Monday, April 09, 2007

How to Tell If a Client is Wrong for You - Before You Accept Work from Them

Sometimes, you won't know if a client is wrong for you UNTIL you're in the middle of a project for them. They're impatient, change the parameters of the work and/or expect more than what you agreed up on in the contract.

While you can't always tell beforehand, there are usually signs you can look for that will clue you in as to what type of client this is. Following are three:

Want to Achieve Freelance Writing Success -- in 30 Days or Less? Sign up for the Freelance Writing E-course: Launch a Profitable Freelance Writing Career in 30 Days or Less -- Guaranteed! Log on and register today!

1) Contract Negotiation: Most companies have a standard contract. If not, then, of course you should have your own.

If during this phase the client does not get back to you in a timely manner, looks at you sideways when you present a contract, and/or says that you should, 'Feel free to get started and I'll get the contract to you in a bit," I'd be wary of taking this client on.

Professionals understand that it is commonplace to work with a contract, and to not start the work until the contract has been signed by both parties.

So, if someone stalls, acts less than professional when you bring up a contract and/or assumes that you can get started without it, be careful. Anyone who treats a serious document like contracts this way may well treat you the same way when it's time to get paid.

A note about contracts: I use my own unless a company says that I have to use theirs. Usually, larger corporations have standard contracts that you must use. Please read over them carefully before you sign.

2) Project Parameters: In my business, I use what I call Project Spec Sheets. These lay out the parameters of a project, eg, turnaround time, work to be done and any specifics of the job.

Most editorial work can be pretty generic and even though you and the client may understand what you want done by verbally speaking, you should always lay out the project parameters on paper.

This document lays it out clearly so that both parties understand what is expected. If there is ever disagreement about what was to be done, you can always refer back to this.

Having a Project Spec Sheet does two things: i) signals your professionalism to the client; and ii) clarifies the project parameters for all involved.

Should you prepare this document, or should the client prepare it?

This document should be prepared by you and submitted to the client for his or her files. You don't have to obtain a signature (I usually ask my clients to simply initial the document), but it should be part of the file paperwork.

3) Payment Procedures: Usually, I verbally explain payment procedure, then it is repeated again in my contract. Terms might be, payable 30 days from receipt of invoice.

More and more clients are paying by credit card and/or online payment processors like PayPal.
Give clients quickie ways to pay like this, instead of the traditional invoicing system. PayPal even lets you send electronic invoices.

If a client jumps on using a quick payment method, this could signal that they are a forward-thinking, progressive company.

I'm pretty open in how I allow clients to pay, but if it's going to be a large project, I will always ask for partial payment up front, and the rest in installments, eg, when the brochure is done and before the start of web copy.

With a new client, you don't want to risk spending weeks on a project without knowing if you will receive payment.

The bottom line: When you are dealing with human beings, there are no 100% guarantees. Looking for tell-tale signs though can clue you in as to who might add to your bottom line, or take away from it.
Copyright Notice: May be reprinted with the following, in full: Yuwanda Black is the publisher of THE business portal for and about the editorial and creative industries. First-hand freelance success stories, e-courses, job postings, resume tips, advice on the business of freelancing, and more! Launch a Profitable Freelance Writing Career in 30 Days or Less -- Guaranteed! Log on to to learn how.
Like what you read here? Find the content useful and informative? Subscribe to the Inkwell Editorial feed (under the LINKS section to your right) to receive new content immediately upon publishing. OR, email your address to subscribe and receive job listings -- immediately!

No comments: