Part 2: 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 last six:

Client Breed #7: The I’ll-Know-It-When-I-See-It Client

How To Spot One:

The I’ll-Know-It-When-I-See-It client shares much in common with the Disinterested client except in a more frustrating way. Their indecisiveness and inability to articulate what they are after makes them one of the few clients that it is generally best to steer clear of.

The Highs:
If you can produce the “It” for this type of client, you can possibly win them over and turn the I’ll-Know-It-When-I-See-It client into a very appreciative and trusting client who rejoices in having found someone who has their same ‘vision.’

The Lows:
If you don’t produce the “It” this type of client can quickly become highly frustrating as you stab franticly in the dark, while worrying about blowing your budget and timeframe.

To make matters worse, the I’ll-Know-It-When-I-See-It client often becomes agitated or unhappy with you, if you don’t magically produce “It,” leading to strained relations and a project that rapidly goes south.

How To Work With One:
In order to work with a I’ll-Know-It-When-I-See-It client, you need to remember two things:
- First, be VERY clear with how much revisions cost. If you don’t do this you WILL blow your budget
- Second, unless you can produce “It,” you could be in for a rough project--accept this fact.

Client Breed #8: The Always-Urgent Client

How To Spot One:
All their emails are ‘highest priority’ and their couriers are always red-hot. They work on weekends and late into the night, and think that everyone else does too. Additionally, the Always-Urgent client often seems to think they are your only client, and that their job should therefore be your highest priority, as well as theirs.

The Highs:
Since there is never any room for prolonging a job, the Always-Urgent client will usually okay jobs relatively quickly. They often won’t have time to okay a quote so you end up charging by the hour.

The Always-Urgent client generally knows when they are being unreasonable, and will do their best to pay you quickly, which is handy for cash flow.

The Lows:
The Always-Urgent client adds stress to your life, and if you want to keep them, you may need to work late nights or over the weekend. You may also endure repeated late night phone calls and nonchalant requests that you build websites, organize photo shoots, and produce detailed illustrations in, oh…say a few hours!

How To Work With One:
The Always-Urgent client must be taken with a grain of salt. Everything will be desperate so you must decide when it is worth the inconvenience to yourself and your other clients. You must make it clear to the Always-Urgent client when their requests are unreasonable, right from the beginning. As always, keeping this light-hearted and jokey is the way to go, thereby defusing situations where you might otherwise come off as aggressive.

The Always-Urgent client is similar to the Disinterested client in that they both require extra care. You may need to chase up the Always-Urgent client if you know a job is coming up, in order to give yourself more time. And, as with the Disinterested client, if you take care of them when it counts, they will be loyal to you.

A word of warning though: Having multiple Always-Urgent clients can lead to severely stressful situations, as everything is needed now, now, now! So, unless you thrive on pressure, you are advised to limit the number of these types of clients you engage with.

Client Breed #9: The Decision-By-Committee Client

How To Spot One:

Usually inhabiting the world of large corporate clients, the Decision-By-Committee client can still be found in smaller operations where they share their decision making with a spouse, neighbor, or dog. The Decision-By-Committee client is one who lacks a single point of authority, and for which every decision must be approved by many people.

The Highs:
Since Decision-By-Committee clients don’t have anyone making firm decisions, it is sometimes possible to just do whatever you think, and sneak it through under the radar. This can easily backfire though, so be careful.

The Lows:
The Decision-By-Committee client at its worst is achingly slow to work with, and when many people have their pet peeves, you can wind up with a highly inferior product to show for the work. Decision-By-Committee clients almost always reduce to the lowest common denominator, and if there is one person who dominates, they are usually the one person you wish didn’t dominate.

How To Work With One:
Unfortunately, Decision-By-Committee clients are a fact of life when it comes to working with large, corporate clients, and this is one reason why it is important to charge high when dealing with the big guys.

It helps to be firm and quickly identify the stronger members of the committee and target them for responses, while trying to win them over by conceding lesser points and sticking to your main guns.

Client Breed #10: The Doormat Client

How To Spot One:

The Doormat client is the client who puts up with anything and just keeps coming back. They are usually very unassertive and seem to be content waiting ages for you to get back to them or accepting less-than-perfect work.

The Highs:
The Doormat client is often also very appreciative which is always nice. It’s also relaxing to have a client who doesn’t mind waiting around.

The Lows:
Unfortunately, Doormat clients often bring out the worst in freelancers. Without the pressure of a potentially angry client, a freelancer can easily become laissez-faire about their work, and wind up taking advantage of the client’s passive nature.

How To Work With One:
The Doormat client requires great discipline to make sure that you stick to your timeframes and deliver the goods. If your client doesn’t protect themselves, then it is up to you to do so for them.

While you may wish to take advantage of their generous nature on occasions when you are stressed, you should try your best to treat them the same as every other client.

Client Breed #11: The Budget Client

How To Spot One:

Every client is on a budget, but some clients just seem that much tighter than the others. The Budget client can be the result of doing a friend or relative a favor, or equally just a regular client who never has any cash.

The Highs:
Budget clients are sometimes appreciative of the work they are getting done so cheaply—though, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

The Lows:
Budget clients are cheap—and at their worst, still expect the same service and workload as their higher paying brethren. This makes them both annoying and bad for business.

Budget clients are at their worst when they exhibit traits from other clients such as ‘Always-Urgent’ or ‘Paranoid,’ in which case its just not worth it.

How To Work With One:
Make sure your Budget client realizes they are on a budget, and therefore, their work may not always be first priority. You probably can’t get those extra changes or revisions in, because it simply doesn’t make good business sense. If your Budget client gets aggressive or manifests other negative traits, accept that they aren’t worth it, and let them go.

Client Breed #12: The You-Should-Be-So-Lucky Client

How To Spot One:

The You-Should-Be-So-Lucky client is much cooler than you and they know it. They generally have a cool, but low paying project for you, and are in an industry everyone wants to work in…think music, film, and fashion industries in particular.

The Highs:
The right You-Should-Be-So-Lucky client looks great in your portfolio, and your friends will think you’re cool. You’ll make some handy contacts and your professional credibility will probably benefit. You’ll also be hanging out with the cool kids—TAKE THAT HIGH SCHOOL!

The Lows:
You won’t be paid much, and the You-Should-Be-So-Lucky client will act like they’re doing you the favor, not the other way around. If you do enough jobs for a You-Should-Be-So-Lucky client, you will start getting jaded about the industry, and feel mistreated for your efforts.

How To Work With One:
The You-Should-Be-So-Lucky client can be a great asset to your portfolio, but that will be the main reason to do the job. Because everybody wants this type of job (until they’ve actually got one) there are many talented, but green freelancers, more than happy to work for almost nothing. If you are a student this can be a great thing to do, but for a seasoned freelancer, it can impact your cash flow. So, pick your You-Should-Be-So-Lucky clients carefully, and use them sparingly to impact your portfolio or break up the monotony of corporate jobs. And, of course, make sure you enjoy being that damn cool!

---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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