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Stop Attracting Bad Clients

All freelancers agree that there are bad clients out there. 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 my recent experience which prompted me to write this blog post in the first place.

A Recent Experience

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 was 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.

Just recently, 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 2.00 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 half a 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’re probably hiring someone who would accept a writing job worth less than Php 2.00 per word. Now I’m wondering how much does this YouTube personality pay 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 2.00 per word because this perpetuates the phenomenon of getting bad clients.

RELATED ARTICLE: How Much Will You Charge?

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 potential 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 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.

The dreamers

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

The eccentrics

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

The samplers

These clients would ask for a writing sample or ask you to do a “writing test” just to check if you’re the right fit. And most of the time, the sample is never paid.

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.

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 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 quick, 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 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 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 on any writing format and hoping that something will stick together doesn’t work.

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

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What You Could Do To Avoid Bad Clients

Qualify your prospects.

Qualifying means to check 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 jobs 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 or a blog 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.

My current 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. This only shows 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 tend to build confidence over time.

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

“Write what you know” is a cliche 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 do 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 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 Statement of Work 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”.

RELATED ARTICLE: Statement of Work

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, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

statement of work

Items to Put In Your Statement of Work

One of the frustrations of a freelance writer is not being paid for the work he/she had done. The freelance writer would charge it to experience. However, it keeps on happening, especially if the client sounds too good to be true.

So to avoid this kind of scenario, it is better to set up a written Statement of Work (SOW) which, for me, also serves as my proposal. And once the client signs it, it becomes a contract.

I have on my file a template which I can freely edit depending on the client’s job request. So each of my clients receives a different scope, thus, a different rate.

Statement of Work

You might have heard of these acronyms or terms before:

  • RFI (Request for Information)
  • RFP (Request for Proposal)
  • SOW (Statement of Work)
  • SLA (Service Level Agreement)
  • MSA (Master Service Agreement)
  • Independent Contractor Agreement
  • Contract

Technically, they operate in different ways. These documents describe specific aspects of how an agency or a contractor is going to serve the needs of a client. These documents could represent a section or the entire contract itself.

Most businesses prefer a general contract. BPO companies do have a separate SOW and SLA within their Contract. Others prefer an Independent Contractor Agreement for freelancers.

The reason why I chose to call my contract a Statement of Work (SOW) rather than anything else is its purpose. A Statement of Work provides a detailed and descriptive list of all the deliverables of a project. For me, aside from providing a detailed description of my deliverables, my SOW serves as my free quote or job proposal, including my promise of service level. And if the client signs it, this becomes our contract.

Let me show you how I compose my Statement of Work.

The Parties Involved

At the beginning of the contract, I always state who I am dealing with.

This [type of contract] is by and between me, [YOUR NAME] of [your company] and the client, [CLIENT'S FULL NAME] of [client’s company].

I prefer to deal with one person, even if the clients are in pairs. This way, I avoid any miscommunication or misunderstanding during the course of the project. However, if they are a pair, like a husband and wife team, I state both full names in the contract.

If the person has two companies, I prefer to set up a separate contract for each company. Why? Let me tell you a story:

I had this client who reached out to me to write for his website. The topic is within my expertise, thus I wrote blogs on his behalf comfortably well. However, when he announced that he would set up another website and asked me to write its contents, I thought twice. The topic is not within my expertise but I could write about it if I’ll research it well. That would mean more time for research and writing, meaning more time and effort. Thus, I gave the client another set of rates, different from the first assignment. At least, I would not feel I’m at a disadvantage if I write for both websites at the same time.

Most clients would take advantage of this situation. Since they already know how much I charge, they would find a way to use my talent to do something much bigger than the first assignment. Clients would think that the same rate applies across the board. It may apply to other freelancers like illustrators who could charge per piece, but not for freelance writers.

Scope of Work

This part of the contract contains a detailed and descriptive list of all the deliverables. It defines the type of project, its scope and limitations. This serves as a compass for the project so both parties can track the progress and make sure everything is going according to plan. It is better for me to define everything, even the slightest detail. A vague SOW only opens the door to disputes. It’s in the best interest of both parties to eliminate vagueness whenever possible.

SCOPE OF WORK: This is a [type of] project for the client which includes:
• [describe the nature,
• scope of the project, and
• limitations of the project]

An example of what I presented to a client recently looks like this:

SCOPE OF WORK: This is a SEO and Social Media Management project for the client, which includes:
-- administering the WordPress site,
-- article/blog writing
-- social media posts on 1 Facebook page and 1 Twitter account only (additional social media platforms will have additional charges)
-- responding to comments for audience engagement (but not including critical or sensitive customer service or technical support issues which I may not be able to handle due to my limited knowledge of and exposure to the company/organization)
-- content curation and
-- other activities related to Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Management.

Although the above example does not show much details, the important thing is I laid out the general scope and limitations of the work first. Particular details may be discussed and laid out later during the negotiation phase and/or final drafting of the contract.

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Delivery Date and Deliverables

This part defines the desired outcomes based on the scope of work. I usually state what I would produce (e.g. 2 articles in .docx format), when or how frequently they are delivered to the client (e.g. weekly), and how they should be delivered (e.g. via Google Drive).

Here is what I have on my template:

DELIVERY DATES: I shall complete the Services and/or Work by or in accordance with the delivery schedule below:
   Deliverable/s: [number of] hours per week (a total of [number of] hours per month) of writing in [type of] format.
   or [number of] words of [type of] writing in [type of] format within [period of time] upon my acknowledgement receipt of written instructions via email.
   Submission: Submission of deliverable will be via email or Google Drive or whichever the client prefers.

Revisions

Some freelance writers miss this part because they might not have given a thought about it. There are clients who keep on returning the work for revisions many times that the writer’s pay itself is no longer worth it.

As much as possible, I make sure that the work needs no revisions at all. However, there are times that clients point out an issue or two for the writer to revise. Once is acceptable. But more than twice require additional charge.

Here is how I stated it on my Statement of Work template:

REVISION: Edits will be avoided at all costs and are not anticipated except in extreme circumstances. An article may be returned to me only once for revision at the sole discretion of the client. Revision will be done within 24 to 48 hours upon return. Succeeding revisions, if any, will be charged as per the writing rates stated below.

Also, in order to avoid confusion, it is better to define clearly in the Statement of Work what satisfaction means. For example, my current client has defined that all works should be 100% unique or 0% plagiarized. Although there are instances when direct quotes from sources are all over the Internet, these would show a result of 97% unique or 3% plagiarized, which is still acceptable within the principle of fair use.

Payment

I guess this is the part why freelancers need to set up contracts with their client in the first place. Getting paid for writing may be fun, but getting paid right is another issue.

This part of the contract should define how much you will charge for what type of project. Specify also how you should be paid (e.g. via PayPal or bank deposit), how much is the deposit, and when and how the balance should be paid.

Here is how I worded mine:

PAYMENT: The total project price is quoted at $xxx.xx USD per month (₱xxx.xx PHP per month). A minimum of 50% down payment is paid up front…
   Payment is done [frequency], no later than [day of the week or month]. Should [day of the week or month] fall on a non-banking day, payment should be made not later than the next banking day. An invoice from me should reach the client no later than the closing of working hours of every [end of pay period].
   International payments will be paid in [currency] via PayPal to [email address]. For direct bank deposit, it should be payable to: [bank details]

RELATED ARTICLE: How Much Will You Charge?

Sample Writing and Kill Fee

Here’s the sad and frustrating part. Many clients require sample writing from applicants. A few of them would pay for the sample writing, but most of them don’t. If they belong to the latter, I refer them to my website, blog, or portfolio so they could check it out. If they insist, I won’t bother. Most likely they will pay me lower than my worth.

To avoid this problem, I offer a paid writing sample or paid trial. I charge this the way I charge per article. The Statement of Work specifies that if the client likes the sample, the project will push through. If not, the payment for the writing sample serves as the kill fee.

A paid trial will be done to see if my writing suits the client’s requirements. A writing task will be given and will be paid for at the amount of [amount] per 500 words upon submission. If the paid trial satisfies the client, the project will push through. Paid trial is non-refundable.

The kill fee also serves as a good protection for freelancers who are in the middle of a project. If the client suddenly decides to terminate the project, and the freelance writer is not yet paid for the current task, it would make sense that the payment for the current task would serve as the kill fee. However, this should be stated in the Statement of Work, too. Better specify in the contract how would you like the sample writing, down payment, and kill fee be paid for your protection.

RELATED ARTICLE: 6 Reasons Why You Should Have a Website

Rights, Disclosures, and Non-Compete

We are now reaching the end of the contract. However, there are other issues that need to be discussed.

I usually ghost-write for clients. Thus the issue of copyright should be laid out in the contract. More often than not, I would declare that the copyright belongs to the client on a ghostwritten project. Otherwise, I would declare the full copyright of the article and have my by-line attached to it.

Another issue is the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) between the client and me. This is especially applicable in ghostwriting projects where we both agree not to publicly (or even privately) tell anyone that I write on the client’s behalf. This is stated in the contract as well.

Since freelance writers get many jobs from different clients, it is common that a writer gets two clients having the same industry or niche. To prevent conflict arising from this situation, I declare and include a non-compete clause in the Statement of Work.

This is how I wrote mine:

RIGHTS, DISCLOSURES, NON-COMPETE: I hold no copyright to the materials created [if this is ghostwritten]. I agree to non-disclosure of rates, processes, and client lists. I agree to refrain from competing with [client or company name] for the same client during the course of this contract.

Execution and Effectivity

This is the last part of the contract. It specifies how I will deliver the Statement of Work to the client, and in what format. It also specifies what will happen if there are changes in the terms and conditions during the course of the project.

Also, I specify the date of effectivity of the contract and when the project should start. If the client can define the date of when the project will end, the contract contains that detail as well. However, most of my freelance writing contracts are open-ended.

EXECUTION BY COUNTERPARTS. This SOW may be executed and delivered via email in PDF format. Any changes in any of the items herein should be done in writing and must be mutually agreed upon.

At the bottom of the contract are two signatures: one for me, and one for the client.

I usually write the terms and conditions on MS Word or Google Docs. Then save it as PDF before sending it to the client. I don’t need to have this notarized because most of the clients don’t want to be hassled, too. However, there are organizations that require the contract to be physically signed and notarized.

My Final Thoughts

A well-constructed Statement of Work (SOW) should be detailed. Otherwise, it will open the door to disputes. Take time to review and polish each section well and make sure to be descriptive and detailed as possible leaving no room for misinterpretation.

Let me know if you think that I have missed anything, I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelance writing and productivity, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

6 Pros and Cons of Being a Writer

You might be asking what are the pros and cons of being a writer. Well, I could think of six answers. However, each answer has a good side as well as its downside.

1. Low overhead cost

Pro: Nowadays, you need a working computer and a reliable Internet connection to work as a writer. But long ago, William Shakespeare just used a quill and paper. That’s how low-cost writing as an occupation could be.

Con: A fabulous equipment like a computer, a printer, and a router may give you a little bit of a head start but it will not guarantee success in your writing business.

2. Anybody can write

Pro: Anybody can write, or could set himself up as a writer, no matter what your education or professional background is. Just look how many bloggers out there and check out their background. Some of them didn’t even finish college but can write well.

Con: Too many competition. You may have the award, the recognition from peers, etc. but the person beside you might also be another writer who is much better than you (and you don’t even know).

Anyone who says he wants to be a writer and isn’t writing, doesn’t.Ernest Hemingway

3. You can make money writing

Pro: I’ve mentioned in another blog, you can turn your writing into cash. Depending on what kind of writing you do, or whom you’re writing for, writing pays a lot. You can charge per word, per page, or per project, depending on what you’ve agreed upon with your client.

Con: Sadly, there’s no minimum wage for writers. Although there are some writers who earn a lot, some writers still struggle and receive low pay. That’s why many people still think that writing is not a real occupation or a good source of income.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Ways to Turn Your Writing Into Cash

4. Anybody can start at any time

Pro: The late Sidney Sheldon published his first novel past his age 50 although he had been a screenplay writer before that. Other writers started their writing career late, too. I am also a late bloomer, I started writing professionally in my 30’s.

Con: Distractions, discouragements, and chores may get in the way while you’re in the mood for writing. Well, all writers agree that the hardest part of writing is the beginning. Therefore, you could not just start writing any time.

5. You have the basic materials

Pro: Actually, you are the basic material. Your talent, knowledge, skills, and experiences can provide the basic materials you need for writing. Write first of what you know about.

Con: Sometimes, your material is not enough. You need to seek out and research more. Writing is hard work.

RELATED ARTICLE: Apps I Use in Freelance Writing (And They’re Free)

6. You write alone

Pro: Writing is a good career choice for introverts who are shy to interact with people but have something more to say to the world. Most writers are introvert, come to think of it. You can lock yourself inside your room and write.  (I love this part.)

Con: However, no man is an island. You need to socialize, interview, and network from time to time. In the end, you have to deal with editors and publishers, too.

So there you have it, six pros and cons of being a writer. Let me know your thoughts or if you have something to add on this one. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.