You’ve just landed a new client, and you’re absolutely stoked. Here’s an opportunity to earn more money and build your freelance writing business. You know, as long as everything goes smoothly.
What happens, then, when your client turns out to be overly picky? Suddenly, you’re not so excited about your new business opportunity.
According to a 2010 Global Freelancers Survey, the majority of responders cited flexibility and creative control over their projects as the primary reasons for going freelance in the first place. Picky clients won’t offer you either.
You can also expect some pickiness. After all, freelance writing clients are paying you to produce the highest-quality work possible. But when clients become too picky, the last things you’re going to get are flexibility and creative control. This can threaten your sanity and make you seriously consider severing the relationship altogether.
What’s the solution?
Instead of quitting, you should work on improving communication with your picky client so that you can produce the best possible work while preserving your sanity.
What is a Picky Freelance Writing Client?
A client can become difficult to work with for a variety of reasons:
- Micro-managing: This is the client that likes to watch you work via Google Docs. She will log in to witness every single word you type, even if it’s the first draft.
- Too Many Chefs: This client is actually multiple clients all rolled into one. Your writing is gauged not by a single person but by a committee.
- Edits Galore: Every freelancer offers at least one revision, but when each assignment is going through four, five, or more drafts, there is a problem either with how assignment needs are communicated or how feedback is received.
- Constant Contact: This client wants to talk over email, Skype, and even over the phone about the project, proposed revisions, and even future projects. Communication should be part of the job, but when it becomes too frequent, it can disrupt the flow of your work.
- Unreasonable Deadlines: This client orders projects of varying scopes and wants them right now. Actually, scratch that, He wants them yesterday.
Are you currently working with one of the above clients? If so, here are some ideas for improving the client relationship.
Do Your Best to Adapt
One option is to go back to the credo “The Customer Is Always Right.” If the pay is good and the client orders enough work to make the increase in stress at least somewhat manageable, look for ways to agree with their requirements in a more manageable way:
- The client wants to watch you type in Google Docs? Do your best to produce an excellent draft, first or otherwise.
- Your copy gets passed around an entire boardroom full of people, and they all have edit requests? As a freelancer, you can request that all of those requests be submitted at a single time, making your job easier.
- The client orders more edits than you’re used to? Do your best to alter the copy to his or her liking, and state in your contract that you will charge more for excessive edit requests.
- Do you find yourself discussing projects with your clients at all times of the day or night? Let your client know that you only check email or answer the phone at certain times of the day, and stick to those times no matter what.
- Does the client want to know where you’re working and how often? It won’t hurt to send a work schedule satisfying the client’s request.
- Are your deadlines too restrictive? Frame the client relationship by requesting a minimum deadline of, say, two or three days (at least).
Put Yourself in the Freelance Writing Client’s Shoes
Most of the stress that comes with a picky client stems from ego. As a freelancer, you’re not used to having others tell you what to do. That’s why you decided to go into business for yourself so that you didn’t have a boss breathing down your neck.
On the other hand, clients are only picky because they want to protect their investments. They want content that works, and they’re paying you good money to produce that content.
It shouldn’t take you very long to appease the fussy client if it results in a better client/freelancer business relationship.
Frame the Relationship Early On
Have you ever heard the term “You teach people how to treat you”? If you are constantly giving in to unreasonable demands – like instant deadlines – for the same amount of pay, you only have yourself to blame for the stress you are under.
A better alternative is to set the terms of your client/freelance relationship early on. For this, a contract or Statement of Work becomes an absolute necessity.
Your SOW should include:
- The project scope: This consists of what you are producing, how many words it requires or how many hours you will work on it, as well as how many revisions you will allow before adding an upcharge.
- Time Frame: The deadline should be clear, and it should allow you enough time to research, write and edit, producing a quality document the client is sure to love.
- Payment Terms: This will cover when you will receive payment, how, and any other terms that are applicable, such as half upfront for a new client.
- Kill Fee: This is a fee required if the client decides to terminate the contract early and vice versa.
The contract or SOW protects both you and the client.
Most of all, it prevents you from experiencing scope creep. This is where the client continuously demands more of you for the same amount of pay.
Geoff McQueen, writing for Entrepreneur, says, “If you’re experiencing a lot of scope creep, recognize your client’s need for more work and ask for a higher retainer or break the project into phases. Clients who want you to do more for them aren’t always bad, as long as they’re willing to pay you for the work you’re putting in.”
Raise Your Freelance Writing Rates
As a last resort, and as McQueen indicates, if the client is demanding but is giving you a high volume of work, consider raising your rates. If you feel that you’re doing more work and that the client is demanding more of your time than your other clients, receiving a higher rate per project is the best option.
What if the Client Threatens to Withhold Your Pay?
Did you know that 40% of freelancers report trouble getting paid the wages they’re owed? If this happens to you because you refuse to please a picky client, you might have to bite the bullet.
Ask yourself: Is it worth it not receiving payment just to send a work schedule or to put up with a client who wants to watch you type?
Final Thoughts on Handling Picky Freelance Writing Clients
Some clients have other ways of working than you do. By changing your attitude and by giving the client what he or she asks for (as long as the volume of work and fees justify the extra effort), let the client be picky. In the end, you’re getting work and receiving payment for it. Everyone wins.
As long as you frame the relationship and manage your clients properly, you should be able to freelance your way to success.
How do you manage difficult client relationships? Let us know on our LinkedIn page!