How to Keep Fake Clients from Stealing Your Time and Sapping Your Energy
Not everyone who appears to be a client actually is a client.
As a freelancer, your time is valuable. You can’t afford to waste it.
Unfortunately, there are those out there who would take up all of your free time and not pay you a cent for it. They’ll ask you questions, talk to you on the phone, they may even request a proposal. But they aren’t buying.
They’re fake clients, also known as tire kickers. And if you’re not careful, they can eat up a lot of your time and drain a lot of your energy.
In this post, I’ll explain who the fake clients are and how you can avoid them.
Meet the Fakes
First of all, it’s important to understand who it is that is likely to waste your time without turning into a paying client. Let’s meet the fakes.
You’ll hear from many different types of tire kickers, but the most common one are:
- Cheapskates. They want your work for next to nothing and are hopeful they can talk you down from your rates. They have no intention of paying you what you are worth and are likely to complain a lot if you do happen to work for them.
- Your competition. They want to know what you charge for your projects so that they can set their own prices. They’re hoping you’ll share your complete price list with them.
- Idea thieves. They want to get the details of how you do your work so that they can steal your ideas and do the work themselves. Or they may be planning to hire someone else to carry out your ideas.
- The lonely. They just want attention. They’ll take as much time from you as you’ll give them. They may even pay you a token amount, but they don’t need a freelancer. They probably need to join a social club.
- The angry. They haven’t paid you a dime and already they’re mistreating you. They may use a disrespectful tone or simply show a lack of respect.
- The sampler. This fake claims that your portfolio isn’t enough. He or she has to see a free sample of your work (to his or her specification) before hiring you for a project.
Eventually, most freelancers will come into contact with one or more of these fake clients. If you’re not ready when it happens to you, you could wind up wasting a lot of time.
How to Keep the Fakes from Wasting Your Time
The best defense against the fakes is a good offense. Here are some offensive strategies you can put in place before you ever come into contact with your first fake.
If you follow these simple steps, it will eliminate most fake clients before they’ve wasted too much your time. Here are the steps:
- Ask for a ballpark budget early in the conversation. A fake client or cheapskate usually doesn’t have a budget in mind, or if they do their budget is not even close to a reasonable price for the work they are asking you to do.
- Establish and publicize a minimum project price. Tiny projects and tiny fees are the bane of freelancers. You can eliminate a lot of lowballing clients by establishing a minimum project charge for all projects.
- Don’t give away too much detail in your proposals. Thwart idea thieves by limiting your proposals and discussions to client expectations. Don’t provide precise details on how you will accomplish the work and especially don’t include drafts.
- Refuse to haggle over price. Once you’ve sent a proposal, that should be it. If the client needs a lower price, then lower the scope of what you will do. Don’t send out the message that your rates can be adjusted.
- Prequalify clients before phone calls. The phone is one way that fake clients waste your time. Don’t talk to just anybody on the phone. Make appointments and make sure they are serious before you spend phone time.
- Charge a consultation fee. Some freelancers even charge for the initial consultation. Personally, I offer one free consultation, but limit it to an hour. After that, there is a consultation fee.
- Refuse unreasonable requests. Any way you look at it, a request for unpaid samples is unreasonable. If a client makes an unreasonable request, refuse it.
- Always, always get a written agreement. It just makes sense to get it in writing. That way, both you and the client are sure of the terms of your agreement.
Remember that fake clients rely on your desperation. They take advantage of your hope that they will eventually pay you. Don’t let desperation cause you to make bad decisions.
Have you had to deal with fake clients? What did you do?
Share your stories in the comments.
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