When starting out as a freelancer, we are tempted to say YES! to every opportunity that comes our way. Sometimes though, we go against our better judgement and accept new clients and projects we know are going to be a pain. Finding a client that fits your style, workflow and will bring the best out in you is the most important thing to keep you sane and to continue to love what you do. The last six months I've been taking a look at how I choose to work with certain clients and why some just don't make the cut.
DETERMINE YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
You ask your clients who their target market is but do you ask that to yourself? Defining an ideal client, industry, size, project scope and budget will help you quickly determine if a client is going to be a good fit. To help you with this, look back at past projects and determine what you liked about each step of the process and why. For me, my ideal client is a small business owner who is taking a leap of faith to start their own business. They want to start off small but already have plans on where they want to be in 6 months, 1 year and 5 years. They understand their industry, competitors and have a good sense of who they are and what sets them apart. They are tech savvy, promptly respond to emails, have a sense of humor and are interested in getting to know me as a person and not just their designer. Most important, they understand that branding can change their business while strategy can make it successful.
TRUST YOUR GUT
If you're getting an uneasy feeling after receiving emails or meeting a client face to face it's a good sign that this project is not going to be a good fit for you. We all take jobs because we have down time or need the money but the stress, late nights, and too-many-revision workload just isn't worth it. Trust me! I had a really difficult client this past year who was arrogant, also in the design industry so didn't trust anything I did, and didn't give my questionnaire or process any attention (in fact, he refused to answer the questionnaire claiming that I should know exactly what he wanted). After our initial phone call I KNEW this wasn't a client I wanted to work with but the project seemed great at the time. A lot of effort was wasted and I was the one that ended the contract after the project went out of scope too many times.
EVALUATE IF YOU WANT THIS NEW CLIENT AND PROJECT
Time and money are big factors in taking on new projects. You should never sell your skills short and make sure to take time to breathe every once in awhile. Each designer has a certain niche and it's important to step out of that from time to time but make sure that the learning curve is manageable and the project is appealing. As I expand my own skill set by collaborating and taking classes I'm also beginning to schedule my new clients better and even started a wait list.
Taking on clients and projects that aren't a good fit isn't worth the time you spent agonizing over it. We've all had clients from hell and I know there are designers from hell out there too. But once you find a few perfect clients your life seems to run more smoothly and you are super jazzed of the work that was created.