The best kind of client.

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For anyone who has been freelancing as a copywriter for any length of time, there will have been the inevitable frustration of finding the right kind of clients.

I know for those of you are just starting out, especially as a result of being forced into freelancing through a layoff, almost any kind of client would be welcome. However, finding the right clients is essential  if you want to be profitable and grow your business long term.

Here’s a guideline to what I consider to be a ‘good client’:

  1. must understand the value of what a copywriter or consultant can bring to the table
  2. must be prepared to listen, not just talk
  3. must be prepared to invest some time and effort into developing the project with me by providing all the background information and relevant resources they have available – and if they don’t have this, to at least provide some contact with someone who does.  (I’m not talking about being handed everything on a plate and not having to do any research, simply being given access to existing information and people.)
  4. must have an idea of what they want to achieve, yet be open minded enough about the approach to consider my ideas if they differ from what they originally envisaged.  My expertise in my discipline gives me an ability to look at things from many different angles, often uncovering a hereto yet unthought of, yet highly effective approach.  This is part of what my client is paying for.  If they simply want their verbiage put into a better written form, then they need to make this clear right up-front.  Clarifying this is usually my first objective when interviewing a new client.
  5. must have the courage to implement suggestions that move them out of their comfort zone. I’ve often had instances where a client (and everyone whose opinion they ask) absolutely loves what I have produced… until it comes to time to publish it.  Then suddenly, they become nervous and begin pulling back, making endless amendments until finally, the project looks and sounds nothing like the original proposal.  Invariably this weakens the results once the project is implemented and the client is disappointed.
  6. must be prepared to work within deadlines as well as expecting me to keep to deadlines.  Obviously ‘stuff happens’, but usually, if realistic deadlines are mutually agreed upon at the outset, a client has as much responsibility to provide feedback, information or whatever forms their contribution, timeously.
  7. must be a good payer. Begging to be paid is not fun.  It demonstrates a lack of respect and a lack of value placed on my time and expertise.  My best clients have always paid in full, on time and often have added bonuses for higher than expected performance.
  8. must look at the relationship as long term.  Doing a one-off project to start out is fine.  It allows both parties to ensure that they can work together effectively.  But once a client is happy, then being treated as casual help in an on again off again manner doesn’t do much to inspire me to make that client my priority.  Most of my clients work with me for years – at least 6 or 7.  That way, I get to know their business and their market almost as well as they do and add to that a far broader experience and insight into the promotional aspects.

In my experience, much of the frustration of working with a ‘bad’ or ‘difficult’ client can be avoided by keeping this guideline in mind. It’s our responsibility as freelancers to set the stage right from the first interview so that clients understand what we expect from them and what they can expect from us.

Remember, you may be the first writer or consultant many of your small business clients have ever worked with. The parameters are new to them and if you begin on a bad footing, it’s much more difficult to get on a good footing with the same client later on.

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