Inevitably every freelance writer comes to realize the importance of prescreening new clients to avoid winding up with nightmare projects. Prescreening can help separate the tire kickers from those clients who are seriously ready to get down to business. Early in my business, before I understood the importance of separating serious clients from bargain hunters, saving me frustration, headaches and precious time.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Some of my best clients sat on projects from months while checking me out, asking lots of important questions and comparing my skills with other writers before deciding to use my services. I am respectful and kind to anyone inquiring about my services, but I’ve learned how to recognize serious inquiries from the “not-so-serious” ones.
Discussions begin with “We’re on a Budget”
Honestly I assume that anyone who approaches me to handle a project is working with a budget of some sort; but when a prospect starts the conversation explaining budget limits, or keeps bring up the budget subject in conversation, nine times out of 10 I’m dealing with someone looking to get something for nothing.
Reluctant to Provide Needed Information
It’s very simple really – in order to provide a client with a final project that meets his/her expectations, the client has to supply the writer with information. As cut and dry as this may sound, there are many businesses out there that don’t see it that way.
I was hired to work on a project for a local mid0size business this past summer. During my initial phone conversations with my contact I explained how I work and the information I would need in order to complete the project. In the end I was unable to get the information I needed so we parted ways amicably. Although he said supplying the information wouldn’t be a problem, I found myself sending several unanswered emails requesting this important information. In the end I removed myself from the project.
Frequently Pulls Disappearing Acts
Hopefully you’ve never had the displeasure of dealing with this client. He/she is eager to get started on the project, but as soon as things get rolling you can never get in touch with them. For example, they take two weeks with not attempt at contact to return your agreement, make the down payment, or respond to a simple question about the project.
Expects You to Drop Everything When They Call
I’ve only dealt with this type of client once and believe me when I say once was enough! This type of client acts as if his/her projects are more important than anyone else’s. My one time experience involved a client who called at all hours of the night, on weekends and demanded instantaneous responses to emails (and I’m very diligent about responding to emails throughout the day). Trust me it’s no worth working your last nerve.
Insists on Face-to Face Meetings or Phone Conferences
I’ve talked with other writers about in person meetings and many of them prefer them so this might just be my own personal pet peeve. But many times when I’ve met with clients that insist on face-to-face or phone meetings nothing comes of it. This is why I began charging for my time (when meeting in person).
I don’t experience problems as much with clients who like to discuss everything over the phone, although phone conversations can become time sucks if you don’t control the call.
What red flags you watch out for when prescreening new clients?