Freelancing is a powerful way to work on your own terms and get paid what you deserve.
But it comes with its own share of pitfalls that can leave you feeling lost and confused.
I’ve been freelancing for over three years now, and in this post, I’m sharing the twelve red flags in clients I’ve learned to identify.
If you spot them during any prospect interview, run. Knowing this list will save you time and a lot of heartache. 💔
1. They ask you for a free sample
It’s fine to create if you have nothing to show.
But providing free samples of your work doesn’t make sense when you have a portfolio.
The clients can judge your skills from the work you already did.
If they insist on a free sample, it’s a red flag. They probably never intend to pay you, and are only looking for free work.
2. They pay low rates now but promise more $$$ when they get funding
Drop a “🖐️” in the comments below if you’ve heard this line before from a startup.
They promise money based on an “upcoming” funding round.
Based on statistics, funding can take years and you’ve no clue when your bills will be paid! Don’t fall for this.
Your wallet will thank you later.
3. They demand multiple edits for free
There’s nothing wrong with follow-up edits.
But each revision takes up extra time and effort.
If you don’t set a free limit for the number of edit rounds you’ll provide, the client might ask you for unlimited edits.
Create a ‘Two free revision rounds’ policy, after which every round will be chargeable. If the client refuses to accept, let them go.
4. They set vague deliverables
If a client isn’t clear about what they want, even your best work won’t make them happy.
This ignites the chain of unlimited (and frustrating) revision rounds.
Spot this flag asap and bid such clients goodbye.
5. They keep adding new to-dos without extra $$$
This happens because of scope creep.
It might not always be intentional. The clients sometimes forget your work scope.
The best solution? 👇
Call the extra work out to them and name your price for this.
If they agree, great ✅
If they don’t, it’s a red flag and you should save yourself.
6. They only offer criticism, never positive feedback
The best clients love appreciating what you did right. Their feedback motivates you and helps you improve where you went wrong.
The bad clients love criticizing what you did wrong. There’s never a positive word to be heard on their lips.
And you get crickets 🦗 for your good work.
7. They’re inconsistent with instructions
They introduce a new rule every time you connect. This can lead to misleading instructions and extra work on your end.
Such clients aren’t worth your time, no matter how tempting the paycheck might look.
8. They expect you to get on calls at short notice
There’s nothing worse than having a client who devalues your time.
Yes, the clients are paying you, but they don’t own your time. Your life can’t revolve around them to accommodate their whims.
If unexpected calls keep propping up with your client, it’s time to leave them to make space for better ones.
9. They micro-manage every small step
This indicates the client doesn’t trust you. So they micromanage everything to ensure you’re doing it right.
To deal with such clients — inform them of your boundaries.
If they still insist on leaving precise instructions for every step, leave them.
10. They don’t value your creativity
Writing is a creative field. And the writer is a creator. 👩🎨
Imagine working with a client who steals this creative power from you! 🙉
Not worth it, right?
11. They refuse to sign a contract
Instead, they try to force trust in you.
This is a major red flag! It’s best to let such clients go.
12. They don’t believe in reviews
If the client offers no review of your work or any guidelines for you to stick to, even your best work might not satisfy them.
Rather than shooting blindly in the dark, let such clients go.
Summing up, here are the twelve red flags in clients you should save yourself from as a freelancer.
- They ask you for a free sample
- They pay low rates now but promise more $$$ when they get funding
- They demand multiple edits for free
- They set vague deliverables
- They keep adding new to-dos without extra $$$
- They only offer criticism, never positive feedback
- They’re inconsistent with instructions
- They expect you to get on calls at short notice
- They micro-manage every small step
- They never value your creativity and ideas
- They refuse to sign a contract
- They provide no review of your work or any guidelines for you to stick to
Have you experienced any of these red flags as a freelancer? Leave your insights in the comments below.