Understanding Freelance Client Archetypes

5 Mins read

There is nothing quite like personal experience to reaffirm some obvious truths. As a freelancer, I tended to focus on my own end of the equation. Becoming the best content writer and copywriter my freelance clients could find was always the main drive behind every single interaction. And it did pay off. There is nothing wrong with dedicating your energy to self-improvement as a freelancer. It’s actually the right thing to do.

That being said, I wasted a lot of time and energy by not focusing on the client-side of things. I did understand that not all clients were the same and I had specific approaches for different types of clients. What I failed to notice, is that not all freelance clients are at the same “level”. Which brings us to this article about client archetypes in the freelancing world.

Understanding Freelance Client Archetypes
This freelancing client has a precise idea of their end goal

The beginner client: knows what he wants

This client has goals. This type of freelancing client has a precise idea of their end goal. They don’t have a lot of experience, but they did some research on the services they will need and have a general ideal of rates and delivery times.

For example, a locksmith who decides to hire a content writer. The mission: deliver content that will help him get ranked for searches in his region.

  1. To be fair, this is a good project idea. The issue is that the client has no idea of how many articles he needs, the keywords to target, the kind of texts he wants or even the tone.
  2. As a freelancer, it’s your job to educate these freelance clients about the subtleties of your work. You must take the time to establish precise parameters for the mission in order to avoid problematic outcomes. For example, you may need to explain that the content won’t automatically enhance his position on SERPs.
  3. Working with this kind of freelancing clients can be challenging since they can sometimes be rigid. They will not always welcome suggestions because they fear being scammed. Et sometimes, they will refuse to admit their own lack of experience regarding freelancing jobs.

How to behave with this client?

Position yourself as a trustworthy and knowledgeable partner. They can be long-term when they trust you. Some clients will be rigid and others more flexible. Still, you should always try to give good advice and be perfectly honest with them.

Understanding Freelance Client Archetypes
This client has a pretty good idea of what achieving their goal entails

The intermediate client: knows what he needs

This client has a roadmap. Most likely, this isn’t their first rodeo. They have a pretty good idea of what achieving their goal entails. They have a lot more preparation when it comes to interactions with freelancers and they have broken their goal into semi-specific tasks and skills.

Let’s go back to your locksmith example. This time, he has hired a web designer, a content writer and an SEO specialist. The mission is still the same: getting ranked for searches in his region.

  1. The client will know how many articles he wants, their average length and even the keywords to target. He has a better understanding of the work as a whole, but he still doesn’t grasp all the particulars.
  2. You may need to give suggestions regarding the tone of the content for example. Will he want a more casual approach or a neutral tone? Does he already have a topic list or would he prefer the writer to find relevant topics himself?
  3. These clients know enough to understand that each task can be a complex endeavor. They are open to suggestions and will gladly adopt them when they don’t stretch their budget.

How to behave with this client?

Follow their lead but don’t hesitate to make suggestions when you deem them necessary and show them a better way of doing things. Stay within the parameters of the job and be ready to renegotiate your rate if the scope of the project grows beyond what you initially agreed to.

Understanding Freelance Client Archetypes
These clients know what they need and exactly how they want the work to be done

The professional client: knows how he wants the job to be done

This client has a project and well-oiled processes. On top of knowing what comes before reaching the goal, they know that work needs to be done after too. They know what they need and exactly how they want the work to be done.

To continue with our locksmith example, he will hire a copywriter to write sales pages and will launch SEA campaigns to help his ranking. It’s the kind of client that will ask for a SEO score of 85/100 at least for each text for example.

  1. This kind of client can be an individual or a company. Most often than not, it’s an agency that’s recruiting to fill an empty position. Their work process can be rigid and they are unlikely to change it. After all, it’s a tried method they’ve been using for a while.
  2. Even though they don’t always welcome suggestions regarding their work process, they are more than willing to get feedback relating to the optimization of results. They are completely goal-oriented without underestimating the amount of work needed to meet said goals.
  3. These freelancing clients are not necessarily experts in every field, but there is still little they don’t know. It’s not so rare that such freelance employers even know more about the work than most freelancers.

How to behave with this client?

Fit their mold and show restrained initiative. Ask for feedback and adapt to their specific needs and requirements. Your way of doing things comes second with these clients. You stand to learn and earn a lot with such clients.


Just as freelancers don’t have the traditional support of a company behind them, clients-employers that look for freelancers don’t benefit from a lot of support. Oftentimes, these are their first projects and they don’t have a complete grasp of the scope of the work they want done. Understanding and being able to recognize experience levels of freelance clients is a huge boon. On one hand, it will allow you to fulfill the expectations of your client. On the other hand, it will save you from some catastrophic interactions that can stem from simple misunderstandings.

In the same way freelancing clients aren’t always willing to work with beginner freelancers, a lot of freelancers can be afraid of working with beginner clients. In order to develop a healthy work relationship, being able to recognize the client archetype and showing adaptation skills is a must.

  1. The beginner client generally doesn’t detail his work briefs. They have a goal they are trying to reach. You must be able to guide and educate the client regarding the details and obstacles of his project;
  2. The intermediate client already has some experience. Their briefs may be more detailed but they are still not perfect. You should never hesitate to offer additional services when it may be useful to them;
  3. The profesional client knows exactly what they want. They are still be open to suggestions though. They are willing to pay top prices for expert services. In most cases, this is the “ideal client” for freelancers.

Experience level isn’t the only thing you should look out for. There are plenty of other ways to fit freelance client into categories. There is the cheapskate, the know-it-all, the ghoster, the king and much more. Some are great to work with, some can be quite the challenge. But knowing where they stand experience-wise is the first step to managing them right.

The illustrations on this page were provided by PixelTrue.

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