a lack of a communication. While it may seem a bit like overkill, there’s nothing wrong in asking your client for feedback or direction, keeping them updated on the status of the project through reports, and even just dropping them a quick email to see how everything is going.
Communication not only prevents any headaches, it’s also an effective way to strengthen the relationship between you and your client.
Be Flexible, But Not Too Much
To survive being a freelancer you have to be flexible. After all, deadlines and the scope of the work can change throughout the course of a project. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to be a pushover. Be up front with a client and explain to them what can be done and when it can be accomplished. If that’s going to be an additional cost, then you need to inform the client that there will be an additional fee. So, if you’re that web designer you can add those images, but it’s going to cost the client a bit more money.
Tools That Make Life Easier
Thanks to technology, there are plenty of apps and software that can help you manage and communicate with clients. Some of these tools include:
- Google Apps – Not just email, you can share docs with clients and communicate through chat or Hangouts.
- Nimble – Integrates all of you contact, social media, customer emails, and calendar.
- Contactually – Manages your clients, and gives you advice on how to connect with them.
- Falcon – Integrates with 14 different social media platforms so that you can learn more about your clients.
- MailChimp – Allows you to send mass emails to clients to keep them informed.
- Skype – Talk or chat to your clients anywhere in the world for free.
Clients Who Wave Red Flags
Let’s also have a word about dealing with the dreaded trouble clients. The best way to handle these type of clients is by avoiding them in the first place.
You can do this by keeping an eye out for the following:
- Clients who are only concerned with protecting themselves legally. If the contract appears to be too much in their favor, then this is someone who could be a headache.
- Clients who ask the question, “If I don’t like this, do I still have to pay for it?”
- A client who claims that they have had a terrible experience with a freelancer in your field in the past.
You could also do some homework and ask your network if they have dealt with this client in the past or even searching online and seeing if there are any complaints on locations like the Better Business Bureau.