In a recent job discussion (Just 10 minutes back), It turns out that client was a school kid who was trying to get some work done at ridiculously low prices considering the level of work. However in the job posting he wanted to hire Intermediate level Software Engineers to work on a source code he has his team already developed(Turned out to be a faulty open source project from GIT Hub).
I have had similar experiences before. Had this thing been known to me, I would not have wasted one hour in the interview process discussing the requirements of the project.
I know that while freelancers are supposed to reveal their work experience in full detail, clients are given full freedom to protect their privacy. As a result we are often caught working for unprofessional individuals. It will be good to have an overview section about the client where even if they choose to protect their privacy, they can still reveal their level. Eg. Whether the client represents a Start up company, a Multi national Organization or a college kid looking to get his assignment done. I am not against school kids wanting to get their assignments done but I will like to have a feature that helps me filter out the people and organizations that I do not want to work with.
This system is very much needed as odesk moderators consistently refuse to interfere in client-contractor disputes and advice us regularly to choose our clients carefully. Please ask the clients to fill out an About Us section where they can brag about how professional they are. I know this will not resolve the issues completely but will be a convenience to know that who exactly are we working for before we apply for the job. Client location and payment history are a great filter but a more detailed "About Us" section or the size of the company that clients represent will be nice to have before applying for the job.
I've worked with new clients, but they were people I could research on the internet. For example editing and proofreading a PhD dissertation for someone who did not have English as a first language, who was listed on his university's website and had previously coauthored work in his field. I wouldn't work for someone who claimed to be a surgeon if I couldn't find their name in a list of staff at the hospital they claimed to work at. I check out all my clients. (And I have no problem with clients Googling me either.)
Identifying new clients and working with them is a topic well addressed in some other forum posts. I personally try having short milestones or hourly contracts with new clients.
However in this post I will like to discuss whether or not it will be a good thing if you know a thing or two about your clients before you apply for their job. I think it will save a lot of trouble applying and going through project discussion process and in some cases even help identifying certain bad clients that odesk is always warning us about.
As Preston rightly addressed a new professional is a better choice than a new kid/student. However job posts hardly mention any information about where the client is coming from and what will he do with the work you provide him.
Eg. If the client represent a software company that wants to commercially distribute your peice of software , you know in advance that this person will not mind and behave professionally if work hours are extended as long as quality is good upto his mark. But if the person just wants the software for his own personal use to make his life a little better, there is a red flag with such clients as they may present very basic requirements and as the work progress keep on increasing their demands to make the product a little better and expect to pay with previously set price or estimated work hours.
Aseem, that is what the interview process is for. You should be asking the client about what they will be using your work for at the interview. You will need to know anyway, to be able to do the job to the best of your ability. In fact, showing that you are interested in what your work is being used for will probably increase your chances of beng hired.
If you aren't happy with the answer, then don't take the job. An interview is a two-way street. The client is deciding whether to hire the freelancer, and the freelancer is deciding whether to work for the client. You don't have to take a job just because you've been granted an interview.
Marcia and Preston
You have both made a very good suggestion and I do ask the client to tell me about him. May be I need to move this question to the top before we begin diving into the requirements discussion.
Having said that I will keep the topic open as I think that an about me section in client profile can act as a good filter about the jobs to apply or ignore just like we use their work history, payment verification etc.
I do a lot of scraping from websites and other source files such as PDF.
What bugs me is why clients announce that they will provide the source document only after they have selected a freelancer. I think that this is non-productive work and wastes the time of freelancers trying to guess what the clients need.
From experience, I have found that when the client is able to provide the source url or the source file and a template or a few sample rows of what is needed, a quotation and a sample scrape or format can easily be provided for the client to evalutate.
Simple jobs are made complicated with clients that are lazy to describe what they want.