"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Monday, November 6, 2017

How to Become More Savvy About Client Selection




It's not unusual for a client to walk into a beauty salon with a photo to ask the stylist to make her look just like Beyonce. Or Jennifer Aniston. Or Halle Berry. Or...fill in the blank.

The problem? The request typically can't be accommodated because the individual lacks the hair length, hair texture, facial features, coloring, etc. to be realistically transformed into the celebrity she wants to adoringly emulate.

As I once heard a stylist say: "I'm a beautician, not a magician."

A similar challenge sometimes exists with unenlightened writing clients.

Here's their M.O.

They'll provide you with an example of a website, business card, blog style, or book design cover that they have seen somewhere and admire, that they'd like for you to re-create or execute with a fraction of the funds, resources, or timeframe. Some of these (otherwise lovely) folks are unreasonable in their expectations. While others simply have "champagne taste" on a beer budget.
Either way, it could add up to potential headaches, lost time, strained relations, and money for your efforts that you'll never see.

Which is why "smart" client selection is so crucial to your business operation, your sanity and your bottom line moving forward.

And I should know. Over the years of providing professional creative services, I have lost countless dollars from not being able to collect from clients who are sometimes "clueless" about what constitutes a valid contract and/or a billable task.

Don't let this happen to you. Though you'll find an abundance of articles online devoted to how to "pitch" a client, or which job boards to find work, very little covers client "screening".
Which is why I've got you covered.

Before we examine how to choose clients who are professional, prepared to do business, realistic and worth working with, let's address some of their characteristics and "tale-tell" traits.


  • They have a good, profitable business model and successful track record in their industry. Here's why: if they're not "in the black" and making money, ultimately they won't be able to afford to pay you.
  • They understand and recognize the difference between a service-oriented business and one that provides goods. A point of reference: far too many clients fail to realize that a freelance writer or service professional is compensated for their time, skill set and industry related knowledge.  

Here are a few related examples: a lawyer would charge you for a phone consultation even if they are not hired to represent you in a court case; a furnace repairman will often bill you a service charge to come out and look at your unit, regardless as to whether the corrective work is actually performed. Yet, I encounter so many people that don't think they should pay professional writers or creative consultants for a Strategy Session, or Ebook and information products, or Phone Consultations or "Picking their Brain."  A few months ago, I actually had someone to contact me about helping him with a business idea, who found my information on a directory listing for professional freelancers. Although it listed my rate clearly, he wanted me to help him for free. Go figure.
Just like a designer handbag might enhance one's personal image, professional services can enhance the bottom line of a business and should be valued accordingly.
  • They are respectful and responsive in their initial interactions with you.
  • They have a budget for their project and have no problems communicating it with you.
  • The budget for their project is commensurate with the scope, desired experience and level of the project. In other words, it doesn't pay $5.00 for a 1000-word article.
  • They know the difference between an independent contractor and a staff employee.


  • Start by seeking work through reputable job boards, where it's very likely that there has been some "pre-screening" done already. Sites like Pro Blogger, Writers Weekly, and Freelance Writing jobs are typically smart choices here.
  • Always do your homework. Before signing on the "dotted line" conduct a simple Google search to determine if there have been any complaints by other freelancers or questionable practices by their business. "Better safe than sorry."
  • Have an initial consultation, whenever possible, to determine if the partnership would potentially be a good fit. 
Questions to consider:
Is there a similar work ethic?
Do they have a compatible work style and personality?
Do they listen well and respect your input?
Does their mission, product or services align with your values or lifestyle?
  • Seek to get everything in writing.
  • Remember that "time is money."
  • Avoid working with clients who want to haggle with you about prices as if you were at a garage sale. From my experience, they will never understand and pay you your real worth.
  • Don't fall victim to the philosophy that "some money is better than no money." Not always. Choose wisely.
  • Don't fail to learn from your past failures. Experience can be a great teacher, if we heed it. 

Good clients are a blessing and the lifeline of any successful business.
If you want to become wiser about making money, making better career choices, and expanding your freelance business, become a "quick study" in the area of cultivating clients.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?
Anything that you would add here?

Image credit:
Be Smart, Pixabay.com


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  3. Excellent advice, as always, Jen. Appreciate your experience and insight.

  4. Thanks so much, Karen.
    I value your input.

  5. Great post. I especially appreciate the part about them being a good listener.

  6. Jennifer brown banksNovember 13, 2017 at 6:11 PM

    Welcome back, Carol.
    Thanks so much for your time and comment. I feel that a client who listens really values the writer's expertise and desires to make the most of their collaborative relationship.

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