The majority of freelance projects aren't equal, and some freelance clients are truly awful. You may wind up working for someone who overlooks your needs, pays unfairly, or simply gives you a hard time.
These six early warning signs may indicate a bad client, as well as important tips for how to avoid them.
1. They don't value your time
It makes sense to extend your business hours on occasion for certain prospective clients if you're in completely different time zones and they're offering you significantly more than your other clients. As a freelancer, however, you may experience burnout resulting from long work hours. When a client expects that you will be available 24/7, they don't appreciate you or your time. You should steer clear of clients who expect this.
2. They undervalue your skills and experience
Often, you will experience clients who act as if they could do the work you do, but they do not have the time. When you work with clients who think they know everything, they tend to undervalue our work as freelancers. The issues that can arise from this are all sorts of things, between not paying you on time or what you deserve and criticizing every aspect of your work. They may also request multiple revisions for irrelevant aspects of the deliverable.
3. They’re poor communicators
A freelancing career is all about communication, especially if you are working remotely. The research shows that communication is the number one competency recruiters look for in new hires, and it is also one of the skills most candidates lack.
It works both ways, and it is something you should also look for in your clients, which is why clear-cut expectations and responsiveness are essential attributes of a productive and successful working relationship. Clients who are good at their job know this; clients who are bad at their job either don't or ignore it.
Imagine: you find a job working as a developer to create an app to exchange crypto, and the job description indicates that it should also be a wallet, but that's unclear. When you ask the client about it, you receive an ambiguous response three days later.
These types of scenarios are very common but are risky because clients may demand extra work and argue that it was included in the original contract if you accept an unclear one.
4. Your rates are questioned repeatedly
Another sign that your client might not be your ideal client is if they keep questioning your rates repeatedly. Clients are allowed to negotiate rates, but pushing too hard for a lower rate is both rude and unattractive.
Freelancers set their own rates, and all reputable employers are aware of this fact, according to Upwork's Freelance Forward Report (September 2020). When you're confident that the work you do is worth your rate, there's no need to lower it just because someone doesn't like it.
5. Unrealistic expectations regarding outcomes and deadlines
Your client may indirectly minimize your value by asking for too much work in exchange for the same rate or by requiring an unrealistic turnaround time. If you accept this kind of client, you are setting yourself up to fail.
Should you be unable to deliver, your client will likely use the situation to either lower your rate or refuse to pay.
6. They attempt to get out of signing the contract
Clients who are unwilling to put it in black and white are one of the biggest red flags. The purpose of contracts is to protect both parties. If your client refuses to put your agreement in writing, it's most likely because they don't intend to honor the agreement in the first place.
This is also true when searching for clients on large freelance sites like Upwork and Workana. Many clients choose to eliminate the platform's contracts and work directly with each other. Not only is this against the terms and conditions of the platforms you're using but it also shows that your client is unwilling to pay fees or guarantee your payment through an escrow.
Tips to Avoid Bad Freelancer Clients
Underpromise and overdeliver
This is an excellent tip for a successful freelance career. If you underpromise, you set yourself up for success, and if you overdeliver, you ensure a happy client.
Be sure to ask all the right questions
Do not sign contracts until you are completely satisfied with your client's expectations and the rate you have proposed to them. Whenever there's something that seems amiss, don't hesitate to ask.
Clear communication from the beginning will prevent unnecessary problems later on.
Check out past reviews by other freelancers
Make sure to check your clients' history on reputable freelance sites like the ones mentioned above. Feedback from other freelancers may end up tipping the scale in either direction based on ratings and comments.
Trust your instincts
The warning signs we discussed earlier were just that: warnings, something to alert your senses. However, in the end, you should trust what your instincts tell you and weigh everything discussed during interviews and messages before deciding whether or not it is worth it.
The bottom line
Freelancing can be a great way to earn money, but it's important to be on your guard and not take on any client indiscriminately. One of the differences between a freelancer with excellent clients and one who struggles with bad clients can be found in the early warning signs we discussed here. You will be able to avoid sticky situations that could later cost you time and reputation if you don't catch these red flags upfront.
Check back here to learn more about freelancing and how to protect yourself from fraud.