Unless you found a way to turn unsolicated redesigns and good intentions into money, as a freelancer, you will need to get clients and you’ll need to make sure they are the right ones.

In the book, Good to Great (A book that aged poorly as soon as the GFC struck), Jim Collins writes that “…you need to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and the right people on the right seats”. He wrote this in regards to “great” companies and their employees but the same holds true for freelancers and their clients.

Here are some of the tips and tricks I use to get the right clients.

Contracts are a Girl’s Best Friend

As a freelancer, we’re out in the world with our perverbial dicks in the wind, that is to say we are on our own. We don’t have to be though, our best friend can be our contract. Make sure you have a contract that backs you up and your interests whilst being clear and concise enough to put your client at ease.

Resources like Killer Contract are a good place to start. You’ll want to make sure you end up sitting down with a lawyer sooner rather than later to make sure you are all covered.

Put the money where your mouth is

One of the things in your contract should be your payment structure. I think this is the easiest way to seperate the wheat from the chaff.

How? I ask for 50% of the project fee upfront.

It’s a big ask but it shows trust and dedication to your work and the project. If you haven’t done your job in selling your services then they’ll bork at this. If your prospectives aren’t willing to front the cash without a counter offer, that’s an early warning that trouble will be on the horizon.

(Reader if you want to learn more about my payment structure, read my article about Value Based Pricing)

No Spec Work

If a prospective is asking for spec work before signing a contract, step back. That’s unpaid work, something a freelancer can’t afford to do.

You can do a few things about this:

1) Do the spec work, you might get the job or they might cut and run with free work.

2) Slap a meaty spec fee on top of their tab and get to work. When you deliver the spec work you better get that contract signed.

3) Thank them for your time and explain to them why you don’t do spec work. You might end up with the client anyway, if you have clear reasoning. Be ready to walk away.

Which brings me to my next point.

Be prepared to say No

Prospectives may take advantage of you, try and negotiate a cheaper price, create unrealistic timeframes and deadlines, expect more than you can give.

If you get that itch in the back of your head, the feeling of undue pressure, take the time to think over what they are asking and be ready to say no.

Don’t put yourself in a position where you’ll be constricted.