How to get the best freelance clients: 10 qualities successful freelancers look for

Finding the best freelance clients can be difficult, but there are certain characteristics you should always look for.
How to get the best freelance clients: 10 qualities successful freelancers look for
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If you’re tired of low paying gigs on job boards, learn how to get the clients you want (and deserve): high-quality clients who are great to work with.

Are you looking for an easy way to identify the best clients so you can stop wasting time on the wrong ones?

Would you like to know what it takes to land a client who's right for your skills and will actually pay you what you're worth?

Do you struggle with the hagglers and the bargain hunters and want to know how do freelancers get high-paying clients?

If you’re nodding your head right now, we've got you covered. Growing a business can be tough, especially if you don’t have much spare time and have a lot to learn. It’s stressful to manage everything you have on your plate, but that’s where we come in.

We’re here to make sure you get the best clients and the best gigs so you can focus on what matters most: doing great work.

While overcoming obstacles like finding clients and projects that are a good fit for your skills and interests may sound tough, working with the best freelance clients helps you maximize your earning potential and make the most of your experience as a freelancer.

This blog post will walk you through all you need to know about identifying the best freelance clients: common qualities, red flags, best practices, examples, and more.


The 10 qualities of amazing clients that freelancers are (desperately) looking for:

Good freelance clients pay on time
Good freelance clients know the market value of your services
Good freelance clients need the specific skills that you offer
Good freelance clients are good communicators
Good freelance clients can give you a clear brief and explain their objectives
Good freelance clients have reasonable deadlines
Good freelance clients respect your time
Good freelance clients don't pretend to know everything
Good freelance clients respect your expertise and allow you to do your job
Good freelance clients value their relationship with their freelancers

Buckle up, because here we go…

The career-expanding discovery many profitable freelancers have made

So, what’s the secret that veteran freelancers have learned that helped them level up their careers?

Client selection — Being intentional about the quality of their clients.

Before you click away, disappointed that I mentioned something as practical and dull as client selection, hear me out. My intent isn’t to be a buzzkill as you learn how to become a better freelancer.

In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

I want you to understand that the quality of the clients you choose to work with is the difference between success and failure. That’s why you must choose your clients wisely.

All clients are not created equal.

<tweet-link>Working with high quality clients is the single biggest determining factor in whether you'll succeed as a freelancer.<tweet-link> You want to work with clients that add value to your business. 

Common advice says, "Finding new clients is largely a numbers game." but I'd argue it's numbers AND nuance. If you want to grow your business, you can’t just look for more clients; you have to find the right clients.

Client selection is an important strategic decision, because who you work with affects the:

  • Health of your business
  • Types of clients you attract
  • Value you have to offer those clients

Every freelancer needs to determine what type of client they want to work with and have a formal process in place for marketing to their ideal client. 

Many freelancers take on unprofitable clients because they don’t know any better. They don't know how much time each project will take or how much money they should charge for their services. As a result, they often price themselves too low or agree to work too many hours on projects that don't pay well or pay at all.

As Seth Godin said on the Unemployable Podcast by Brian Clark:

“…the first thing to consider is: your clients define you. If you are going to do the work that makes your clients happy and you’re going to be judged by the work you do, then it makes an awful lot of sense to choose clients who will require work that you can brag about later.

Which raises the question: What kind of clients do you want?

This is an important choice in the life of a freelancer, to decide who we work with. Are you being intentional about the kind of clients you take on?

On that same podcast, Godin asks freelancers “Who will you choose? And who are you serving?”

99% of freelancers will take any client they can get, even though that kind of desperation makes for a poor business strategy if you want to make it big as a freelancer.

One way to gain the confidence to turn down bad fit clients is to remember that <tweet-link>you’re not competing for jobs; you're vetting opportunities and choosing people and businesses to partner with as BOTH of you grow.<tweet-link> The high quality client, no matter whether it's a startup or a Fortune 500 company, plays the game at the highest level. And you should too, if you want to work with high-end clients. 

Your prospective clients will have a lot of questions about who you are and what makes you qualified. They'll want to know that they can trust you with their business. 

You need to exhibit confidence that you are someone who understands their goals and can help them achieve those goals.

So, how do you know if a potential client will be a good fit? Here are seven signs:

  1. They have great relationships with their existing vendors and partners
  2. They have an established process for getting things done
  3. They communicate clearly and often about what needs to be done next
  4. They pay on time and don't nickel-and-dime you for every little thing
  5. They take responsibility for their mistakes instead of blaming others when things go wrong
  6. They treat their employees well (this includes contractors)
  7. They invest in themselves so they can grow their business over time

Which brings us to...

The 10 qualities of amazing clients that freelancers are (desperately) looking for

As freelancers, many of us have this fear that if we start charging too much for our services, clients will pass us by and take their business elsewhere. This is a legitimate concern. It is NOT, however, the determining factor in how much you should charge for your work or how you should select your clients.

I’ve been a freelancer for 15 years and have worked with thousands of clients. In that time, I've learned what makes a good client and what to look for when deciding who to do business with. If you're looking to get the most out of your freelance career, then read on!

Good freelance clients pay on time

When a client pays on time, they’re showing they respect you and your work. They pay on time because they value you as a professional and want to make sure you know it. If they’re not paying on time, then perhaps the relationship isn’t worth your continued attention.

Consider this viral cautionary tale from redditor arenangelos, a freelancer who asked the community for advice after a client ghosted him for months when payment was due. 

Reddit user working as a freelancer asks the community for advice after a client ghosted him for months
Angelo Arenas/arenangelos

If your clients are always late in paying or dispute their invoices, then there is something wrong with the way their business works—and possibly with their attitude towards freelancers in general.

💡Pro Tip: Requesting payment from clients before you begin working is the best way to ensure that they pay you on time.

Additional Resources:

Good freelance clients know the market value of your services

As a freelancer, you need to know the value of your services. This is extremely important because it will help you determine if an offer is worth taking or not, and it will also help you set your rates accordingly. For example, if I was a web designer and someone offered me $20 per hour to design their website, that would probably be a deal I wouldn’t take because the market average for my type of work should be closer to $75 per hour.

You may think, “but what about all those people who charge less? They must be good at what they do." Well, not necessarily. You see, anyone who charges less than what they are worth in the market usually does so because:

  • They don't want money as much as other things (like fame or the opportunity to work with a well-known client)
  • They don't understand how valuable their skillset is
  • They don’t know how to scope projects, so they underprice their projects

💡Pro Tip: Don’t expect clients to pay you what you’re worth if you don’t know your value. Take time to honestly assess your skillset, experience, and everything else you bring to the table before you decide on pricing for your services.

Additional Resources

Good freelance clients need the specific skills that you offer

If you’re the best person for the job, or if your skills or experience are unique, then you'll get more work. That’s because your client knows that they won’t find someone else who can do what they need done.

If you want to increase your chances of getting hired, make sure that all your skills and experience align with what the client needs. When it comes to freelancing, it pays to constantly work on developing high-demand freelance skills.

Don’t only work on your technical skills. You should also develop your "soft" skills like communication, leadership, collaboration, and personal drive.

💡Pro Tip: There are countless resources you can turn to when you want to learn a new skill. Consider Youtube tutorials, Skillshare, and Udemy. Many popular companies also offer courses that can help you, like SEMrush, Google, and even Hectic Academy

Additional Resources

Good freelance clients are good communicators

Good communication is key to a successful project. 

It’s often overlooked, but communication is the most important part of your job. Communication requires two-way street: not just talking, but listening as well. Good communication is about being open, honest and respectful.

Your freelance career can only improve if you work on improving your ability to pitch ideas, give and receive feedback, and actively listen to clients when they talk to you.

The new Hectic Communicator feature makes communicating with clients a breeze. Use it to keep all communication with your clients centrally organized, archivable, and easy to find and reference. You get:

  • Business phone line
  • Focused email sync
  • Universal inbox

Plus, you can use Communicator to create a healthy line between your work life and your personal life (Currently available in US and Canada - UK and Australia coming soon).

💡Pro Tip: No matter the medium, if you want to communicate effectively, optimize your message for your audience’s understanding. 

Additional Resources

Good freelance clients can give you a clear brief and explain their objectives

If you're a freelancer, then you know how important it is to have clear objectives. If you don't have clear objectives, then you won't have a clear brief. And if you don't have a clear brief, then your client will be confused about what they need from you—which means that it's likely that they won't be satisfied with the work that comes out of the project.

If your client can give you all of this information up front and explain clearly what their objectives are (and why those objectives are important), then you’ll have a much better chance of success because everyone involved will know exactly where they stand and what needs to happen next.

💡Pro Tip: Consider developing a standard project brief. If your client has a brief for you already, great. If they don’t, you're prepared with a way to collect all the information you need to do your thing!

Additional Resources

Good freelance clients have reasonable deadlines

When you're starting out, it can be hard to turn down opportunities that seem like perfect matches. But if a client is unreasonable when it comes to deadlines, he or she may not be the best fit for you—or your business.

To figure out whether a potential client's deadlines are reasonable, consider the following:

  • How many hours does this project require? If you haven't worked with this particular company before and don't know much about their processes and culture, take some time to find out how long similar projects have taken other freelancers in the past. Ask other freelancers who've completed similar work for them how long they took. If it seems like a given deadline is unreasonably short given the scope of work involved (or impossible), then ask some questions! You should never hesitate to negotiate on behalf of yourself and your business.
  • Is my schedule flexible enough that I could realistically meet this date? It's important that you have as much information as possible before committing yourself so deeply in any direction; if there isn't enough flexibility in your schedule right now or down the road with respect to meeting those deadlines (because let's face it: things happen!), then consider whether accepting would be worth potentially damaging relationships with future clients who might need something smaller done sooner rather than later because they're planning ahead better than others do.

💡Pro Tip: Your client is relying on your expertise, which includes a fair assessment of the project timeline. In most cases, clients will accept the timeline if you can provide solid reasoning for it.

Additional Resources

Good freelance clients respect your time

It’s important that your client respects your time. If they waste it, then you will have difficulty completing the project within the agreed upon time limit.

Also, if a client makes you rush to complete their task, there’s a chance that mistakes will be made or quality will be compromised. You want to avoid this at all costs.

Another thing that clients should never do is make you wait around for feedback or approval on their project before moving forward with it. This will cause delays and make things unnecessarily difficult.

💡Pro Tip: Consider adding a clause to your client contract dealing with lapsed communication and project delays. For example, my client agreement includes language like: “Communication: Client shall provide, in a timely manner, all tools, information, and documentation requested by Company in connection with its Services. Client shall respond within 7 business days to communications from Company regarding work performed under this Agreement. If Client fails to respond to communication from Company regarding the work to be performed under this Agreement within 14 days of such communication, then this Contract shall terminate automatically. In the event of such automatic termination, Company will not refund payments made by Client.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.

Additional Resources

Good freelance clients don't pretend to know everything

People come to you because they don’t know how to do something on their own... something that YOU know how to do. 

Working with you (if it’s a great fit) will be easier and less expensive than them trying to do it alone, wasting time and effort (and money) when you can shorten the process for them!

Top tier clients recognize that you understand business and their specific business goals and appreciate it when you have ideas to make their business better.

💡Pro Tip: The best clients are humble enough to know when to defer to your expertise. When you encounter clients who are, “ahem”, less than humble, try your best to educate them without engaging in any of their interpersonal shenanigans.

Additional Resources

Good freelance clients respect your expertise and allow you to do your job

David Ogilvy once said, “Don’t hire a dog and then bark yourself.”  

In other words, if you hire someone to do something, then get out of the way.

It’s natural for clients to give you some pushback when you recommend doing things differently. But sometimes clients will try to micromanage your work or get you to do something that’s not in line with your expertise. 

You’re the expert with a plan, and you’re interested in what’s best for your client.

If they know you stay on top of things, they’ll be happy to rely on your expertise, especially when working with you can reduce costs or increase revenue.

💡Pro Tip: The secret to keeping your project running smoothly is to manage client expectations. Make sure you clearly articulate all the steps it’ll take to reach your agreed-upon goal so both parties are on the same page. Politely remind your client that this is your area of expertise and that they hired you for your knowledge and experience.

Additional Resources

Good freelance clients value their relationship with their freelancers

A client who is interested in getting to know you and your work but also wants to develop a long-term relationship with you is worth the extra effort. They’re more likely to pay promptly and leave good feedback.

Quality clients are appreciative, not entitled. They want to work with you long-term because they recognize the value you bring to the table.

If you want to scale your freelance business, you need to get repeat business from a diverse and stable portfolio of clients. Developing trust-based relationships with your customers will be key to growing your revenue.

A few good clients who value your work and are also looking for long-term partnerships usually lead to a better work environment than lots of clients who assign only one or two projects and then look for cheaper options.

💡Pro Tip: Good relationships don’t happen by accident. They take work (and organization). A good CRM can help you stay on top of contact information, client birthdays, and other information that helps you build a relationship with your clients. Try using Hectic’s Client Portal feature if you want to perfect your client experience.

Additional Resources

A new (almost free) resource to help you massively up your freelancing game

Batman has Robin.

And now, you have Hectic by your side to help you generate amazing results for your business.

Want to manage all your freelance work in one place? Done. Want to save time when creating invoices? Done. Want to see what’s going on with your client in one, streamlined dashboard?

Also done.

Hectic pulls your freelance work into a single, clear dashboard so you can manage client relationships, track deadlines and deliverables, and quickly generate proposals, contracts, and invoices. Get real-time updates and stay on top of every detail without using multiple apps linked together by duct tape and spit.

Sounds like a tool you could use to optimize your freelance business? Don’t waste time and set up your Freelancer OS™ today.

Over to you...

Finding the right clients can make all the difference in your freelance career.

Working with high-end clients isn't just about the money. It's about the opportunity to work with people who are at the top of their game and have the resources to help you grow your business.

When I say "high quality client," what I mean is someone who takes risks, who is willing to experiment with new technologies and workflows, who wants to grow their business by working with other top-tier professionals, and who is looking for someone like YOU!

Maybe you’ve worked with clients who didn’t meet these criteria, and you can probably think of a few right now. But those are the ones who are costing you time and money. By focusing on finding clients who meet these 10 qualities, you'll know that they’ll be easier to work with and more likely to pay on time—and that means more money in your pocket at the end of each month.

The more of these qualities a client offers, the better, because each one is crucial for getting work done with maximum efficiency and quality—and ultimately for building a successful career.

Ultimately, what makes a freelancer successful is the ability to find and retain clients who are of high quality. Fortunately, it's not hard to do: just be responsive, show initiative, and create professional relationships. And if you do those things with all your freelance clients, don't be surprised if your project list is packed with only the best one in the market.

Get started using Hectic for free by clicking here.

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Anthony Sills
Anthony Sills is the Founder & Content Strategist at Professional Pen. He helps SasS and tech companies create marketing content that measurably attracts more customers using proven strategies, tactics, and frameworks.
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