I’m sure anyone who’s worked as a freelance writer for any length of time has had “bad” clients, right?
Even if you are new to freelancing you may have run across a few.
You know the ones: the scope creeper that keeps piling on the work. Or, how about the dodger that never answers your email and you have to constantly nag them to pay you?
The problem is that no universal code exists to tell you whether you’re dealing with someone who’ll be honest and forthright or if your potential client thinks of you as a means to an end.
You have to know what to look for as you seek long-lasting, healthy writing relationships. And you have to be willing to end the bad ones.
Sometimes someone looks bad but they’re just trying to make a living. Whether it’s advisable to get involved with these types of clients or not is a personal judgment call, but these traits don’t necessarily make them a bad client.
The Pay Offer is Low
You answer an ad that mentions a price point, but you have some expertise in the topic and believe you can negotiate a better price.
Sometimes people just don’t have the money to spend on quality writing. It doesn’t mean the client is a bad client, but, since you should never undersell yourself, you may want to look elsewhere.
The Client Won’t Renegotiate (Even After You’ve Worked for Them a Long Time With Few Issues)
Many clients will renegotiate a contract based on the quality of writing they receive from you and the length of your relationship with them.
But, this may not always be the case. The client may be a great person to work for, but people put different values on the content they receive.
The Client Shortens Deadlines
Sometimes life happens and a client needs the work you contracted for earlier than was originally agreed. You either tell them you can’t do it, or agree on a bonus for finishing the project before the new date. They change to a bad client when they start demanding changes.
You’re Asked to Make Multiple Revisions
Most writers will determine the number of revisions they will do beforehand and stipulate it in their contract.
If a client asks for multiple revisions, it doesn’t make them a bad client unless they become demanding or refuse payment until they are done. Just set the number of revisions you are willing to do for the negotiated price up front and this should not be a problem.
So, What is a Bad Client?
A Person Who Makes Excuses for Not Paying on Time
You should either get paid in full up front, or at least half up front and half when the work is completed. It you don’t, you could be in trouble. Most newbie freelancers have been stiffed a few times, but with proper initial negotiation this can be avoided.
She or He Expects More Work Than Was Originally Agreed Upon (With No Pay Increase)
Talk to your client and remind them of the agreement they signed (you are giving them a contract right?). If they need more work tell them that you are willing to renegotiate.
A Client Who Asks You to Do Something That Seems Unethical
This is a scam alert. A client agrees to your fee and says that you will get a bonus if the work is done on time.
Then they ask if they can pay you in an unorthodox way. They will send you a traveler’s check (for up to ten times your fee) and all you have to do is cash it and send the remainder back to them.
The client may even say they need to do this because they are new to this country and have not established a bank account yet. If a potential client asks you to launder money for them or do anything else you are uncomfortable with, RUN the other way.
A Client Who’s Demanding From the Beginning
The fee is too high, you are not getting work in fast enough or your writing is not up to expectation. When a client takes an authoritarian stance from the beginning of a contract, they will always treat you like an inferior.
A Client Who Actively Harasses You
Some freelancers tell horror stories about being called in the middle of the night, yelled at over the phone or subjected to other indignities from clients. Never let this happen. No client, no matter how much they are paying you, is worth the harassment.
The main problem is that freelance writers are sometimes willing to take a lot from clients because they need a paycheck. The truth is, there are plenty of great clients available and you should not tie yourself to a bad one.
How Do You Shield Yourself From These Types of Clients?
It’s all up to you. Mental health counselors are taught early on how to set up a positive session with a client. We can take a page out of their books when negotiating contracts with clients.
Too often hearing and listening do not correlate. Keep yourself active during a conversation by asking questions and clarifying the agreement before you sign off.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
There are two types of questions: those that are designed to elicit a yes/no response (closed) and those that generate information. Make sure that you are asking questions that provide you with the information you need.
Know Who You Are Before You Begin Negotiations
As a freelance writer, you should understand:
- What your prices are
- How fast you can write
- What your expertise is
- Whether you can complete the job being negotiated
Don’t back down even if the client is willing to pay you a lot of money for getting a job done in a ridiculously short amount of time. Always be honest with you client and with yourself.
Your client is looking to you as the writing expert, which is what you are. Be a professional and don’t waffle on the details. Assert yourself as a writer and a subject matter expert.
When you are taking clients, don’t think of the money first. That’s what often gets freelancers into trouble. Look for the signs of a bad client and be willing to walk away if the situation is becomes uncomfortable.
So, tell me, have you had any bad clients? How did you deal with them?
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