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5 Freelance Green Flags: What to Look for in a New Client

To get the best clients, you have to know what you’re looking for. These signs that tell you a potential client will be a good one are what we like to call, green flags. While we at Harlow have a few green flags of our own after years of being freelancers (check out Green Flag #5), we wanted to know what our community looks for.

I asked on Twitter: what are some green flags that make you *excited* to work with a client? The responses were solid gold, with so many nuggets of wisdom for you to keep in mind as you try to identify those dream clients.

Without further ado, here are the green flags you want to look for on your next discovery call!

Knowing how to spot a great client helps you build a business you love.

Green Flag #1: Strong Communication From the Start

One of the most important aspects of a great working relationship is communication, not just on your end, but from the client as well. This helps you set up a strong foundation. The better they communicate at the start, the more you know, and the easier it is to make sure that you’re a great fit for one another.







How to identify this green flag: Put on your sleuthing hat and create a checklist for yourself. Use this to keep an eye out for the details you hope will be communicated. On your next discovery call, keep the checklist close by and make note of each item as you go. Some lines on your checklist might be:

  • Client shared processes
  • Client spoke about expected timelines
  • Client outlined current workflows
  • Client shared platforms I’m expected to use

Being clear about turnaround times or tools you need to learn sets you up for success and makes your life easier once the contract is signed.

Green Flag #2: Provides the Clarity and Resources You Need

When a client already has the resources you need to do the job, and can articulate the purpose of the project clearly, voila! Now you can avoid the guessing game and endless revision cycles that come with unclear expectations and a lack of guidelines. Fewer revision cycles and back and forth = happy freelancer.








How to identify this green flag: If it’s relevant to your project, ask about documentation and project goals in your initial calls. Some specific assets to check on include:

  • Brand guidelines
    Project brief
    Messaging guide

If they have these resources, you can consider that a green flag!

Green Flag #3: Respect!

Respect must be mutual for a freelance relationship to work. If you work with a client who doesn’t respect you, you risk feeling frustrated and even resenting the work. This can lead to a bad ending that comes too soon. Don’t let this happen to you, and instead, look for this green flag on your initial calls.





How to identify this green flag: Respect looks and feels different for everyone, so be clear on what respect from a client means to you. For example, you may desire clients who respect your time and values as a freelancer.

Write your definition on a piece of paper if that helps and refer to it before calls. If needed, give yourself a little pep talk: a client who doesn’t respect me is not worth working with—protect your peace and happiness at all costs!

Green Flag #4: Understands Your Value (And is Willing to Pay What You’re Worth)

You are great at what you do, that’s why you’re a freelancer offering your services to clients! (Own it!) The question is, does your potential client see that as well? If you can feel that, it’s a major green flag. This will lead to a more fulfilling freelance relationship because you’re working with a team who knows and can articulate your worth. The real testament here, though, is that they’re willing to pay for that value.







How to identify this green flag: Take note of how potential clients talk about payment and fees. A major green flag is that they’re speaking openly with you about these details and aren’t looking for ways to pay you less. Asking questions is fine, but consistently requesting discounts or cutting back the scope of work is not a great way to start.

Green Flag #5: They’re Excited About the Project

We were so inspired by all the brilliant responses we got from our community that we wanted to share our number one green flag, which is: if a potential client is excited about the project, and even better, the impact you’ll have on their business. When you kick off with positive energy, you’ll feel like your time and expertise are valued from the get-go.

What to watch for: While in some cases it will be pretty obvious that they’re looking forward to working together, less “animated” clients may show this in different ways. They might not say the words “we’re SO excited,” but maybe they are very responsive to emails or introduce you positively to other members of the team.

Look For These Freelance Green Flags

Train yourself to look for these important and telling green flags. When present, you know there’s potential for a long, fulfilling, and successful freelancing relationship—#winning! If the client communicates well, openly discusses payments, provides clarity, and shows you respect– beautiful! That’s the start to a happy partnership.

About the Author
Samantha is co-founder of Harlow. Previously she was a marketing and demand gen freelancer. She enjoys traveling, connecting with new people, spending time with her husband and their baby (a furry friend named Karl), and throwing back an extra dirty martini every now and then.

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