9 traits of the ideal client
Most digital nomads are freelancers, which means they’ve got to find their own clients in order to make a living.
Finding the perfect client is a real challenge. Nobody’s perfect, let alone someone your income depends on. More often than not, clients are a huge pain in the ass (pardon my french) and maintaining a healthy relationship with them is impossible.
Especially for new digital nomads, the problem is overwhelming. As a newbie, you have minimal to no experience about how to scout the ideal client. You merely want to get as much work as possible, to keep the cash flowing.
It’s a very common mentality to get as many clients as you can first and then refine your client list to include only those you like.
The ideal client is not an imaginary unicorn
I, myself, have made the same mistake. When I started my freelance journey, I valued quantity over quality, so I got myself a huge list of undesirable clients. Unfortunately, I paid for it with sweat, blood and tears (blood being used figuratively).
At some point, I was so frustrated with the level of unprofessionalism that I thought about giving up. But I didn’t! Instead, I reviewed my client list, thought long and hard about who was worth keeping and rebuilt my business, based on that new clientele.
All businesses are different, but what they all share are some qualities, that make them desirable to deal with.
So what does an ideal client do to qualify for a successful collaboration with you?
Sets clear expectations
When a client comes to you with a project, a few things should be clarified in advance: what the problem you need to solve is, what all the requirements are and what the expected outcome should be.
The client’s expectations need to be realistic and tangible from the get-go. Asking for something that sounds impossible, uber-advanced, over-the-top is a red flag. The same applies to anything generic, vague and vacillating.
That’s why that client needs to provide maximum clarity and communicate every single detail clearly and concisely.
Is realistic about timelines
Your ideal client allows a reasonable amount of time for the work to be completed, without rushing it at any stage. The work is done in iterations; wash, rinse and repeat. Your client is aware of your processes and you’ve worked them out together before you started doing the work, in order to lay out a plan, specify milestones and put some catch-ups on your calendars, to assess the current status and agree on next steps.
Of course, there will be obstacles along the way. It’s inevitable to encounter blockers or sudden practical problems. You can neither avoid nor prepare yourself for the unpredictable.
Albeit, you factor that into the project in a different style. It’s what we call contingency period (i.e. a small time window that can be used to allow the mitigation of a problem, without causing irregular delays).
Your client is aware of the possibility of such extenuating circumstances and is willing to accept them and commit to resolving them.
Is honest and transparent throughout the project
That’s a major pain point for so many freelancers out there! Lack of transparency at some point during a project is one of the main reasons projects go sideways.
Oftentimes, at the beginning of a project the client does not give 100% of the information required to finish it and starts popping up random (mostly ridiculous) requirements in the middle of it, resulting in a more complex implementation.
99 out of 100 times, the poor freelancer gives in, despite multiple attempts to push back. That happens again and again, as the client realizes how easy it is to manipulate the freelancer. It’s happened to the best of us!
The outcome is a product full of problems, with an unclear, ambivalent use and a ruined relationship that ends on bad terms. In more extreme cases, the relationship ends before the end of the project and, depending on the terms of the contract, no money changes hands. What a nightmare!
Is present and available
Of course, I don’t mean the client should be physically present at the same location as the freelance worker. Being present means being reachable by any means, like over the phone or on email.
Ad-hoc issues may arise and the client may be required to make an urgent decision. Chasing clients down and begging them to engage is a huge waste of time. The ideal client should always be available and ready to provide any input necessary.
People are busy and such thing is sometimes challenging. It doesn’t have to be, though. Regular catch-ups and scheduled snappy meetings, that do not distract the workflow, are always welcome.
Do I need to say anything about this? I think it’s self-explanatory. “Well” translates into any amount you find adequate to cover your needs and save money, as well. #keepingitrealistic
Pays on time
Needless to say that the payment plan of the whole project needs to be pre-defined ad officiated.
A sufficient deposit to secure the project, followed by a series of payments upon the achievement of specific milestones, is what most freelancers demand. All the details should be in the contract, including clauses that define what measures will be taken in the event of missed payments.
The ideal client would never miss a payment and would always pay in a timely manner, based on the satisfaction, from both sides, of the milestone achievement.
Trusts your talent and expertise
A good client would never question your abilities to do your job after hiring you. You have a stellar portfolio and various testimonials of clients who speak very highly of you. You may have even come highly recommended by a former or ongoing client.
So, if this new guy you took on, to help with his business, is giving you a hard time, then it’s quite obvious that you two are not a very good match. Abort! Abort! After you finish the project, of course, because you are a responsible professional.
Comes back with more work
It’s no secret that when a client comes back with more work, it means that the collaboration has most likely been successful and both sides have completed the previous project with mutual satisfaction.
An ideal client is not an one-off. Even when there’s no project in the pipeline, the client maintains an on-going relationship with external contract workers who have done an excellent job.
It’s good practice to keep valuable resources close, in the event of needing them in the future. Chances are there will be another contract and then another one and then another one… only next time, the client will know exactly who to turn to for help! (hint: you, silly!)
Gives you much deserved credit
A good client is not afraid to thank you for the hard work you’ve done. A great client will do that during the project and after it’s completed, without being asked to. A good testimonial is an incredible bonus for your portfolio; everyone knows that.
The ideal client will show gratitude and promote your work to their network. In that sense, your client will bring you more clients, by simply doing the most effective type of advertising: word of mouth.
In specific cases, your amazing client will credit your name in the product you created for him. Sometimes copyright laws require that anyway. However, it’s always good when the client is fully on board with that and doesn’t try to trick you out of it, to avoid paying royalty fees.
That means part of that awesome thing you created will also be your baby and you’d be sharing custody with your client. How awesome is that!