Getting on Equal Footing with Freelance Clients

Getting on Equal Footing with Freelance Clients

Many freelancers fall into the trap of being subservient to clients.

This probably stems from that old business rule: “The customer is always right.” But if you’ve ever worked in customer service or sales, you’ll know that’s not always true.

 Photo: Annie Spratt ( mammasaurus.co.uk )

Photo: Annie Spratt (mammasaurus.co.uk)

Sometimes the customer is wrong.

Even more importantly, sometimes they need to be told they’re wrong so they can get back on the right track.

It’s hard to tell customers (or clients) something that’s hard to hear if you have no authority in their mind. For them to listen to what you have to say, they have to value your opinion and trust that you have their best interests at heart.

This is impossible to do if you’re subservient.

Yes, there are clients out there that want subservient freelancers. Freelancers that will execute a project with no pushback on scope, pricing, timing, or strategy. And as long as you agree on all those elements (and nothing changes during your engagement), these types of projects can be painless and easy.

Satisfying, though? Not usually. Lucrative over the long-term? Definitely not.

Clients willing to pay for your value want a freelancer who’s more than just an order-taker. And you’ll find that relationships where your expertise is valued as much as your ability to deliver are the most satisfying.

To create these types of relationships, it’s important to start things off right. Because once you establish a relationship dynamic between you and your client, it’s almost impossible to change it.

So, what’s the relationship dynamic you should establish for more satisfying and well-paying clients? Equal footing.

Equal footing relationships put you and your client on the same level. Not with the same needs, of course. Instead, the key here is mutual interest. And there’s one important way freelancers can encourage this:

Come from a spirit of service.

Make no mistake: There’s a big difference between serving your client and being subservient to them.

Being subservient is giving clients everything they want, regardless of how it impacts them and you.

It’s saying yes to huge projects on tiny budgets just to land the work. It’s also agreeing to deliver the content they want even when your experience whispers, “This isn’t going to get them the results they’re looking for.” (It’s not caring enough to ask them what their goals are in the first place.)

That’s the problem with subservience. When freelancers are subservient, they could be putting everyone’s goals and best interests at risk.

On the other hand, being of service means approaching your client’s needs as equal to your own. It means looking for a way to support their goals and yours. It means striving to find a mutually beneficial middle ground, and even pushing back (sincerely, professionally) if the client is making a decision that you know won’t help them achieve what they want.

It means speaking candidly about their budget and your pricing. It means going that extra mile not to impress but to delight them. It means seeing your work as a purpose instead of a means to an end (that end being a paycheck).

Most freelancers don’t work this way. And most clients won’t expect this from you right off the bat (a signal of how many freelancers are getting this wrong).

But when clients realize what you’re doing (which doesn’t take long) and start trusting you’ve got their best interests at heart (without rolling over on your own), the relationship will take on a new and more satisfying depth, longevity, and earning potential.


Set yourself apart. Earn the income you want.

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