While it’s a harsh truth, it’s important to note that no copywriter or freelancer is entitled to high-paying reliable long-term clients.
After all, there are always many other self-starting professionals raring to take your place, perhaps at lower pay. Moreover, with the advent of AI, more and more companies are looking to cost-cut expenses.
That doesn’t mean you have little value to offer, quite the contrary. No matter what discipline you’ve developed for the benefit of your clients; be that writing, graphic design, branding, consulting, UX design, and many more we couldn’t possibly count, it’s important to assess and assert your unique perspective and voice.
However, when developing and then perfecting your craft to gather trusted, repeat clients, learning what not to do is just as important as how to apply your skill. In this post, we hope to help you in that direction, thus enabling you to better understand and prevent other harsh truths from defining your productive output for the worse.
Put simply – let’s discuss ten surefire means of putting off possible freelance clients.
Here are the things to avoid to gain and keep freelance clients:
1. Poor Communication
Freelancers do have a flexible work regimen, especially if they’re operating as digital nomads. But it’s also true that if your responses take too long or aren’t sufficiently informative, clients may look elsewhere.
Of course, you deserve to have essential rest when you need it, such as not being contactable on the weekends or public holidays. However, you must also allow for fielded messages to be responded to, even if that’s with an “out of office” response email.
You can also learn how to add live chat to your website so your customers can perhaps ask questions and become greeted with frequently asked question responses, or their messages can be attended to within a day. Without measures like these, freelancers seem hard to depend on.
2. No Portfolio Or Testimonials
Ultimately, a freelancer must secure the trust of those who use their services. This can only be achieved by a value-added proposal, put simply, showcasing how you’ve worked with other clients in the past.
From branded logos you’ve designed to web pages you’ve written – make sure to note them and gain permission from your past clients to display this portfolio proudly.
You can also ask them to provide testimonials or recommendations whenever it’s appropriate, giving you the chance to properly express the value of your brand through the words of another impartial contact.
It’s even better if you can identify them or the company they work for, as this adds credence to the overall testimonial. Welcoming public reviews can also be a good place to start.
3. No Revision Measures
Freelancers know how difficult some clients can be, but that doesn’t mean the clients aren’t entitled to get what they’re commissioning you for. As such, many freelancers will often allow revisions or redos of parts of the work according to the feedback from their clients.
Of course, many revisions can be prevented by getting a full, clear, and detailed picture of what the client needs. That should be sought in the “know your client” meeting, where you can ask questions you need clarification on.
The secret is to have a very simple revision structure – perhaps you’ll be happy to rewrite an article once, make small adjustments infinitely, and begin charging again if they want something completely new outside of the aforementioned specifications.
It’s a mistake not to have revisions as part of your freelance work (it’s just part of having clients), but it’s also a mistake to not lay them out clearly, as well as what categories of revision are available.
It’s very easy to feel nervous as a new freelancer, as the idea of someone paying you directly for your work may not have settled yet. However, it’s important not to oversell yourself to secure that client.
Be reasonable with your time. Take only as many clients as you can handle, so you don’t burn yourself out.
If you make mistakes, apologize, or redo the work. If anything, underpromise, and then slightly overdeliver. That will help you sustain a positive reputation.
5. Unclear Pricing Structures
All freelance clients you work with will have various requirements for their commission, and that will adjust the price you quote. That said, it’s important to keep some kind of consistency between clients and advertise that fact. This way, you can ensure clients select you and not others, but you can be fairly compensated for your work.
Let’s say you’re a digital illustrator. You might charge a certain amount for portraits, character designs, landscapes, conceptual art, and more. Consider the time to complete each artwork and quote accordingly. It’s okay to give yourself some wriggle room. Don’t undersell yourself, because when clients return they may take issue with raised prices after you charged so low before.
On top of that, consider if you’ll charge per revision, printing, or having certain work physically rendered. Include the cost of materials. If you’re given a bulk order, think about giving a discount for such a grouped commission. When you’re clear about this, or at least can give a basic estimation of how someone’s quote will be calculated, clients will feel more confident about using your services.
6. Inconsistency or Poor Time Management
Sure, you know when your deadlines are. But it’s also important to note that freelancers should work relatively consistent schedules to stay productive.
Sometimes, freelance clients may misconstrue inconsistent response time as unprofessionalism. They can get frustrated if they suddenly can’t reach you or receive a prompt reply from you, especially during those days and hours that they used to get hold of you. There are also times that they might require impromptu meetings in an instant.
Keep a consistent schedule, and if possible, try to match the hours of your clients. If you’re not in the same part of the world as they are, or you have your hours to keep, that could be understandable. Just try and stay consistent and make your working hours known.
7. Not Learning About Your Client
We mentioned the know-your-client or KYC meetings that many businesses conduct when onboarding someone for the first time. You can take that principle and run with it, too. That might involve a video conference so you can meet face-to-face and ask any questions you might have, and they can do the same with you.
Here, you may ask about the scope of the task, technical details, documentation process, etc., and learn more about their company. You can also set up web forms that help ask questions from clients and know exactly what it is they need, especially if there are any references involved.
Otherwise, it’s very easy to run with a too-vague prompt and return with a finished piece that they’re not happy about. Plenty of disagreements and misunderstandings can be avoided with a solid, healthy client meeting plan.
8. Ignoring Feedback
Sure, not all clients are perfect in how they communicate. That said, sometimes it’s worth taking on feedback that may not seem super pleasing to hear, especially if you’re developing as a freelancer.
Perhaps the client would have liked more updates while the work is underway, or maybe they want to use better payment methods because bank transfers seemed a little less secure than online payment platforms like PayPal.
When you represent yourself, any criticism can be seen as personal. That’s not to say it is, nor that criticism means you have nothing to offer.
Learning to separate poor feedback from constructive criticism can help you learn the responses that remain actionable, and those that don’t. This is a vital skill for anyone to learn, even if they’re running a large business.
9. Mishandling Disagreements
Sooner or later, a freelancer will encounter a disagreement with the client that seems hard to resolve. How you handle this can bolster your professional reputation.
Documenting all of your correspondence will enable you to review communications to see where the misunderstanding occurred. If there’s no misunderstanding, you may decide to rescind the right to your work and give a full refund.
If the client unfairly demands that you revise the entirety of your work despite you following the brief perfectly, you may contest it and ask them to pay for a brand new project.
Keep your communications clear and simple. Be firm and respectful. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. If they leave a public review, politely dispute it with context. When you can handle this professionally, you retain your reputation, not to mention your dignity.
10. Not Believing In Yourself
Don’t limit yourself as a freelancer. Don’t disparage yourself, even if you’re new in the business. You deserve to be paid fairly for your work.
As such, if you don’t believe in what you offer, you can’t expect clients to do the same. So, always give yourself some credit, and make others feel that you deserve it, based on the quality of your output.
We’ve identified some of the most common pitfalls that mire freelancers from getting new clients and/or getting repeat business from them. From poor communication to overpromising and not delivering accordingly, to not listening to feedback and not having self-confidence, there are many factors that can turn off potential freelance clients.
Think of the points we discussed here as warning signs, so you can avoid falling by the wayside or even into a deep hypothetical freelancing ravine that is difficult to get out of.
With this advice, we hope you can avoid turning off possible freelance clients and instead move forward with confidence and care.