Client Green Flags: 11 Signs of a Good Client

Hand holding green flag

I’ve been freelancing full-time for 17 years, and it took a while (and a bunch of not-so-great clients) to realize:

You can have really good clients—and only good clients!

Sure, maybe you need to sow your oats with some bad clients to realize what good looks like. But if I can save you time and headaches, I certainly want to. Clients can fall anywhere on the spectrum between blazing red flag clients to dreamy, green flag clients; let’s aim for as close-to-green as possible! 

Here are 11 green flag client traits that make me jump for joy:

  1. They respect your boundaries. When you communicate things like your working hours, your timeframe, and any other musts for working together, they respond with a resounding, “Sounds good!” Remember, in order for them to respect your boundaries, they need to know what they are! Use an intake process that establishes clear boundaries.  
  2. They aren’t in a super-rush. Look for signs that not everything is lit on fire; they are flexible. If they have a firm deadline, it’s far enough away. These are the kinds of clients who you might go the extra mile for if they do have an urgent situation, because most of the time, they don’t.
  3. They’re positive. You usually get this vibe right away. Clients either show up with a general air of positivity and excitement, or an overall negative energy. Listen for a positive outlook (“I’m so excited to finally have a great website!) vs. a doom-and-gloom one (“Yeah, I guess it’s time I invest in a website.) Of course, people can say ‘negative’ things (“My last designer was a nightmare!”) and still be positive people, so pay attention to your spidey senses here.
  4. They have a life. Work isn’t the only thing that matters to them. They allude to the fact that they have a life, and are pleased that you have one too. Collaborators with lives outside of work do better work together.
  5. They can follow directions. In my client onboarding process, I include a few simple instructions for next steps. If they can follow those directions, that is a very good sign.
  6. They know how to use Google Drive. We don’t need Google Drive wizards, but we do need clients who are able to organize files. For example, they don’t send things in 12 different emails. You might have to set up the folder and ask them to use it, but green flag clients can figure it out!
  7. They value your expert opinion—even if it differs from theirs. A great client will have desires and opinions, but also be open-minded and curious about yours. They see you as a problem-solver… not an order-taker.
  8. They are responsive and communicative. Everybody gets busy—and a few days might pass in replying to an email—but if this project is important to them, they will make consistent-communication a priority. They don’t just disappear. If there’s a delay, they keep you posted.
  9. They don’t question your invoices. The process of getting paid looks like this: They say, “I got your invoice!” Then, you get money. While it’s understandable to have a question once in a while, green flag clients are not nickeling and diming you. Green flag clients trust you to invoice them correctly and know you should get paid for your services.
  10. They give you multiple projects! One-off projects are cool, too, but there’s nothing like an awesome partner who sends you multiple projects. When you have a great working relationship— and they partner with you regularly? This is green on green! (And I’m not talking about the people who promise you more work down the road if you do this project on-the-cheap. Those carrot-danglers get a big red flag!)
  11. They’re okay when you say no. Even for your favorite clients, you can’t always say yes. You may need to tell clients no once in a while, or push back on something, and that is met with understanding and flexibility instead of fire and brimstone. 

Hopefully you’ll find all green flag clients moving forward. But if they get past the initial screening and turn out to be red sheep in green clothing, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a simple formula for firing clients.

One final recommendation: Pay attention to how you feel.

Do you feel jazzed when you hang up the phone with them? Excited to get started? Or do you feel a little bit low-energy or uneasy? Take a minute to see how you feel. As an introvert, it’s a great sign when I get off the phone feeling excited; I know that’s a big green! Listen to your gut. 

P.S. Here’s what to do (and what not to do) on a consultation call that will give you more insight into whether they’ll be a good client or not.

Are you concerned about critical areas that can make or break your creative biz such as contracts, money matters, and qualifying prospects? My Client Onboarding Toolkit is a simple, 4-step digital course that walks you through my time-tested process for onboarding clients. Jam-packed with advice, tools, and templates designed for creative professionals, it’ll save you time, stress and frustration while making you look like the creative rockstar you are. You’ll convert prospects into paying clients with more clarity, sanity, and confidence than ever before. Learn more »

About Jill Anderson

Hi, I’m Jill, a WordPress WordPress designer/developer who partners with talented designers, copywriters, and agencies on their websites, and their client’s sites. I’m passionate about crafting beautiful and innovative WordPress websites focused on clear positioning and positive user experiences. Get my free report, Get Your Website Done: 12 Actionable Steps for Designers, and check out my Client Onboarding Toolkit, a simple 4-step digital course for converting prospects into a paying clients.


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