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Clients are the lifeblood of a freelancer, but sometimes they can be a challenge! I don’t know any freelancer who hasn’t at some stage wondered what the heck was going on in a particular client’s mind.
Since mind reading is not a usual part of the freelance skill set, below we’ll take a look at how you can identify the six main client types, and suggest some great ways to ensure you deal with each one in the best way possible.
Let’s get started!
1. The Know-Nothing Client
Let’s face it – many clients don’t actually know a lot about the work they are asking us to do, otherwise they would be doing it themselves.
You can work out whether your clients have any knowledge of your skills at the outset simply by asking what they know about your type of work. Many people hesitate to ask clients questions that imply a judgment, but this one is really valuable and can save you a lot of pain further down the line.
It’s fine if the client says “nothing”, or “very little”, because if you explain to this type in broad terms what you need to do, so they’re aware of the amount of work involved, the feedback you’ll need and the timescale it will take, they should be happy to leave you to do your job.
2. The Know-Everything Client
At the other extreme, some clients actually do know a great deal about what they’re asking you to do. Possibly they just have so much work that they are outsourcing some of it to you, or it is slightly out of their comfort zone and they want a real expert.
If a client like this has called on you, feel flattered. They clearly believe your skills are top notch or they wouldn’t be using you. Make sure that you understand exactly what this client type is looking for – they may well provide a detailed brief, but if there are any aspects you feel haven’t been covered, make sure you discuss them and get all of the project details clear.
The great thing about a client like this is that if you do a good job and create a rapport, you may well find yourself working with them on an ongoing basis. So, treat them very well!
3. The Wannabe Client
Lurking somewhere in the midsts of the above two clients types is a different animal – one that would really like to be doing your job, feels that they should be doing your job, and in their heart of hearts feels they can do it better than you. But they’re wrong.
Deal with this sort of client with great tact and care. They may well be full of ideas that they will want to impose on you, and it may be sensible to adopt some if they will work. However, if their plans won’t fly, you must politely tell them so and clearly explain why.
Ensure you explain what you’re going to do in detail from the outset and get agreement in writing before proceeding. Check progress at regular stages – don’t just present a finished product, because you could find yourself undoing your hard work.
4. The Bargain Basement Client
We’ve probably all met this client – the one that’s convinced you’re asking far too much to do their “simple little project” – probably because they have no appreciation of the time that it will take to do the job properly.
This is a situation that can resolve itself; often clients like this will just take themselves off in pursuit of a cheaper solution, and if they do it saves you a headache. If they don’t, it’s probably because they know you’re the best person for the job.
Given that, don’t let this sort of client beat you down – you should have a basic price worked out for your services that you won’t go below. If you really want this work, explain why you priced their project as you did and why they will be getting a great deal. Having a basic rationale for your pricing strategy is really useful, so make sure you work out the details in advance.
5. The Crazy Professor Client
They are out there: clients with big dreams who want you to hand them the moon on a silver platter (mostly metaphorically, but there’s probably one out there who actually will ask for this!).
If what this client wants is impossible, you will find it easier to work with their enthusiasm rather than against it. “That sounds really great, but…” is a good starting point for managing expectations that are running at fever pitch.
What you need to work out, through some structured and practical questions, is what this client actually wants at the end of the project. If there is a potentially doable outcome you can agree on, you should be able to sketch out a path from start to finish.
If you’re enthusiastic yourself, the chances are good that you’ll be able to persuade this type of client round to your way of thinking. Fortunately, this type of client often isn’t into fine detail, but prepare yourself for lots of involvement.
6. The Invisible Client
Occasionally you will find a client who, once a deal is agreed, will stop communicating. You phone, and it’s on voicemail. You email, and get no reply. It’s frustrating and baffling.
Providing you’re 100% sure the project is agreed (you have a contract and you know when the work needs to be delivered), you may decide to proceed – but do so with caution.
The trouble is, if there are questions that really need to be answered, you may find yourself getting stuck. So before you get in too deep, work out whether there are any likely ‘break’ points for the project that might impact on the deadline if the client continues to be unavailable.
Do what you can to make contact – send emails detailing what you’re doing and asking for feedback. Keep trying the phone. Check that the client’s credentials are genuine. If you’re in any doubt, tell them you can’t continue until you have confirmation that they’re happy to proceed. If this doesn’t elicit a response, consider giving notice that you’re quitting the project. Nobody can work in a vacuum.
Some clients are easier to work with than others, but if you deal with each type in a way that suits their basic personality, you will find your client relationships really improve. Remember:
- Clients who don’t understand your work need enough facts to appreciate what you’re doing, why, and how long it will take.
- With knowledgeable clients, attend to every detail.
- Be careful with clients who think they know better than you, and get agreement for everything you plan.
- If a client wants to drive down costs, know your bottom line and stick to it.
- When clients have unrealistic dreams, try to agree a practical solution.
- If a client stops communicating, think carefully before proceeding.
Have you come across some different client types, and how did you deal with them? Let us know in the comments section below!
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