What I look for in a client

Over the years I've worked with a variety of clients. Different industries. Different businesses. Different business models.

Of them, I've found some common criteria that makes the relationship work best.

A good relationship is important for both you and me. Communication becomes easier. Less mistakes are made. And overall, the project is just better.

My best clients have had the following qualities

1. Flexible communication

My very best of clients were flexible with their communication. Based on what we needed at the time it could be email, instant message, phone, or a screen share. They understood that getting the message across was more important than being rigid and only using their favorite communication method.

2. Active participant

Frequent communication and feedback when it's needed can prevent many mishaps and mistakes. Getting into a relationship where one of us "goes dark" and isn't available isn't useful and will hurt the project. But it's a balance between too much and too little. One that needs to be managed and reviewed over time.

3. Flexible scope and expectations

When the project starts, both them and myself would set expectations based on our best guesses. But since software is primarily thought-work, our guesses would be just that. Guesses. Sometimes the approach we took works but it will take a longer or shorter amount of time. Other times the approach we thought of doesn't work and we have to start over with a new one. But no matter what, we'd always communicate these changes and re-plan as we went.

4. Respect for each other

My very best clients had a mutual respect. I'd respect them to be the experts on their business and what they need. They'd respect my technical knowledge and experience. Whenever either of us had an opinion, we would approach it with the intention of testing if it could work or not.

5. Forward thinking

Looking forward to the next deadline is important but it's more important to look further down and see what's coming next. Being able to make loose plans weeks and months in advance meant that could make better decisions now.

These are my top five qualities of good clients. There are other factors that can improve the relationship. But they are side dishes to the main course. If they're not there, I won't miss them.

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