In solo PR and business owner circles, we talk a lot about red flags to keep an eye out for when prospecting, onboarding and working with new clients.
You know what we're talking about when we say red flags — clients who pay late (or worse, don't pay at all), clients with unrealistic expectations, clients who bombard your phone with texts at all hours of the day.
You could probably add a few more items to this list without hesitation.
But on the flip side of client red flags are beautiful, shiny client green flags — clients who respect your work, your expertise and your time, and are an absolute delight to work with.
3 client green flags to look out for
Let's review just a few of the biggest and most important client green flags.
If you find yourself with a client who exemplifies the qualities on the list below, consider yourself a lucky solo PR pro!
1. They provide the information you need to do your job
Starting a new client engagement or project can be daunting. Everything feels so new, and sometimes you might not be totally familiar with the client's business or industry.
There's a lot to learn, and while that's part of the fun, it can also become painful if you don't have access to the information you need to do your job.
Crowe PR's Kathy Casciani says one of her client green flags is, “When they spend the time and energy upfront to share knowledge and insights about their brand.”
A strong onboarding process is helpful here, and there's nothing better than a new client who eagerly shares information and resources to help you dive headfirst into their business.
A client who simply makes themselves available and asks what you need upfront is also a huge win.
Kristen Grieco Elworthy of Seven Hills Communications says her client green flag is, “Someone who asks, ‘What do you need from us in order for you to be successful?' My answer — always — quick responsiveness!”
On a similar front, Michael Ares of MDA Corporate Marketing says he appreciates a CEO who is directly involved in the evaluation and discussions.
Access to information — and people — is key when getting started with a client, and green flag clients understand why this is so important.
2. They have realistic expectations for success
Getting aligned on expectations, especially when it comes to results, is an important step in building and growing a new client relationship.
Part of setting realistic expectations comes down to education: not every client actually understands the world of public relations. And that's OK! That's why they've hired a professional like you for the job.
However, it's always a perk when a client at least has a basic understanding of the industry — and especially when they understand that PR is about relationships, and it's not a field for quick wins.
“When a prospective client clearly demonstrates that they understand the value of PR and that it is a marathon, not a sprint, that's a green flag,” says Kathy.
It's always a relief when a client doesn't expect to immediately be on national TV one month after signing their contract.
PR can often be a long game, and when a client gets that? Green flag!
3. They pay promptly
Prompt payment is music to a business owner's ears!
A green flag client signs the contract you send them, and promptly pays a project deposit or immediately makes a payment for the first month of work together.
“Respectful discussions before/after a contract is signed and then rapid payment of the deposit I require before starting work,” says Phyllis Weiss of Weiss Communications when asked about green flags. “Speaks volumes.”
This is usually a sign of good things to come — for one, it means your new client respects you and the way you run your business.
Other client green flags
We've outlined three of the biggest green flags, but there are so many more.
- A client who respects your communication preferences.
- A client who responds promptly to emails and media requests.
- A client who understands that things change and rolls with the punches.
- A client who shows up on time to meetings and calls.
- A client who comes prepared for media opportunities.
- A client who is willing to listen and learn from your counsel.
- A client who refers your business to others.
Want more resources to manage clients? Check out our members only resource Managing the Client Lifecycle. If you're not a member get on the waiting list to be among the first to find out when we reopen.