Finding Clients: The Screening Process

Freelancing Advice / Friday, January 5th, 2018

In the summer of 2016, about a year into my career as a full-time freelance writer, I came up with a list of criteria to help with finding clients. In this post, I want to share some of those ideas with you.

In general, I suggest giving precedence to clients that:

Account for Less Than 1/4 of Your Income

This has nothing to do with the client and everything to do with financial management. If you rely on clients who account for more than 25% of your total income each month, you’ll be completely devastated when you lose them. The problem persists as the percentage goes up. Rely on a client who accounts for more than 50% of your total monthly income, and you won’t be able to pay rent if they bow out. You’ll also miss a variety of client opportunities because you’ve been put too many eggs in one basket.

Require Less Than X Hours Per Week

Let’s say you’re willing to work forty hours a week. If your client requires more than fifteen of those hours repeatedly, it’s probably too much. Not only will the client account for too much of your total monthly income, but you’ll find yourself dreading the work. There is an exception to this rule. If you have a one-shot, large project to finish in a single week, that’s fine. I’m talking about ongoing work with a single client.

Have Solid Communication Skills

This screening requirement has everything to do with the client. How do they communicate? Do you feel that you’re getting as much information as possible? Are you receiving prompt responses and detailed answers to your questions? If the client fails to communicate from the beginning, you can’t expect their personality to change overnight.

Require Paperwork

Having a contract is more important than most first-time freelancers understand. Almost all long-lasting clients will ask for a W9 form and/or contract before any work is completed. You should plan on paying your taxes in full, so filling out a W9 form for each client will only make your life easier come tax season. Besides, having a signed contract shows that your relationship has been established on mutual respect – assuming, of course, that you can request modifications.

Pay Your Rate

This is, perhaps, the most important item on the list. Does your prospective client pay your rate? If not, you’ll either need to find a compromise or move along. As a writer, I charge a fixed rate per word. When a client expresses concern about my rate, I often weigh how long the project will take and how much the client is willing to pay. I determine an hourly rate. If the rate is less than $20 per hour, I walk away.

These screening tips will help when finding clients. They’ll also make your schedule more manageable.

Cassandra Bondie

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