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Rimidesigns Screening Clients

Advice on How to Screen Clients

When freelancers talk to prospective clients, they’re sometimes so eager to land the assignment that they skip a crucial step – making sure the client is actually someone they want to work with.

Freelancers don’t just have to take work because it’s in front of them. They can screen and evaluate clients to see if it’s the type of work they want to be known for and the client understands and values their expertise. Not only can they evaluate prospects, but they should. Otherwise, working with an ill-suited client who wasn’t properly vetted can take longer and add unnecessary stress and possibly resentment on both sides.

1. Scope out their online presence

If you’re designing a new website for a client or writing for their blog, you’ll obviously need to understand the current state of their website or blog. An outdated website isn’t necessary a turnoff, because after all, that’s why they hire you.

While you’re at it, don’t limit your research to the client’s own website. Also check if the company has unresolved complaints on forums or sites frequented by other freelancers, or forums or professional groups focused on the specific type of creative work you do.

Are they going through bankruptcy? Do they have trouble paying their freelancers on time? One or two complaints (especially if they’re not recent) may not be cause for concern. However, repeated posts from vendors about late payments or by unhappy customers who couldn’t get their concerns resolved could be a major red flag.

2. Ask if they’ve worked with freelancers before

The single most important question to ask prospects is whether they’ve worked with freelancers before, and if so, how that experience went.

If they haven’t worked with freelancers before, they may need more hand holding to understand how the process works and the differences between freelancers and employees.

If they’ve had unpleasant interactions with freelancers in the past, try to find out why things went sour. Did the freelancer miss deadlines or turn in shoddy work? Did they refuse to take calls on a holiday weekend?

Here, you might need to read between the lines, since you’re only getting one side of the story. But you might get an early warning that this may be a challenging person to work with.

If the client loves working with freelancers and does so often without issues, that could be a positive sign.

3. Find out who will be your main point of contact

Asking a prospect to appoint one person helps them get clarity on who’s in charge of the project. There’s too much room for scope creep if they don’t appoint one person.

If you get feedback from 2 or 3 people and they disagree, you have to figure out who you go with, and it makes the revision and review process longer. If they can’t decide who your contact person should be, there might be a rockier revision process.

4. Nail down payment details

Try to agree a budget and payment process before you invest too much time and energy discussing other aspects of the project. Caginess about budget can indicate that a client doesn’t value the work or hasn’t budgeted adequately for it. If they’re constantly bringing up budget or saying, “There’s not much budget for this one, but we’ll have more budget down the road”, that can be a red flag.

Ask about budget, their accounts payable process and any other processes/details about money. If they don’t know, tell them you need to know. Clients who insist on glossing over payment details (“We’ll sort it out later”) or who balk at signing a contract or paying a deposit before you get started, could be more headache than they’re worth.

5. Get complete contact information

Some freelancers communicate with clients exclusively through email. But if they go silent on email or you need to follow up on an unpaid invoice, it’s wise to have other ways of contacting them, including a phone number and a physical mailing address, in case you need to send a demand letter.

Besides the steps listed above, it’s smart to do a basic gut check before taking on a new client. As part of the start process, score prospective clients on questions like, “Do you seem interested in collaborating with me? Do you understand my work?” Even if the prospect has a pristine online reputation and a willingness to send a deposit, they could still be a bad fit if you just don’t see eye to eye.

SOURCE: Fast Company

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Advice on How to Screen Clients

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