Part 1: 12 Breeds of Clients and How to Work with Them
 By Jack Knight, Freelance Writer, Freelance Switch

There are loads of different types of clients out there and chances are, at some point, you’ll get to meet all of them. So, let’s take a look through some typical clients and see if you recognize a few of your own in there! Here are the first six:

Client Breed #1: The Low-Tech Client

How to Spot One:
Looks confused and disoriented when discussing anything high-tech; calls rather than emails; wants everything to be faxed. The Low-Tech client needs to go through everything twice to get it, but will then happily take your advice.

The Highs:
The Low-Tech client will rely solely on your sage wisdom for all things technology related. They will look to you as your technology savior, and will stroke your ego with their reverence of your knowledge and advice.

The Lows:
The Low-Tech client will need to be handheld through everything from setting up their email to opening up PDFs. Charge accordingly. They can also be particularly frustrating if they decide to “work it out themselves.” For example, a Low-Tech client’s idea of how a website should work is often not pretty.

How to Work With One:
The Low-Tech client needs to be handheld. Make sure everything technical about a job is in writing for them to reread at their leisure. This will save you a lot of time explaining things repeatedly. It’s also best to just accept that you will not be using a lot of the technology that makes our lives easier these days (email, online project management, etc) and should instead be budgeted in time for phone calls, faxes, and face-to-face meetings.

It is very easy to start to patronize your Low-Tech client unintentionally. As you can imagine, this can damage your relationship and even worse hurt their feelings. Make sure you balance the playing field by asking for their input in the areas they know about—their business. This will keep them happy and stop them from feeling the need to weigh in on your area of expertise—which can waste everybody’s time.

Finally, if you work in technology, make sure that your Low-Tech client knows how to use whatever product you give them!

Client Breed #2: The Disinterested Client

How To Spot One:
The Disinterested client is a strange beast—where most clients can’t wait to get involved in your work, the Disinterested client just wants things done with as little effort from them as possible. You’ll spot a Disinterested client at the first meeting when you ask them questions about their business, and are met with the minimal response. The Disinterested client will rarely provide requested information or materials, and will often ask you to complete tasks outside your area of expertise, because they “don’t have time.”

The Highs:
An Disinterested client will give you a lot of creative freedom, mostly because they have no interest in being involved. Their insistence that you “take care of it” may broaden your skill set and your ability to delegate to outside contractors. You may also gain experience making it work when you don’t have the information or materials you need.

The Lows:
The Disinterested client will ask you to take care of everything from copywriting (when you’re a Web Designer) to flyer design (when you’re a Copywriter). Sadly, they will often not realize that this should incur extra cost. The Disinterested client sometimes marries their lack of interest with wanting things done a certain way, producing a very hard to deal with client.

How to Work With One:
It is best to get into good habits early with your Disinterested client. A freelancer must be pushy with an Disinterested client, so get used to calling and emailing repeatedly. A friendly and humorous tone is a great help when trying to push them along. A Disinterested client generally isn’t trying to be rude or unpleasant—most of the time, they’re very stressed and crying out for a little help. If you can be straight with them that extra work costs extra money, either take on that extra work if you can, or use it as an opportunity to outsource.

A Disinterested client is a tricky client, but if you can manage to take care of them, they often become very loyal and happy to have someone that ‘takes care of business.’ Just make sure you are straight about costs, and be clear with yourself that nagging is unavoidable.

Client Breed #3: The Hands-On Client

How To Spot One:
The Hands-On client is a frustrated artist—as soon as they walk in the door, they will be telling you about their skills as an artist, illustrator, photographer, or writer. The Hands-On client already has a very specific idea about what they want, and usually has very little interest in your thoughts on the matter.

The Highs:
If you’re happy to just do exactly as they ask, no matter what you might think of it, a Hands-On client can be a good little earner. Almost always, there is little confusion as to what the client wants to see, and this can make these jobs easy.

The Lows:
If you feel you have an ethical responsibility to point out the flaws in your Hands-On client’s directions, you are headed for conflict. Hands-On clients secretly believe that they could do their job much better than you, and that there is little or no specialist knowledge you could possibly impart.

One oddity about working with a Hands-On client sometimes occurs when you give in to your creative ambitions and agree to do it their way. All of a sudden, your Hands-On client may accuse you of making them do all the work, or not doing your job. This can go as far as baulking on payment. Naturally, this is highly infuriating.

How To Work With One:
When you find a Hands-On client, the best thing to do is go with the flow. If you try to fight it, you usually lose, and the job winds up a lot harder than it needed to be. If your Hands-On client knows exactly what they want, then power to them; recognize that and give it to them.

Often, it’s a good idea to explicitly tell them that they seem to have a very specific idea of what they want, and that you will be following their direction; however, make it clear that if they would prefer; you are more than capable of doing it without their input.

Client Breed #4: The Paranoid Client

How To Spot One:

The legal papers come out almost immediately, and are elaborate to say the least. A Paranoid client will often not want to even discuss their project without getting you to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), and be prepared for a drafted agreement to be heavily pitched in their favor.

The Highs:
If you work with a Paranoid client, any legal agreement you sign should also be protecting you. So, as long as you don’t breach any part the agreements you sign, you should get paid.

The Lows:
You MUST get any major legal agreements looked at by a lawyer (and not the lawyer that works for them). As you would imagine, this can cost a lot of money that your client may not be willing to pay. Often within these documents, are a whole list of grounds for the client dismissing you without payment. Grounds might be that you miss a deadline for whatever reason (even if the Paranoid client is at fault).

From personal experience, I have always found the most Paranoid clients are the ones who seem to have the most problems as well. This happens because they are always on the lookout for evidence that they are being ripped off or taken advantage of. Needless to say, this means that you can easily wind up trying to straighten out points of legality with them, rather than doing your job.

How To Work With One:
It is not worth working with a Paranoid client for a small or low paying job. The risks far outweigh any possible gains. Besides, a personalized legal agreement is very expensive, so if they’re willing to spend a large sum on protecting their interests, they should be paying you equally well.

For a large job with a big client, you may wish to consider going for it—but even then, factor lawyer’s fees into your quote. Most companies have legal agreements because they want to protect themselves on sensitive projects, but some Paranoid clients use them in a predatory way. Remember that the Paranoid client paid more to be protected, so you should quote more to make sure you get a fair deal.

Client Breed #5: The Appreciative Client

How To Spot One:

The Appreciative client will shower you with praise and make you feel special—gosh, I love an Appreciative client!

The Highs:
The Appreciative client will make your life very easy, as they’ll often pick the first version of the first draft, and declare it perfect. They’re very enthusiastic and generally a delight to work with.

Even when the Appreciative client does not like something, they often word things in ways that make you happy to continue to work on the project, in order to get it pitch perfect.

The Lows:
They’ll make the rest of your clients look bad.

How To Work With One:
Sit back and enjoy the glory. Make sure you get them a very nice Christmas gift, and throw in a freebie every now and then. An Appreciative client is like gold to a freelancer, so do your best work, and make them feel like a VIP.

Client Breed #6: The Get-a-Good-Deal Client

How To Spot One:

The Get-a-Good-Deal client is a wheeler-dealer and believes that the price you first give is just a starting point for negotiations. You’ll know you have a Get-a-Good-Deal client on your hands, because agreeing on a price and job description always involves a bit of to and fro. Often times, Get-a-Good-Deal clients are successful entrepreneurial types who have haggled their way to wealth.

The Highs:
Get-a-Good-Deal clients are often great for getting repeat and referral work; having their fingers in lots of pies; and you can sometimes make deals that pay off well for you as well as them.

The Lows:
If you aren’t a good negotiator, or you don’t recognize a Get-a-Good-Deal client soon enough, you can wind up feeling taken advantage of, as they take whatever there is to be had. Unethical Get-a-Good-Deal clients are usually up for ‘no harm trying’ mentality that can see them trying to get out of paying for certain things—or, at their worst, bullying you for more work or discounts.

How To Work With One:
The best way to deal with a Get-a-Good-Deal client is to ‘fight fire with fire,’ so-to- speak. Taking a Get-a-Good-Deal approach back on them, usually negates their strengths, and ensures that you cut a fair deal. This means coming in high and then lowering your prices, and being very assertive on points of payment and workload.

                      Check back next week for the last six breeds of clients and how to work with them!

---Source: John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing Apr. 13, 2010 newsletter ( Jack Knight has been a freelancer for most of his working life and brings a wealth of experience to the Freelance Switch team (

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