Dating Rules for Courting Your Clients

FishToday’s guest post comes to us from Susan Johnston, the Urban Muse Writer. Enjoy!

Anyone who has ever sat through drinks or coffee in their search for love knows that first dates can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking.

Freelancing can be much the same. Courting clients isn’t that different from courting a potential mate. You’re nervous as hell, but you still want to make a good impression and hopefully seal the deal.

Whether you’re on a first date or courting your first client, here are five dating rules that you can apply.

Rule #1: Don’t give the milk away for free.

On your first date, don’t make it look like you’re going to give everything up for this potential soul mate of yours. That’s a good rule of thumb for freelancers to keep in mind, too.

If you give clients a freebie or cut them a ridiculously good deal (even if you’re trying to build your portfolio or help a friend), then you’re sending the message that you and your skills come cheap. Once they’ve figured that out, they’ll expect it all the time. It’s tough to get someone to cough up market rates when they’re used to paying pennies or always getting more than they should.

Instead of devaluing your work and that of other freelancers, have some respect and charge what you’re worth!

Rule #2: It takes two to tango.

We’ve all been in relationships where we felt we were giving 110% and the other person was giving nothing. It stinks, right?

Remember this when you’re chasing down a client who can’t commit or when you’re trying to please someone who seems like they just can’t be pleased no matter what you do. It’s smart business to follow up a few times and always carry out your end of the bargain, but at some point we have to accept that “they’re just not that into us” and move on to clients who can appreciate us and value our work.

Sometime it’s not us, it’s them.

Rule #3: You’re most desirable when you’re taken.

Success begets success, whether you’re a newly engaged guy suddenly surrounded by eligible women or a freelancer who just landed a big project and has several more clients banging down his door.

When we’re in a period of stability and success, we tend to attract more of it – sometimes more than we know what to do with. If you’re newly engaged, I hope you’ll share the wealth with your single friends. And if you’re the freelancer with more work than you can handle, consider outsourcing or referring those clients to others you trust.

Of course, the nice thing about freelancing is that you can juggle multiple clients without feeling guilty for cheating.

Rule #4: Don’t settle for Mr. Wrong.

Just as some people tolerate an abusive boyfriend or a gold-digging girlfriend so they can stay in a relationship – any relationship – freelancers often face a similar temptation to work for demanding or low-paying clients because they need the money or are afraid they won’t get better clients.

Don’t fall into this trap! These clients will only sap your creativity and eat up time that could be spent finding Mr. Right. Have some standards and hold out for projects that fit them. Believe me, they are out there.

Rule #5: Remember, there are plenty of fish in the sea.

It’s easy to lose perspective when you’ve just been dumped or you’re stuck in a dead-end relationship that destroys your confidence. But remember that break-ups can free up your time to find something better. There are always other potential mates or clients when you’re ready for them, and they’re out there waiting for you.

Of course, there’s at least one area where freelancing and dating diverge, and that’s finding The One.

In order to flourish as a freelancer, you need diversity. It’s dangerous to get too infatuated with one important client, one big project, or one long-term contract. Clients go bankrupt, strategies change, projects simply dry up. Or you might outgrow them and decide to move on. It’s all part of the process.

Freelancing is a business, after all. If you want to be with monogamous with your clients, then you should go back to being someone’s employee.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with these rules? Which others would you add?

Post by Agent X

Agent X is the name many mysterious and intriguing people take on when they guest post at our site. Their mission is to slip in like a thief in the night, leave you with entertaining, valuable and useful content, and slip away again - without getting caught.

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  1. Susan,

    Nicely done. I talk about courting customers a lot at my blog… including today, funny enough—because, as you say, most of us can remember what it’s like, and because we understand with a thunk, the difference between real and ideal, so it’s easy to transfer that to what your real business is doing and what you can ideally aim for.

    I think your Rule #3 is a great one. Nothing creates a longer wait for my business than telling people there’s a wait. Or for other people’s businesses: in a new city, if I pass two restaurants, you bet I’m going to the one where the parking lot’s already half full at six o’clock rather than the one where the cooks are on the back stoop having a smoke break.

    And sadly, I always think the guy with the baby in the park is sooooo cute. 😉



    P.S. James—check your em s at the end…
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..Well, Maybe Your Customers *Do* Know Something… =-.

  2. These are really great rules and really hit upon all the mistakes we really do make. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Who knew that dating and free-lancing were so similar !
    I would add, Don’t Turn Into a Bunny Boiler. If it goes wrong just walk away.
    I was once hired for lucrative and regular work by someone who then pulled the rug out from under me. I tried to stay in touch but she did not play ball.
    I felt so angry and used !
    But take no revenge. Just like your mum said, ‘You are so much better than that.’
    .-= Lucy Thorpe´s last blog ..Be prepared ! Things you need to know before letting your kids on Facebook and Twitter. =-.

  4. By day I’m a contract Engineer. It’s amazing how your post coincided perfectly with that industry as well. I’ve worked in many different industries (until 6 years ago), and have been a contractor for most of my 20 year career.
    .-= Todd´s last blog ..Are you ready for the powers of coffee? =-.

  5. Susan, What a clever post! Never thought about it quite this way. I guess us freelancers ain’t never getting married…and that’s a good thing.

  6. Hi Susan,

    Great analogy and all true from my experiences. My first “date” with a potential client is just to learn more about them, to see if it’s a good mutual fit.

    #4 is a great one. If we have settled down with Mr. Wrong, we won’t be available when Mr. Right comes along. Asking lots of questions helps ferret out Mr. Wrong.

    Thx Giulietta
    .-= Giulietta´s last blog ..Falling down the rabbit hole =-.

  7. Great analogy and very helpful. It’s nice to be reminded not to sell yourself short, or settle for fear of not getting better clients.

    Nice topic for the New Year. Thanks.

  8. Love this! Fun and informative analogy. Very creative!

  9. Though all ring so true, I especially love #4…and #5!
    .-= The Writer’s [Inner] Journey´s last blog ..The 5-Question [Author] Interview: Andrea Gillies =-.

  10. Great advice for any contractor.
    .-= Frugal Kiwi´s last blog ..First Thursdays =-.

  11. #1 – This is the solid truth…I’ve been on both sides. It actually took a friend/mentor of mine to whack me on the head and tell me to raise my fees~!

    #2 – Again, true this…example, my agency had a holiday give away for free representation for six months to a qualifying non-profit. The entrees poured in. The winner? Six weeks later they are almost completely non-responsive. We’re cutting them loose and giving someone else a chance.

    #3 – from experience, we’ve fired two clients who have begged to be taken back. Feels sweet.

    #4 – see above, we don’t hesitate to let clients go who we have to struggle to work with. We don’t settle.

    #5?…a simple, Right On~!

    …This is a fantastic, to the point post~! Thank you (it always feels sooo good to be validated~!)

  12. Great advice. As freelancers, I think we put aside some of these rules–that we know are true–because the economy has been so bad. But this is a good reminder. Now let’s see rules #6-10.

  13. These are great rules and oh so true. Especially how you are more desirable when taken. I’ve noticed editors really pay attention when I mention that I have several other pressing assignments…

  14. As usual, one great post! Thanks for giving me the moral courage to dump those who do not contribute to a healthy working relationship. As pointed by Guilietta, we need to know them in the first few meetings, before we take up the job.
    .-= Solomon´s last blog ..The year that GONE by and the lessons LEARNT … =-.

  15. Abusive clients can be manipulative, and abused freelancers start to feel they’re not worthy of loving clients. Been there. This post was like a visit to a good therapist. You’ve helped me recognize myself and decide I can walk away. Thanks!
    .-= TravelinOma´s last blog ..Now, why am I writing this book? =-.

  16. So true, Susan! I love this analogy so much.
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..Winner of the “I Heart Macarons” Book Giveaway =-.

  17. I am very new to this and I know what I am worth. I know I have experienced all of this but I know it is making me stronger. Over the past month I have started to seek out clients.

    It is really scary but I think it is also a growth experience.
    .-= Jamei Favreau´s last blog ..Social Media to Save the NHL (Last installment a bit late) =-.

  18. It really sounds like dating a girl! haha… I tweeted this, and it got retweeted a couple of times!
    .-= Charles Lau´s last blog ..How to improve my desktop performance for Windows Aero? =-.

  19. Susan Johnston says:

    Glad you all enjoyed (and could relate to) my guest post! It was a fun one to write. Thanks to James & co. for being such gracious hosts!
    .-= Susan Johnston´s last blog ..5 Unlikely Spots to Find Writing Markets =-.

  20. This piece really spoke to me. I’d like to add one thing to your analogy, and that is:

    Listen to your gut. If you sense red flags during first client contact (aka, first date) that make you uncomfortable, walk away. Your gut is usually right and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache.

    Thanks for all the insights.

  21. This post is timely for me as I figure out my next move on the freelance front. And the analogy is funny — and sticks with you, too. Thanks for all the good tips.
    .-= sarah henry´s last blog ..Rice-A-Roni Co-creator Judges Ultimate Chef America, Shares Granola Recipe =-.

  22. I love this post. Very true and great analogy. We should never settle for Mr Wrong in this life whether it is for work or play. I am a great fan of Susan Johnstone’s blog.

  23. I think rule #1 is largely true, but what I would add is that in my experience it is worth revealing to the client a couple of juicy nuggets of information, this not only illustrates your expertise, it also helps entice the client into working with you. But you hold back on the killer data until they are paying!

  24. What a great analogy! Wish I had realized it sooner.


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