I’ve earned millions of dollars as a freelancer over the last 12 years. How many rich freelancers have you met? Not many. I’m one of the rare few.
That’s because the primary strategy of most freelancers is the same – do more work and get more clients.
There are thousands of articles that focus on this idea. Getting more clients, being more productive and doing more work.
But there’s something even more important that successful freelancers rarely talk about that makes all the difference – something that you don’t hear about too often.
The single biggest determining factor in your success as a freelancer is simple and everything else pales in comparison; seeking high quality clients.
A dollar is not a dollar
I’m a very successful freelancer in the areas of web design and marketing. I tried just about every approach over the last 12 years and all of it made an impact on my freelance business.
During my freelancing career, I accumulated several million of dollars – and it all happened in the last 5 years when I made the leap from signing any client to focusing my energy attracting and signing only a select few clients – the best clients.
I quickly learned that a dollar isn’t a dollar. It’s about the quality of the client and surrounding yourself with the right people – not just whoever can afford to pay for your freelance services.
Ever since I started being picky about the clients I worked with, everything changed.
When I decided to seek only high quality, “A” class clients and avoid the rest – I broke free and grew my business in ways I never dreamed of – all because I shifted the type of clients I pursued.
The highest earning and most successful freelancers, at one point or another, decided to set a high standard for who they’ll choose to work with.
While most freelancers criteria for clients is “anybody who has money,” the successful freelancers criteria for clients is exactly the opposite. They vet, filter and carefully choose who they’ll work with.
They chose to elevate their game and take their freelance careers to the next level – a level where the only acceptable clients are the top 1% – the most professional, highest paying, serious and successful people out there…and leave the other 99% of “low quality” clients for the rest of the mediocre freelancers to compete for.
That’s where you want to be. The 1%. Otherwise, you can look forward to more headaches and less money because you were too scared to become an elite freelancer.
Forget everything else you’ve learned or read about freelancing
Find a way to make it to this top level and change your criteria for the clients you pursue – and you’ll see a new world of possibilities and profits that seems impossible for a freelancer.
Don’t be a starving artist
It amazes me how many how most freelancers don’t consider the quality of a client – and simply look to sign on a new project or client without much thought as to what it will do to their business long term.
Everyone says that freelancing is a difficult, low paying “starving artist” type of career where you can do what you love but at the sacrifice of a decent living.
This may be true for most freelancers who shoot for the middle – but for those who shoot for the 1% of high quality clients need not apply to these statements.
There is a reason you don’t see a lot of rich freelancers. It’s because they all compete for the middle ground and ignore the “high quality” clients and their ability to skyrocket your freelancing career. They just want to make money so they sign anyone they can.
They want to keep their schedules filled so they take on any work that comes their way – and it holds them back more than they realize.
Stop competing with the mediocre freelancers for low quality clients.
While 99% of freelancers will take any client they can get, this level of desperation makes for a shitty business strategy if you want to make it big as a freelancer.
Volume doesn’t matter
In the world of freelance, whether you’re a writer, designers, programmer or anything in between, the key to success is and always will be curating the right team of clients and customers that work on a higher level.
Freelancers often think that being successful is about signing and working with as many clients as possible – and that sheer volume is what determines how much you’ll earn.
It seems simple enough – but in the real world of freelancing, volume and profits have no relation.
What type of freelancer are you?
There are generally two different types of freelancers.
The first kind is the most common. It’s centered around the idea that you must sign on as many clients as possible, doing more freelance work and earning more money.
In this strategy, the type of client isn’t important. A dollar is a dollar.
The other type of freelancer is rare. This kind of freelancer values and seeks out specific clients that expects higher results and are willing to spend more.
These clients aren’t as concerned with price as they are with finding the right freelancer that can deliver the best results and can develop a fluid working chemistry with over the long term.
The successful freelancer seeks long term relationships and works closely in a small and tight knit group of the best clients. They’re not concerned with volume and more concerned with the quality of the client and how they fit into their big picture plan.
They decline projects frequently and choose their clients carefully because they understand that the dynamic of having the right type of clients and projects will determine their success – and their profits will increase as a result.
The fear of having no work causes most freelancers to work with anyone any everyone they run into, without realizing the type of clients they work with will determine how successful you’ll become as a freelancer.
It’s natural to fear having no work as a freelancer. Most freelancers want to fill up their schedules and sign as many clients as possible. They would rather earn $5,000 off of 10 clients instead of just one.
In other words, it’s a volume business.
But it’s not that simple. The fact is, you’ll have difficult clients that are hard to please. You’ll have clients that want you to work for cheap. You’ll undoubtedly run into clients who don’t value your time and demand more from you than they’re willing to pay.
Avoiding these types of low quality clients means you can always be moving forward and growing. Working strictly with high quality clients means there’s no one to drag you down. You can only go up.
Eventually, I learned that a dollar doesn’t equal a dollar. I would much rather work with a higher paying client who is reasonable and easy to work with, because I know they’ll value my time and will allow me to finiah the project smoothly. I also know I can spend more time on the project because they’ll be paying top dollar for my time.
These high end clients are less common than the typical client. I would occasionally run into a high end client by accident and think it was just a fluke.
99% of my clients were difficult, cheap and made my job as a freelancer more difficult.
I never realized how much smoother and more profitable me freelancing career could be if I siny chose to target only those 1% of perfect clients.
When the 1% became 100% of my clients, my business skyrocketed. Not only profits, but stability and peace of mind.
If you want to become truly successful as a freelancer, you need to seek high end clients exclusively. There’s no other way to make it big as a freelancer.
What a “high end client” looks like
A high end clients isn’t always easy to spot but once you get used to looking only for these types of customers, you’ll notice them right away – and stop trying to work with any other kind of client.
For my freelancing business, it’s my number 1 rule – to only work with high end clients. Period.
High quality clients understand your value
You’ll never find a high end client saying moronic things like “I could do this work myself but I don’t have time time” or “I bet what you’re doing is easy and I could do it if I really wanted to.”
The high end client understands and appreciates your value. They aren’t dillusional and are willing to pay top dollar because you can do what they can’t – or you can do it much better.
They pay a fair price because they value the skills you have. They aren’t DIYers. They’re professionals just like you.
They aren’t concerned with price
Of course all clients care about price. But the high end client puts pricing at the bottom of their list.
While most clients hire freelancers based on who can provide the cheapest quote, the high quality client cares more about your quality work, the relationship, and sees the big picture.
They know what you do as a freelancer will add value to their business. They’ll pay more than others because they want extra attention on their project.
Low quality clients are the exact opposite. They want extra care, time and attention but don’t want to pay for it. These kinds of clients can’t be satisfied and won’t help grow your freelancing business. They’ll just drag you down.
They are fair
The high quality client understands what your work and talent is worth. They’re fair with not just with the budget but the timeframes and deadlines because they know good work takes time.
They are seldom unfair or unreasonable, treating their freelancers the same way they would expect to be treated.
They know you’re on their team and an invaluable part of their success.
Low quality clients act as if they are on a different team, constantly trying to get something for nothing. They hold their freelancers to unfair and unreasonable standards because they are paying you – and they think that gives them a sort of power over you. They want more than they paid for and they don’t put much value on antrhjng aside from the fact that they’re paying you and they should be able to demand whatever they want.
In short, they’re unfair. They’re unfair about everything – price…timelines…everything.
The typical client will try and get a freebie. They’ll look to get something extra without paying extra. They want to be treated special without earning your respect.
The high end client doesn’t do this. If they need something more than originally agreed upon, they’ll gladly pay the additional fees because that’s what’s fair.
They know you are talented and they definitely know that skilled freelancers are hard to come by. So they’ll always treat you fairly and in turn, your relationship becomes stronger and you value them as a client. They get this.
They won’t apply pressure or “scope creep” to try and get something for free because they have integrity – they’re in it for the long haul and as a high end freelancer, you repay their integrity with great work and a long term working relationship.
They understand that you get what you pay for
The high quality client, whether they’re a startup or a Fortune 500 company, plays an elevated game. And so should you if you want to work with high end clients.
They play on a higher level on every level. They’re not afraid of big numbers or ambitious goals. They’re successful because of this and it shows.
They are willing to pay more for better work because they always pay more for the finer things in life. If you charge more, they know it’s worth it because they are likely used to paying higher premiums for everything else in their life.
The high quality client spends more money to acquire the best people because they understand that you get what you pay for.
The low quality client doesn’t get this. They think that they can get a Ferrari for the price of a Honda, and think the same of their freelancers. They demand a level of quality or work that they aren’t willing to pay for – not just with their freelancers but with everything else in their life.
Because of this, the low quality client will lie and break promises to try and get something for nothing – and that makes them difficult clients on every level.
They have bigger budgets
You don’t need to worry about the high quality client tearing your proposal to shreds because they feel it’s way too expensive.
The low quality client won’t just say it’s too expensive for their budget – they’ll say your proposal is too expensive for anyone and will act like your budget is insane.
The high end client won’t tell you how to do your job or pretend to know what your work is worth.
They approach any project with a realistic sense of worth and although they want to pay a fair price, they are far more concerned with the work quality and relationship than just price.
Unlike the typical client, they don’t select their freelancers based on the price of their quotes – which is the main driving force among your average low quality client who only cares about price.
They know the best freelancers don’t offer discounts and there are lots of people wanting to work with them.
So they are willing to allocate larger budgets because they know it’s the only way to get high quality work out of their freelancers.
High quality clients want value – not cheap quotes.
They are already successful
The high quality, ideal client is one who is already successful.
The low quality client is typically not successful and in turn, the typical behaviors of an unsuccessful business person applies to their search for a freelancer.
The high quality client understand what it takes to become successful and they have these admirable qualities – which in turn makes them a good client that you want to do business with.
Because they are cut from the same cloth as other successful entrepreneurs or managers, they understand that high quality work comes at a price – and they’re willing to pay for it.
Low quality clients want high quality work but they rarely want to pay for it.
While most clients tend to jump ship when they find a lower priced freelancer, the high quality client prefers to establish long term relationships with freelancers that are on the same page – someone who is and knows how to be successful just like them.
When you are able to offer them consistently great work and service, they’ll stick by you – regardless of price.
You’ll seldom find a high quality client shopping around to save a few bucks because once they find the right freelancer that fits their level of high standards – and they’ll appreciate and reward you for it.
Low quality clients are constantly looking for a better deal while high quality clients find and hold onto great freelancers – and they don’t mess with a good thing because that’s what successful people do.
They don’t micromanage
Successful people make great clients – simple. Because they’re already successful, they understand all the things a mature and established business person needs to know to get ahead.
One big rule successful people understand is that you don’t get anywhere by micromanaging talent. You let people do what they’re good at and let them do it freely because that’s how you get results.
It’s the immature, unsuccessful and mediocre person who thinks micromanaging every aspect of their projects will yield results.
The high quality client, aka the successful business person, naturally knows that micromanaging their freelancers will hurt he quality of work and strain the relationship.
They leave you to do what you do best and won’t stand in your way.
This means your projects with high quality clients will run smoother and faster – allowing you to grow your business and then over work consistently without distractions or hickups.
They aren’t interested in hovering over you or compensating for their lack of confidence by continuously second guessing your work and trying to be better than you at what they’ve hired you to do.
The high quality client knows they know less than you in whatever field they hired you for to freelance in. They will let you do what you do best and give you the freedom to do it – just like ant successful business person should.
This means you have the room and time to grow your freelancing business without having to worry about pointless meetings or explaining endless technical things to your client – they have no interest in wasting your time when.
Low quality clients are unsuccessful people and unsuccessful people love to put their hands into everyone else’s business.
The high quality client never micromanages. They’re smart enough to know what they don’t know.
They pay on time and in full
The high quality client understands the importance of a great working relationship with their freelancer. They know paying late or disputing invoices won’t do anything except make their freelancers take them less seriously.
The fastest way to make a client less of a priority is when they constantly pay late – and high quality clients know how dangerous this can be to their relationship which they cherish.
The low quality client doesn’t care aboug their relationship with their freelancers – so they pay late and always have something to say when it comes time to pay. They’re constantly testing your relationship and devaluing themselves to their freelancers by making problems.
When I was working with every client that walked through my door, I was constantly having to chase down clients to pay their invoices.
They would make excuses or worse, try and get extra work done for free and wouldn’t pay their invoices until I conceded to their every whim.
Once I cut these low quality clients out and focused only on high quality clients, this no longer became a problem.
When you don’t need to worry about getting paid, your business runs smoother and your work quality skyrockets.
High quality clients are also very generous. You’ll see that high quality clients are the first ones to send gifts.
Every year during Christmas time, we receive thousands of dollars worth of gifts from our clients – gift baskets, expensive wines, caviar, gift cards – you name it.
Because high quality clients value relationships and understand that the work I do for them as their freelancer yields success and profits for their business – they work hard to keep our relationship positive.
They won’t do anything to jeopardize their relationships with me – so they always pay their invoices quickly and in full, and show appreciation whenever they can.
They understand what’s at stake and they know they can’t just find another freelancer who is crucial to their business.
The low quality client is always testing the waters, paying late and trying to get away with something.
High quality clients don’t mess with a good thing, ever.
They don’t know everything – and they won’t pretend to
The low quality clients I used to work with for the first 7 years of my freelancing career would be the first to undervalue my work.
They would pretend they could do what I do and would try and make me free as though they were doing me a favor by hiring me.
Low quality clients will often say moronic things like “I could do what you do if I wanted to” or “maybe you can teach me how to build a website so I can do it myself and not have to spend money on it.”
Any successful person – aka a high quality client – will admit they don’t know how to write copy. Design websites. Write code. Whatever.
They know they need these services but they don’t foolishly pretend they know how to do it.
They take your advice seriously and listen to your ideas. They know what they don’t know and they won’t be a know-it-all or use their supposed skills to leverage a lower quote.
They are humble and realistic. They take you seriously and you awl aus want to surround yourself with these types of high quality clients who appreciate your talents.
They’re fiercely loyal
The biggest difference between the high quality client and the low quality client is loyalty.
Loyalty is a huge characteristic of successful people in general. Because most high quality clients are also successful people, loyalty is obviously part of their strategy.
They don’t see their freelancers as a replaceable part of their business. They aren’t comparing prices or trying to get more from you without paying.
Rather, they value their freelancers and know they are a critical part of their team.
High quality clients want loyalty and understand they will get it if they give it.
I am incredibly loyal to my clients because they are loyal to me.
They know they can save money by going elsewhere or shopping around. But they see the bigger picture and value your high quality work. Loyalty means not always looking for a cheaper alternative or jumping ship when they find a lower price somewhere else.
Once they find the right freelancer, they will do whatever it takes to continue working with them because they’re loyal.
I am always amazed at how far clients will go to work with me. They’ve stuck with me for years.
They will gladly pay extra when I increase prices. They’ll put their name on my waiting list. They’ll refer me to anyone and everyone they meet.
When I find a great client, I am extremely loyal to them. I’ve turned down large offers from competitors of my clients. I’ve traveled to meet them in their cities. I’ve sat in on meetings with them out of goodwill because I wanted to make sure they weren’t getting screwed over by someone else.
A high quality client will value this kind of loyalty and will reciprocate it constantly.
While the low quality client will replace you to save a few bucks or try and get some free work or discounts in exchange for referring you to their friend, a truly high quality client is loyal and won’t play these games.
They are loyal to you as you are loyal to them, and they won’t let anything get in the way – especially price.
The high quality client will voluntarily offer to pay more if they feel like they are asking you to do more work than agreed upon. They’ll sincerely look to you for advice and will maintain a fiercely loyal attitude to your relationship – because they know you would do the same for them.
High quality clients will stick with you for years and refer you to their friends and colleagues.
Take a close look at your roster of clients and you’ll see a pattern.
These loyal clients are the ones who will help your freelancing career skyrocket because they’re on your team and looking to make you more successful.
Low quality clients don’t care about you. They only care about the price of the latest proposal or if they can get something for free. These kinds of clients ain’t grow your business. They’ll just slow you down.
While you waste your time bending over backwards for lots of low paying, low quality clients, you’ll see that the handful of high quality clients in your business are the ones who are propelling you forward.
After a while, I noticed that the 1% of high quality clients I worked with were responsible for nearly all of my growth and success – while the other 99% of low quality clients were just headaches that were dragging me down.
When I cut bait on these low quality clients and focused on my 1% I saw my freelancing business reach new levels almost instantly. Having a handful of high quality clients increased my business revenues and success tenfold – and I would choose to have a select few loyal, high quality clients in my corner than 1,000 low quality clients.
It’s that powerful.
Be a successful freelancer. Make the decision to focus solely on these “A” class clients. Approach every new potential client or project by trying to find these types of customers and build your freelancing business to cater to these people.
It may means declining some projects or cutting away many of your low quality customers. It might mean takings short term loss.
But once you’ve aligned yourself correctly with these high quality clients, you’ll immediately start to see the benefits:
- You spend less time chasing projects and work on larger, more profitable ones
- You can charge more – much more
- You will get paid in full and on time
- You will get referrals to other high quality clients because high quality clients know other high quality clients. Just like low quality clients only know other low quality clients
- You’ll have less problem clients and smoother projects that are predictable and stable – allowing your business to grow faster and stronger
- You won’t be giving discounts or doing free work to keep your clients happy
- You won’t just earn more money – you’ll be happier and your business will be easier to run
- Your freelancing business will grow by leaps and bounds.
So don’t wait. Figure out what your ideal client looks like and make it a point to focus only on them. You’ll be amazed how much further you’ll get when you line yourself up with winners and stop wasting your time on the losers.
It might seem like a big change – and it is – but you’ll soon realize it will be the smartest move you’ve ever made.