When to Say When: Troublesome Clients

Writing itself is a difficult undertaking, but when frustrating clients get into the mix it’s enough to make a writer want to throw her hands up and stalk off muttering. I’ve had the misfortune of stumbling over a rare few this week and I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that they definitely rained on my confidence parade. When you get your speed up and feel like you’re doing great, one of these clients can come across as a punch to the gut, and the momentum-skew is able to knock newbies right into the realm of “Maybe I can’t do this, after all.” Don’t let that happen! Here are a few rules to guide you when clients start tangling you up:

1.) It’s OKAY to “fire” a client.

This could mean releasing the job, refusing direct/personal/solo orders, or communicating the “86” directly with the client if they’re a private hire. Your time is valuable, and one of the greatest benefits of freelancing is choosing the people you want to work for – allowing a “bad” client to eat up your time and patience is essentially tossing that benefit out the window. If you’re going to do this, don’t do it often or you’ll gain a rep for being unreliable – if you find yourself doing it often on a site, it may be time to switch sites, and if it happens everywhere it may be time to take a good long look at your own behaviors and tones.

2.) Clients aren’t perfect.

Money, education, experience, and personal creed don’t make a jerk any less of a jerk. Some clients are bullies that will treat you like an indentured servant, and some are new to the game and have unrealistic expectations for the money they’re willing to put out. It’s your job to lay clear boundaries, keep your workload reasonable, and communicate frequently if you’re lost as to what they’re looking for.

3.) Cherry-picking is A-ok.

There are a lot of arguments made for challenging yourself in the freelance arena, and while I agree with some of them, the time for experimentation is not when the electricity bill is overdue. When making money is the goal, grab a pair of 300-word articles on a subject that you’re familiar with, as opposed to a 600-word article on something you’ve never heard of just because the end pay is highest. More often than not, the time/pay ratio of researching and writing that unfamiliar 600-word could have been applied to three smaller articles and netted you a higher gain.

4.) Don’t be afraid to tattle.

Treat your liaisons at content mill sites (Textbroker, MediaPiston, etc) like managers, not babysitters. If you’re having trouble with a client bullying you or expecting far more than he or she outlined in the initial instructions, drop a note to your liaison and ask for guidance and assistance – don’t rely on them to fix every small problem you may have on the site. You’re expected to act like a professional, but even professionals need help sometimes.

5.) Keep your cool.

Even if the client gets insulting and starts throwing curses, don’t rise to the bait. YOU are the professional, and lashing out with snarkiness, sarcasm, or hostility will almost always come back to bite you. Remain collected, answer in a neutral, businesslike tone, and if that doesn’t diffuse the situation, refer to #4.

As a small reminder that I’d previously mentioned in the guide, if you’re going to complain on forums about clients (and you really shouldn’t), it’s always best to use a forum-specific nickname and avoid details that could lead back to you, such as subject matter and word counts. No one wants to work with someone that whines, no matter how warranted it may be, and blabbing details might just get you booted off content mill sites for violating buried non-disclosure clauses in the opening contracts that many don’t read.

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One thought on “When to Say When: Troublesome Clients

  1. Pingback: Changing Your Pitch: Writing Tone | The Freelance Writer Guide

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