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A Freelancer's Guide to Working with the Best Clients

So how do you as freelancers get and keep the best clients?

Entering the world of freelancing is an exciting journey, but it takes patience and time to land and keep the best clients. I came up with the following guide to provide myself, and others, a simple framework that can help you analyze potential clients and determine whether your existing clients are a good fit for long-term collaboration. By evaluating clients on these three key aspects, you can aim for a healthy and sustainable balance that will benefit your freelance career. If feasible, I suggest using a current or potential client as a reference while reading through this post. It might also be beneficial to jot down a rating for them in each of these areas on a scale of 1 - 10.


Vision & VALUES

First and foremost, make sure you have established your own vision and values. This clarity will help you attract clients who align with your goals and share a similar vision. For example, if you focus on nonprofits and mission-driven businesses, like I do, you’ll want clients who are equally passionate about making a positive impact in the world and your local community.

While you may not be opposed to working with profit-focused businesses, dedicating your time and energy to causes that matter to you will lead to more fulfilling and rewarding work. This alignment is crucial for long-term satisfaction and success in your freelancing career.



Freelancing can be a lonely endeavor, making the relationships you build with your clients incredibly important. Here are key elements to consider:

Trust: Ensure that there is mutual trust between you and your clients. This trust is the foundation of any successful working relationship. This can take time to build but as you work with someone it is important that they trust in your skillset and expertise and show you that. Though this is a two way street.

Communication: Good communication is essential. Be wary of clients who constantly harass you with last-minute requests or ask for more than what was agreed upon. Be clear on your boundaries and work with them on preferred times and mediums for communication. High-stress clients can lead to burnout.

Chemistry: Assess the chemistry you have with your clients. While this can be hard to gauge initially, starting with short-term contracts can help you determine if the relationship will work in the long run.

Building strong relationships with your clients will not only make your work more enjoyable but also increase the likelihood of repeat business and referrals.



Compensation goes beyond just financial aspects. While a higher pay rate is always desirable, consider the following:

Financial Compensation: Whether it’s a project fee, hourly rate, or a monthly retainer, ensure that you are fairly compensated for your work.

Experience: Each client presents unique challenges and experiences that enhance your skill set, making you more valuable and effective in the future.

Opportunities: Sometimes, a client can open doors to future opportunities. The experience gained from such clients can be invaluable and a significant part of your overall compensation.

Balancing these forms of compensation will help you grow both professionally and financially. My first large retainer client actually scored really high in this category but very low in the other two. The end goal for them was simply to make them more money and they were constantly stressed and anxious. So while it was hard when that contract ended it taught me such a valuable lesson about the importance of the first two.


Closing Thoughts

When you start freelancing, it might be challenging to adhere strictly to these guidelines. However, they should serve as a goal to work towards. Early clients provide invaluable experience, which can be considered a form of high-level compensation in itself.

Regularly revisit these considerations not only for potential clients but also for existing ones. Continuously adapt and refine your approach as you develop your offerings and identify what is most important to you. I almost always start with a 90 day engagement to gauge how things have gone and give both sides the opportunity to assess if it would be fruitful in the long run.


What do you think? How did the client you had in mind score? Is there a fourth aspect you have found helpful to consider?