Friday, 7 September 2012

Clients from Hell!

Warning : Angry rant ahead!
The things they'll say to squeeze you down and squeeze you out! I've worked with my fair share of difficult clients over the last few years. Every freelancer has them. Every freelancer loses sleep over them. For those of you just starting out, or wondering what to do about a difficult situation, here are the problems I have encountered thus far and how I (mostly) successfully dealt with them.

The 'let's keep discussing this project ad infinitum whilst using your up your time and squeezing down your hourly rate to about 10p by the time we've finished'.
Grrr. That's all I can say. These people are a waste of space and when I realise I have one these days, my price automatically goes up.  For straightforward clients who appreciate that I can understand what their business is about, I have one price. For those that think I'm an imbecile and who rob me of my free time to impress this upon me, they pay around 50% extra. As soon as I realise I am starting to lose out financially, I start charging for my time on the work. There is not much that I cannot understand through email or a quick phone chat. Unless I am to write your Astro Physics thesis for you. In which case, I don't even do that anyway.

I need a free sample to check that you're good enough
I need an abacus to count the number of times I've been asked for (and in the early days did) free samples of my work.  I can count on one finger the number of times these clients were actually serious and went ahead with copywriting from me or anyone else. Tyre kickers. Time wasters.  People who think you have nothing better to do and are waiting around to be thrown scraps.  I absolutely DO NOT do free samples now I am established and can pick and choose my clients. In the beginning, when you do need the work, it's easy to be persuaded by the slick sales pitch:

- We have lots of work for you
- Your portfolio is great but we need to see how you interpret our business
You rarely hear from them once they've got your writing. They probably won't use it. They're not completely stupid. What you will find, if you check their website and other literature, is that it gradually morphs into a paraphrase of your work. It's not a copy, but where you've added bullet points, they acquire them.  Where you've used a catchy phrase, they steal it and twist it beyond recognition. But you know that it's yours.

The moral here is, don't do free work. You won't get paid, you won't make any friends and you certainly won't grow your business.

This will be a long-term thing. We have lots of work for you.
This is the line that gets you to drop your prices in the often mistaken belief that you will have a long and lucrative relationship with this client. Sometimes you do but often, once a defined project is finished you don;t hear much from them again. This is not about the quality of your work. They just want a discount and vague promises about long term work nearly always hook in newbies.  Apart from long-term partners I made at the start, who helped build my business and who still come back time after time, I DO NOT offer discounts for ongoing work, big volumes or anything else I am promised out of contract.

There are lots of devious ways shrewd business people will use to get you to work for free or cheap when you start out. They can smell your inexperience. Don't worry if you do become a victim though. More often than not it can be both character and business building. You do get the practice, even at low prices, and hopefully the great testimonials. In fact, doing these gigs and putting up with some shtick in the early days can get you some great clients and even more lucrative jobs in future. Testimonials are also worth far more than your bit rate - they offer residual income and help to build your reputation to the point where 1)you can spot trouble from a mile off and 2)you can choose who you will and will not work for.


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