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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  Finding and Evaluating Online Freelancing Projects
      >  Factors for Assessing the Quality of an Online Freelancing Client

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Client Communication Capabilities
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Client’s General Attitude and Demeanor
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Reasonableness of Expectations
(Page 1 of 2)

When you encounter a project listing you should assess it overall in terms of how reasonable the client is being in terms of his or her expectations of the contractor to be hired. Expectations depend on the specific task at hand, but generally encompass issues such as the following:

  • Work Versus Budget: How much work will be done for how much money.

  • Quality: What the quality level of the work will be.

  • Speed: How quickly the work will be completed.

  • Project Interaction: What the client expects from the contractor during the course of the project.

  • Support: What assistance the client will receive from the contractor after the project is complete.

The expectations of clients fall in a wide spectrum, from ones who are quite demanding, to others rather forgiving, with a whole lot of shades of gray in the middle. The more flexible you can be in adapting to the needs and personalities of clients, the more money you’ll make as a freelancer. However, there are some clients whose expectations fall on the far ends of the scale, and these tend to be problematic: you need to learn what to watch for, and then avoid these clients if at all possible.

Unreasonably High Expectations

High expectations from a client can be a challenge to a good freelancer, but also set up a great potential for disappointment. Western society tends to view perfection as a noble goal, but working for a perfectionist can be an incredibly frustrating experience. Quality contractors prove their worth by being able to live up to high expectations, but this sets them up to fall into the trap of attempting to achieve the unachievable.

Unreasonable expectations usually fall into the same categories I listed in the bullet points above:

  • Too Much Work For Too Little Budget: This is the most common unreasonable expectation, and usually the easiest to spot. I remember one time seeing a project listing where someone wanted a list of every domain name on the entire Internet. Budget? Under $100. Good luck with that...

  • Quality: There’s nothing wrong with demanding quality of the contractors you hire, but some clients take it to ridiculous extremes. Even the best of people are still people, and make mistakes. Watch out especially for snotty clients who claim that they will impose “penalties” for any errors they encounter in the work. I’ve even seen listings where the client said he would not pay at all if even one mistake was found in an editing job. You want perfection? Hire an angel.

  • Guaranteed Outcomes: Beware clients who orient their projects not around a task but rather a specific outcome that involves factors beyond any freelancer’s control. There’s a difference between hiring someone to write an ebook, and demanding an ebook that will win an award, or achieve a certain sales volume. Similarly, it’s common to see projects with requirements like “Make my site #1 in Google for searches for ‘bouncing haggis’”. A good search engine optimization specialist can improve a company’s web site so it will place higher in the search results for a particular set of keywords. But nobody can reasonably make a guarantee about where the company will show up in Google search results. Never offer guarantees you can’t fulfill, and avoid clients that make such demands, because you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

  • Speed: Clients in a hurry can sometimes have ridiculous ideas about how quickly work can get done. Sometimes they’ll offer extra money to get the project completed quickly, but often they will not. Be very careful before applying to these projects, as you can put yourself in a bind before you know it. Note that on occasion this happens because the client doesn’t understand how long it takes to do something, and you might be able to set him or her straight, but it rarely works.

  • Project Interaction: You should expect the client to want you to communicate promptly, but you also need to set reasonable limits. If the client seems like he or she is going to micromanage you, run. If the client insists on your phone number or instant messaging IDs, consider that a very strong warning sign that you’re headed for a bad experience.

  • Support: All freelancers should stand by their work, but there are limits. I’ve seen clients list $100 projects where they expected the contractor to provide bug fixes for free for a period of a full year after the work was completed. Do you really want to be on the hook for a full year of support for that much money? Not me. I’ve even seen some employers try to insist that they be allowed enhancements for a period of time without paying more, or say they won’t pay until a number of weeks after the work is complete. Do not apply to such projects.

Notice a common theme here: a poor match of the expectations relative to budget. Almost anything can be done if you’re willing to pay for it: want perfection, or super-fast work done, or hourly updates, or five years’ of support? Sure, that’s possible. The problem is with clients who want these goodies but aren’t willing to pay for them. And that’s usually the case when you see these demands in project listings.

Sometimes, though, you even find clients asking for things that are literally impossible: not achievable at any price. I once saw a listing where a client requested a program that could extract arbitrary formatted data from any web site, no matter what technologies it used, and irrespective of size or design. Frankly, if I could figure out how to write something like that, I’d be sipping a drink on a beach in Tahiti right now.

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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012

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