How do you identify trustworthy businesses/clients to work with?

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Primarily as a freelancer or contractor, what criteria do you have for identifying trustworthy companies to work with? For instance, you might use Freshbooks, but what initially led you to trusting them?

How about with clients? How do you decide if someone is shady, do you require a deposit before working with them?

One of the things I like is Joel Klettke’s page about working with him. As a contractor, I like how he puts his demands out there immediately.

Here’s some answers from a few marketers:

Sharon said:

Working with new clients:

I find it can be really hard to tell how legitimate a potential client is if you’re working with them 100% online. But generally I find that charging higher rates and requiring clients to sign a contract helps to eliminate the shady ones.

I also research their company online and check reviews on GlassDoor. If a company doesn’t have a website, that’s a bad sign. If the only things I uncover during my research is a bunch of entries on or f@#$, that’s also a big red flag.

1. I don’t require a deposit for any project under $100.

2. If a monthly or weekly retainer client doesn’t pay on time I send a final invoice and inform them work will no longer continue unless I have 100% of the project cost upfront.

I also explain everything to the client in the initial proposal so there are no surprises.

Volodymyr said:

Normally, I try to follow this process:

Perhaps, most of us start with googling the name. It’s a fast way to look into someone and sounds logical.

Check the website. Spelling errors? Stolen images? It filters not trustworthy clients quickly.

Is there a valid phone number? Address? I try to check if there’s a convenient way to get in touch (except emails; these don’t prove trustworthiness).

Content! Lots of websites offer decent content. That’s a good indicator of a good business.

See if there’re reviews. These can be fake, but I would better trust someone with reviews.

If you’re about to get into serious business, you can ask people to share experience working with a certain business. Quora, or other social media channels might be a good way to ask such question.

Okay, some of these steps could be unconscious. However, I somehow try to follow this checklist.

Christopher said:

I’ve learned through trial and error that the more education a client requires, the worse a client they’re going to be.

I know that goes against that advice du jour that we’re supposed to market by educating our clients, but there’s definitely a line. On the right side of that line, a prospect knows at least the ballpark value of whatever project they want to do with me, before they even pick up the phone. On the wrong side of that line, a prospect never understands the value of the project no matter how many ways I explain it, or how many times I walk them through it.

It’s the difference between clients who want to do X because they realize ON THEIR OWN that it has the potential for positive ROI, vs. clients who want to do X because everyone else is doing it, or because it’s what they think they’re supposed to do.

Anand said:

I run a ‘pay for performance’ PR & marketing company and occasionally cold-email prospects about my services. Responses are decent but nothing to write home about. Quite recently one company I reached out to responded with a message along the lines of “hey, I normally ignore unsolicited email since we get too many of them. But I just googled your name and found out you are a writer for Entrepreneur and TheNextWeb. I will be quite interested to know more about your services”

It was a wake up call for me since it never occurred to me earlier that your credibility (as measured by your social trail) can quite influence the chances of clients to do business with you. Does not answer your question directly, but something one must keep in mind while marketing.

Luke said:

Biggest thing I find is referred clients work best. Like for instance, if I really like a client, and they recommend me to someone. I’ll take those. Why? Ever heard, birds of feather flock together? It’s true, and get good success with this.

But a cold client? I’m hesitant. Why? Well, I’m not looking for economical shoppers, I’m looking for those that want talent and skill. Those type of clients last longer than the average lifetime metric. I do SEO, and I have learned this quick. My reputation is everything, and I understand a good client will help you make that look even better.

I don’t even include my number on my website. I want private clients done in this process. Works for me :)

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