If you’re planning on hiring a freelancer or small business to work for you, and you want to know how to be a good client, this article is for you.

As a freelancer/independent contractor, I have encountered some amazing clients. The kind of clients who make me want to do the work for free. The kinds of clients who say “There are things I know that you don’t and there are things you know that I don’t. The project will be amazing if we both educate each other.”

And I have also encountered some horrible clients. The kind of clients who made me want to quit my profession and live in a cave away from people the rest of my life. The kind of clients who say things like, “Can you do 10 hours of work for me by Monday? Payment? Oh yeah, I can through you a few dollars when it’s done.”

When I really thought about the difference between these two kinds of people, I realized I could probably create a simple guide that teaches you how to be a good client. Many people have had bad experiences in the past and as a result, become a bad client without meaning to. They may not understand what is expected of them and as a result, find themselves with a negative experience without really knowing why.

If that’s you – read on! If you’re a freelancer who needs to set boundaries early – read on! Here are some guidelines to remember when going into a new relationship with a freelancer or small business owner.


Don’t hire me if you don’t want to

More often than not, I’ve had people hire me or try to hire me when they very obviously were not ready. There is this pressure to move your business forward that some freelancers – like web designers, graphic designers, consultants, etc. – may inadvertently put on you. I know I’m guilty of this myself. But it’s only because we know our services can help you grow.

That being said, if you aren’t in the place – financially or mentally – to hire someone, make that clear. We are usually more than happy to talk to you, consult, and explain what you may need in the future if we understand you aren’t ready to hire just yet. There is nothing worse for either side than hiring someone to do something that you don’t actually want to do or can’t follow through with yet. It makes the whole process harder and wastes everyone’s time and money.

Do your research, but listen to me and trust me

You will run into some people who may be trying to scam you or who may be completely full of it. But at the same time, if you’re hiring someone to perform a service that you yourself don’t know how to do, please recognize that and find some humility. It’s totally fine to do outside research. In fact, most freelancers appreciate a client who is already knowledgeable about the subject at hand. It means you’ll ask the right questions and know what you want.

At the same time, if you’re looking to hire an expert, treat them as such. Second guessing and doubting someone consistently only builds mistrust and bad energy. If you’re doubtful about something, ask questions in a non-accusatory way. Send along an email along the lines of, “Hey! I noticed you did x-y-z yesterday. I was curious about what the benefit of that was?”

Be respectful of my time

Just because someone is a freelancer and doesn’t have an office, LLC, or overhead doesn’t mean their time is not valuable.

I’ll say it again.

Just because someone is a freelancer and doesn’t have an office, LLC, or overhead doesn’t mean their time is not valuable. 

It seems to be a common mentality that hiring a freelancer is like granting a favor to that individual and that they are lucky to have your business. This is not true. Many freelancers get bombarded with requests for services and they have chosen you out of many. They have a lot of other things to do; not only work for other clients but the things they need to do on a daily business to keep their business running. Not to mention their own personal lives.

If your freelancer sets office hours or deadlines, you should respect them. If they send you an email, reply in a timely fashion (less than 24 hours is best). Most can be flexible, but please don’t expect your freelancer to be available 24/7 just because they don’t work in an office. Please don’t expect it to be okay for you to miss deadlines just because you’re working with a person and not a corporation.

Be informed

The best clients are proactive clients. The ones who listen, pay attention during meetings, take notes, do their own research, and ask questions. Before asking a out-of-the-blue question of your freelancer, ask yourself a few things:

  • Is this something that has been explained to me before?
  • Is this something I can Google and find an answer for?
  • Is this something I need to ask immediately or something that can wait until our next scheduled conversation?

40% of questions I get asked either have been answered by me in an previous conversation, are available with a simple Google search, or can wait. No one appreciates being woken by an email at 4am with a question that was already addressed a month ago.

Don’t go into it with a negative point of view

Perhaps you’ve dealt with a freelancer or small biz owner in the past who totally screwed you over. Maybe you think you’re paying more than what you think the service is worth. It happens. It sucks. But please don’t treat every single freelancer in the future as though they’ve already wronged you or as though they are trying to rip you off.

Often, I’ve spoken to potential clients who treat me as though I’m working in my parents basement as a hobby. They immediately adapt this idea of who I am and what my values are. Not only are they usually inaccurate, but they are offensive and devalue everything I have worked to achieve. Freelancers tend to work harder than people who work for agencies or corporations because they not only have client work to do, but they run a business all by themselves. They are more often than not very hard-working people and deserve your respect until proven dishonest.

Be completely clear and honest with me about expectations

There are no assumptions in a business relationship. If you want something, you have to ask for it in the clearest way you can. A freelancer will always appreciate getting more information than needed as opposed to not enough information. By hiring a freelancer, you are not hiring someone to think for you. You’re hiring someone to do something that you don’t know how to do. That being said, explain everything you need from your end as much as you can, then set them loose.

Set aside time to work with me

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried connecting with a client who is too busy to talk to me, doesn’t return emails or calls, or gives short answers without detail or attention. Again, it all boils down to respect. If you want me to make this project a priority, you must do so as well. This doesn’t mean you should make yourself available 24/7, dropping what you have to do to talk to me. But be willing to schedule regular meetings to discuss roadblocks. If you’re too busy when you get a call or email, send a quick message letting me know and telling me when you will be free to answer. Shortened, yet informative responses are better than no responses at all.


There you have it! Are you a freelancer with client horror stories or suggestions for future clients? Leave them in the comments!

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