Who Are The Bad Clients Freelance Writers Encounter?

stressed black man with dreadlocks in psychological office

All freelancers agree that they had encountered bad clients before. We hear from writers similar stories of bad experiences from clients after writing for them. I, too, experience those types of clients. This phenomenon has become a chronic disease for some writers because they get one bad client after another which could burn them out of freelance writing.

But before I go on, let me share an experience that prompted me to write this blog post in the first place.

The Story of The Potential Bad Client

I’ve been promoting myself as a freelance writer through this website and once in a while, I do engage on social media. One day, I posted a comment on someone’s YouTube channel and shared a link about working from home which leads to my blog.

The personality behind that YouTube channel has books, TV appearances, and a large following on social media. He sent me an email through my website to contact him. I was surprised and very honored to talk to him on the phone. In the process, he asked for a writing sample. I sent one, and he liked it. I haven’t heard anything from him since.

Almost a month after, I received an email from his staff asking for my rate. I told the staff that my rates vary depending on the client and their needs.

Although I prefer to be paid by the hour, not all of my clients prefer this method. I can be paid per month, per project, per article, per page, per 500 words, or a combination of per hour + per 500 words.

Also, I told the staff that as a member of the Freelance Writers Guild of the Philippines (FWGP), no writer should be paid lower than Php 2.50 per word. So I gave them a quote for my minimum rate which I believe is fair enough for me and for them, and still within the FWGP standard.

After a few hours, I received the staff’s reply. He said that although they like my writing, my rate is beyond something they can afford. They also said that they wouldn’t haggle because they respect my pricing.

That reply made me think.

This personality has more than two million subscribers on YouTube alone. His books are best-sellers. With his stature, he can afford to hire good writers at a fair rate. Saying that they couldn’t afford my rate made me think that they were probably hiring someone who would accept a writing job worth less than Php 2.50 per word. Now I’m wondering how much this YouTube personality pays his team.

I’m just hoping that no one from the FWGP circle would be fool enough to accept a YouTube video script writing job for less than Php 2.50 per word because this perpetuates the phenomenon of getting bad clients.

Types of Bad Clients

The YouTube personality I mentioned is not really a bad person. I am subscribed to his channel because I like his content. But because of this personal incident, I could classify him as a potentially bad client.

Below are the types of clients freelancers encounter. If you experienced at least one of them, chances are you’ve been duped. But if you experienced them all before, by all means, avoid them.

The Control Freaks

These clients have a lot of trust issues. They require you to send them an end-of-day report (EOD) daily. Or worse, they keep on sending you a message every now and then asking for updates. They might even require you to install a remote monitoring tool just to check if you’re not playing around.

It’s okay to update the client at the end of the day. However, I prefer reporting at the end of the week at least. Clients pestering you for updates every now and then could make you lose your peace of mind.

The Dreamers

These clients want the moon and the stars. You’re enticed to support their goals but the problem is, they couldn’t tell you how to get there. You’ll have to figure it out yourself and give it to them on time.

Once, I had a client who wanted a web copy for a start-up business. He gave me a few instructions and two websites to get inspiration from. He even said that he doesn’t care about SEO and other stuff. I tried to get more info about his business but I only received a few details. So I had to figure out how I could make his website make sense.

The Eccentrics

These clients don’t have an idea of what they want until you write it for them. They’ll be happy at first but then they would change their mind and realize that your writing or your service is not what they want at all.

I had a client who wanted me to write an article about her health spa business. And since I’ve known her for a time, I knew what to write about. When I presented it to her, she requested some changes. Every time I presented her with a revision, she would request another change. After several revisions, we reverted to the original draft only for me to find out that she changed her mind at the last minute to not use it for a press release.

The Samplers

These clients would ask for a writing sample or ask you to take a writing test just to check if you’re the right fit. Most of the time, the sample is never paid.

There are employers across different online job platforms who require a writing test. Some of them are recruitment agencies or the company’s HR department and they would say that it’s part of the hiring process so there’s no payment for the writing sample.

The Fly-by-Nights

These clients disappear with your payment. They would come up with all the reasons for not paying you. They could also be eccentric, you know. Also, a sampler and a fly-by-night could be one and the same person.

I encountered a possible client who asked for a written article for $25.00. After sending my article, I immediately followed up on his payment. He never replied.

The Misers

These clients prefer to pay the lowest rate possible. That’s why they are scattered across the different online job platforms. Most of them are also starting up, with limited funds to hire people, thus they outsource.

Why Do You Keep on Attracting Them?

You might have heard of the Law of Attraction. Your thoughts become things. Whatever you think and act about, you bring about.

Probably, in your desire to get the freelance writing gig quickly, you attract them unknowingly. Here are the reasons why:

You keep on choosing clients in the wrong places.

When I started freelancing back in 2012, I started using oDesk and Elance (both are now merged as Upwork). I also made a profile on other online job sites like OnlineJobsPH, PeoplePerHour, Outsourcely, etc. These sites are where I’ve met those bad clients, and only a handful were good ones.

I’ve realized that these sites have become overcrowded with writers (not only Filipinos but other East Asians, Africans, and Latinos) who are willing to bid low rates just to get the job. And bad clients love these kinds of freelance writers.

You sound desperate.

Have you noticed how you write your cover letter or pitch? Take a look at these samples:

  • “I agree with the cause of your non-profit organization and I would be honored to write for you for a reduced rate.”
  • “I would be willing to lower my rate if you’d agree to hire me.”
  • “I don’t have any writing samples, but if you would give me a chance to write for you, I could prove my worth.”
  • “I would love to write for you.”

These are the statements that attract bad clients. They could smell insecure and desperate writers. And in the end, these poor desperate writers would be treated like doormats.

You easily jump in for anything and everything.

In the desire to get a freelance writing gig, you tend to apply for any writing job on any platform without realizing what type of writing the prospect wants. Applying for any writing job in any writing format and hoping that something will stick together doesn’t work.

I consider myself a generalist because I can write both fiction and non-fiction, from academic writing to web content, and almost everything in between. However, I know what I cannot write and I tell my clients about that at the beginning.

What You Could Do To Avoid Bad Clients

Qualify your prospects.

Qualifying means checking your prospective client’s online reputation. Do some research. It’s not bad to have a profile on some online job platforms. Some platforms provide ratings for employers to guide freelancers. You may still find rare gems there.

Target your prospects directly.

It’s better to choose the type of writing job you are comfortable with. Avoid those job posts that seem too good to be true. With experience, you can sense the job posts made by these bad clients.

If possible, have a website that prospective clients could look into. One advantage of having a website is that you control your own content, thus your own profile and portfolio. And it makes you stand out from the crowd.

A client sent me an email and told me that he found me on Google while searching for a freelance writer. And when I proposed my rates, he agreed. Another client saw my profile on Linkedin and sent me an email. After a Zoom meeting, we sealed the deal.

These two situations show that there are good clients out there.

Also, learn some principles of good networking. Dress up, attend gatherings, and connect with people. Who knows? They may refer you to good clients in the future.

Project that self-confidence and communicate your useful expertise.

Take a look at what you’re writing and saying. Are you using words that show your confidence? You should come across with an attitude that your writing is a valuable skill and provide a valuable service.

But what if you’re not confident enough? Then fake it until you make it. Doing consistent confident actions tends to build confidence over time.

Try looking for gigs that you are comfortable writing with first.

“Write what you know” is a cliché you’ve heard a lot of times. But for freelancers, this can still apply. Successful freelance writers focus on specific industries and limit their clients within that niche. Ask yourself what topics and industries you prefer to write about. Do you want to focus on B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-customers)? And if you see a niche you really want to get into but don’t know about yet, then study and learn until you’re comfortable writing about it.

Have your prospective client pay for a writing sample.

To avoid a bad experience with the samplers, have them pay for your writing sample. Charge them per article or per 500 words whether or not they hire you or not.

I’ve put this provision in my contract with the client. I charge it either per article or per 500 words depending on the length. I also put in there that if ever they liked my writing, the project will push through. But if not, consider it as a “kill fee”.

Anybody who is in freelance work, especially artistically, knows that it comes with all the insecurity and the ups and downs. It’s a really frightening life.

— Alessandro Nivola

My Final Thoughts

Freelancers encounter bad clients, that is a fact. But it should never be a constant in each freelance writer’s life.

To avoid having bad clients know who, what, and where to look for a good client. Acting and sounding confident (even though you’re faking it) could impress a potential client. And focus on a specific niche you’re comfortable writing about.

Let me know if you have experienced these types of bad clients and how you dealt with them. Or just tell me what you think about this post. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, subscribe and join the tribe.

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