A guest post written by Rachel Andrea Go.
Remote work, particularly when you can choose your clients, is rewarding. You are essentially supporting and enabling the businesses and causes you admire.
In the ideal world, you will only ever work with clients you are 100% behind and enjoy working with. That will not happen.
However, you can build a strong pipeline of clients when you continue to improve your skills, network and add value, and have success stories ready to share.
How to select great clients
Remote work gives you more control over your schedule and your clients. However, it also makes you more vulnerable to clients who don’t respect your time. Learning how to recognize and select great clients will put you in control of your work environment, so that you can build great relationships with the people you work with and continue to enjoy working remotely.
Here are a few qualities you should look for in your client relationships.
Any client you work with should be able to communicate well and easily. This is often more difficult with remote work, simply because you can’t just walk into the office to discuss something.
Some people struggle to communicate over certain channels, so you must figure out preferred communication methods and availability. For example, if a client is in Australia, you most likely won’t get replies outside of their work hours.
Similarly, if your client has a different editing or information sharing pattern than you, you’ll have to find compromises (ex. they prefer to use mind-maps and you communicate better over direct text).
They use compatible tools and software
You should aim to find clients who can onboard quickly, give you access to all the accounts you need, and hit the ground running. If your client’s entire system is on Windows and they want to run everything on a virtual server not compatible with your MacBook, it’ll be a continuous challenge to work with them unless you update your tools.
They value your time
Clients who value your time will make calls on time, pay you on or before an invoice is due, and respect the time limits scheduled for meetings. They will also value your rates, and won’t haggle over payment timelines or deadlines.
Why is this important? A client who doesn’t value your time will often set unachievable deadlines, may continue to pile on work even when you’re overloaded, and may not come through on promised work.
They have established and organized processes
A disorganized client has the potential to still be a good client, but the best clients have good project management and organization (or give you the tools to handle PM).
Ask for an overview of a company’s processes and structure, and how it will relate to you before accepting a contract or permanent position.
For example, a client who knows when you will start, what you will do, and when they need it by is much more likely to continue with the same organized structure, pay on time, have a defined process for changing work, and will otherwise be that much easier to work with.
There is potential for growth
Not every client will have a potential for growth, but paying attention to the company, client contact, and frequency of work and opportunities can help you make better decisions on who you work with.
For example, a client who is able to offer consistent, reliable, and measured volumes of work is much easier to work with than one who isn’t.
You get along
The best clients are a pleasure to work with. You don’t have to be best friends, but you should be able to talk to each other and communicate well. Camaraderie is less important for remote workers than co-located workers, but even remote work often requires a consistent amount of communication over email, phone, or video chat.
Choosing great clients means considering their full impact on you and your time. In most cases, that means reviewing offers or prospects on an individual basis, using an initial interview to check communication and other factors, and making a decision based on those factors.
What to do next
Once you have those backlog of clients that you’re excited to work with, begin “firing” the ones that take up too much of your time for not enough value.
Follow the 80/20 rule: If a client is taking up 80% of your time and providing 20% or less returns (this can be measured in money, but it could also be a cause you are passionate about), then fire them.
Karl Sakas (a client of mine) has an agency client matrix tool that can help you figure out which clients to grow and which to fire.
Be sure to give every client the same courtesy by sending advanced notice, and offering to refer them to a different professional who could work with them. Stay professional and considerate throughout the entire process, because those are some of the benchmarks of a great remote worker.