[PERSONAL] How I Get Great Clients Who Pay & Treat Me Well

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I love my clients. They are freaking awesome. The best. They pay AND treat me well.

I feel like it’s time for me to be forward with my experience working with great clients, because if social media is to be believed, well-paying and respectful clients are supposedly hard to come by.

But let me just say – they’re not. I’ve had the odd bad apples, but in my four years (so far) working in self-employed capacity, the majority of my clients were nothing but absolute joys to work with.

(Note: I have two types of clients. Those who hire me in my capacity as Suraya the communications consultant and corporate writer to write reports and stuff, and those who hire me in my capacity as Suraya the blogger from Ringgit Oh Ringgit to promote their products and services. Both are amazing).

This post is a jumble of self-reflection – how and why do I get these amazing clients? I still don’t know for sure, but here are my theories.

Factor #1 – Luck

First things first, let’s put this out there. Maybe I’m just lucky, simple as that. Maybe the universe looks out for me.

I’m also lucky to have an annoyingly optimistic personality. I forget bad events (and bad clients) fairly fast, choosing to focus on the things that went right instead of the things that went wrong.

Factor #2 – Due to Ringgit Oh Ringgit

It could also due to RoR. I mean, it does have a following. A small one, but a following nonetheless. It could be that my clients are just nice to me because they don’t want me to write bad things about them on Ringgit Oh Ringgit website and its social media platforms. Public Relations 101.

Still, this doesn’t explain the great clients I got before the website got (somewhat) popular. I had great working experiences with companies even when Ringgit Oh Ringgit had very little views.

Factor #3 – Work ethics and performance

Maybe my clients like working with me because I’m okay at my work?

Right, I *like* to think I’m somewhat good at what I do, but tbh I still have no idea if what I’m doing is considered good enough.

All I know is I like to read a lot of books and articles, take online courses, and follow advice and behaviours from people I respect. Everything I do is a combination of what I liked from these sources.

For example,

  • I liked to read this style of writing (that you’re currently reading), so I end up doing it for Ringgit Oh Ringgit. My most frequent feedback is ‘easy to understand’ and ‘relatable’ – exactly what I’m after
  • I liked Ramit Sethi’s ‘Do it for them’ advice – doing all you can to make the client’s job easier – so I do that. Every client gets a step-by-step process and timeline. My job is to make sure they do the least possible work on their end
  • I liked how some articles highlight research-backed ways that improve my communications and workflow, so I incorporate them in my work (find these articles in my link roundup series)

Those are just some examples but the simplest way to put it is basically, I just imitate what I like. What works, I keep. What doesn’t, I tweak. Repeat indefinitely; the learning process never ends.

Factor #4 – 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, might be one of the most important concepts I’ve ever came across. You can apply it for many things, but in this context, this rule permits me to reject 80% of potential clients so I can focus on giving my best to the remaining 20%.

At the end of the day, it’s better to have a few good clients than many mediocre and bad clients. Each client will still require (non-billable) admin hours and it’s in my best interest to have less, not more admin hours.

(And the irony is bad clients usually require MORE admin hours than necessary, making them a literal waste of time. Time that you can use to earn more money.)

The 80/20 rule might not be something that you can do in the beginning of your freelance career, when you need to build up your portfolio and reputation, and not to mention savings.

But when you are in the position to, when potential clients start coming to you instead of you looking for them, I would highly suggest you start being choosy with who you work with.

The definition of a ‘bad client’ is different for everyone, obviously. Perhaps you can tolerate what I can’t, and I can tolerate what you can’t.

But for me, potential clients who do these actions get (politely) declined:

  • They are related to gambling, forex, and similar industries
  • They are rude in their communications
  • They try to haggle further or give me a low-ball offer after I give my best possible price
  • They take way too long to get things moving. The way I see it, if we were emailing for several weeks/months without any financial offer on the table, then it’s better for me to cut my losses

That’s pretty much it. Not that high of a bar, right? Yet its amazing how many clients get ‘eliminated’ this way.

The 80/20 rule works so well, that I stopped doing contracts to ‘legally bind’ my clients, something they advise freelancers to do for your own protection in case they don’t pay up. I didn’t have to, because the clients I *do* end up with are also not phased with my invoice for 50% deposit before the work even starts.

(I would actually recommend you implement the ‘50% deposit before work starts’ rule, no matter what stage you are right now. It will significantly reduce the chances of having non-paying clients after you complete the work!)


Last words

As you can see, the reason I love my clients is not that I have a masochistic tendency or anything. It’s just, somehow, after years of hard work, I’ve developed this system of sorts that eliminates potentially bad clients, which results in me ending up with only mostly the good ones.

Another reason why I love this system of mine: employees are good reflections of their companies. When I interact with potential clients, our communications speak VOLUMES about their company culture.

I get to know which companies incorporate the Richard Branson philosophy, which ones take care of their employees and are good from the inside out. I love helping companies like these achieve greater success, and I will go above and beyond in my work for them.

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As a last note here, I can’t share my private clients for writing work, but I can share the clients I’ve worked with for sponsored post in Ringgit Oh Ringgit. They are the top 20% – there were many other sponsored post opportunities that I didn’t take.

Hope you enjoyed this personal post. It feels weird to hype up my awesome clients, when the more popular thing to do is to ‘spill tea’ about the bad ones. But I know I’m not the only one who have great working relationships with clients – why don’t we hear about those often?

How about we change the perception that only bad clients exist? Do you have good experiences with your clients too? Share in the comments section!

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  1. I know many writers out there lament about terrible clients and all. But so far in the time I was building up to become self-employed (no, I did not quit on a whim!) and in my 2 years of self-employment, I have had many good clients. I feel very blessed and grateful to have them as my clients. Many of my clients are repeat clients. Some are magazines. Some are companies that contact me again for new projects. For magazines, I don’t ask for 50% deposit before writing an article, but for one-off projects (especially for first-time clients), I do ask for 50% at the beginning of the project, and usually they do provide it. My good clients pay on time. A few even pay within a week of my issuing an invoice, or process my payment promptly at the end of the month (because that’s how they roll). Occasionally, I do come across bad clients (vague idea of what they want, taking forever to get back with amendments, and paying extremely late), but I’m thankful that these are uncommon. And I will not be doing work for these fellas again (lesson learnt).

  2. Love the article Suraya!

    Tbh, its all about work ethics and professionalism when handling clients.
    The thing is after given all that some of the clients don’t even pay the fees as promised. This really demotivated as a freelancer that need to pay bills (tons of it of course). Want to lawyer up but that will take a long process but it has to be done. Any recommendation on how to lawyer up for cases like this that involved freelancers?

    1. Thank you Nazreen for your kind words 🙂

      Re: lawyers – honestly, I have no recommendations. Here’s hoping someone from the legal profession would read this and add on their tips

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