Client Work History and Feedback
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Most advertisements for investments quote statistics about how much money they’ve returned for their investors. However, they usually end with a disclaimer something like this one: “Past performance is not a guarantee of future results”. Yet while it’s technically true that past performance is not a guarantee of what the future will bring, it’s just about the best predictor of the future. Clients understand this, which is why, when you apply to a project, the very first place they will check out to assess you is your work history and feedback. You should do the same with them, and for the same reasons.
Here are a few specific considerations to keep in mind.
In my opinion, the most important numeric metric in assessing the quality of an online freelancing client is how many projects they’ve completed. Or, even better, the total dollar volume of projects completed—since this really is about money, and a few large projects can be just as good an indicator of quality as a lot of small ones.
Yes, I think this is even more important than the customer’s overall numeric feedback rating. See below for more on that.
I should be clear that in saying that completion volume is important, I am not recommending only applying to projects for customers who have been around a long time. There are low-volume clients who are very good people to work for. And you should also not flatly discriminate against clients who are new to online freelancing. Give them a chance, both because you’d want that chance yourself if you were new, and because new clients can be the basis of excellent long-term relationships. For more on this aspect, check out my full discussion of special considerations when working with clients new to freelancing.
That said, in my experience, nearly all clients who turn over a high volume of projects are good folks to work for. Again, no guarantees, but an experienced client improves your odds. And as a further bonus, you won’t have to worry about wasting time dealing with issues such as the client not knowing how to use the site.
When the client doesn’t have a long track record, you can still make out okay, but you should pay more attention to other indicators and metrics.
All else being equal, the longer a client has been on a freelancing site, the more likely he or she is to be a quality client. There’s nothing magical about being on a site for years that makes someone a good person to work for, mind you—it’s just that people who are “fly by night” types don’t tend to stick around. If someone’s been active on a site for several years, it’s very likely that he or she takes freelance hiring seriously.
Of course, all else is not always equal, and longevity is only important in the context of the other factors described here. Specifically, the time they’ve been on the site is not as important as how many projects they’ve done, or how much money they’ve spent. Be cautious with clients who have been around for years but have very few projects completed—this can sometimes indicate “dabblers” who only use the site to “feel out” contractors before getting the work done elsewhere.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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