Life as a freelancer can be very rewarding. Simply having control of your time and doing away with any commuting can add a lot of value to your life. But the quality of the work and life of freelancers largely depends on the quality of clients that they work for. In fact, there’s nothing more unproductive and unengaging than being stuck with a bad freelance client. They take up your time, make you less money in the long run, and could easily hurt your career as a freelancer. That being said, you shouldn’t let the joys of freelancing gloss over the facts when you’re in a bad client relationship.

So, in case you were wondering, here are the top red flags you should be wary about when taking up freelance clients:

They don’t pay well

This should be an obvious one. But a lot of freelancers go underpaid or undersell themselves because they don’t understand their work value.

For example, there are around 700,000 software developers in Germany and only 1 in 7 of them work in freelance. On the other hand, the positions to be filled far exceed this. This is why IT freelancers can potentially earn up to €84 per hour. However, many companies may not want to offer this and will set a much lower figure. Settling for a lower salary and subsequent incremental price increases will only make it hard for you to make freelancing a sustainable venture. If you feel the company isn’t offering enough, it is best to find another client.

They don’t work with contracts

Another big red flag: no contracts. Contracts are made to protect both you and your client. This should include your output, scope of work, rates, and even payment methods. A client trying to squeeze work without a contract is a big red flag. Not only will this prevent you from any legal recourse, it also opens you up to a host of legal problems if they decide to terminate your employment early.

Being a freelancer in Germany is a challenging career choice. All About Berlin highlights how there are lots of requirements in applying for a freelance visa in Germany. This includes getting a bank account and staying in the country for an extended period of time among others. So, going to work without a contract can jeopardise your ability to get work in the future.

They ask you to do more than what you agreed on

Another reason why contracts are important: so clients cannot take advantage of you. An approved proposal or contract should clearly underline what your clients expect of you. A client who relentlessly tries to push the boundaries of the contract is a bad client.

INC notes that forgetting the distinction that you’re not their employee is a big mistake. As a consultant who is hired to do a specific job, you are not privy to any benefits of an employee nor are they entitled to any output outside your work scope. Professional boundaries are important in freelance work and can easily be undermined.

They refuse to listen to you

Sometimes clients who are not knowledgeable about your field insist on having their way instead of listening to what actually works.

This can be particularly damaging if they’re hiring someone from highly technical fields, like IT or digital marketing. Online marketing experts Ayima highlight how effective strategies involve technical solutions, like crawling through a client’s site to find ways to optimise it. So, if a client that hired you to improve their web output doesn’t have a good grasp of Google analytics and other modern web marketing trends, it can be a hassle to have to guide them through it, especially when they don’t follow your instructions. Not only could this add extra work to the freelancer it could also negatively affect their forthcoming prospects. Even if they weren’t listened to, a freelancer could still be connected to a failed project in the eyes of future clients.

They constantly question your rates or pay late

Niklas advises freelance writers to choose a pricing strategy that’s suited for their work flow. As mentioned above, this must be reflected by a contract—including when it can be renegotiated and when it’s due.

Getting paid on time is important for freelancers as it contributes in making your career hassle and anxiety free. When a client frequently questions your rate or doesn't pay on time, it’s clear that they don’t respect your work nor your time. One way to avoid this is by speaking to any other freelancers who have worked for your client and getting their feedback. This type of networking is the best way to avoid late paying clients or any of the above red flags.

written for freework.com by Maria Helm