Have you ever dealt with difficult coworkers at your 9-to-5 job?
How about a hard-to-please boss?
When you work for yourself you don’t have to deal with those things; you are your own boss and you work from home away from any workplace drama and emotional games.
But, even though you escape the workplace shenanigans, as a freelance writer, you still have to deal with clients, and sometimes, they can be just as troublesome as a nagging boss or unpleasant coworkers.
When you’re at a 9-to-5 job, those difficult people aren’t the ones writing your checks. They may put a kink in your day or make your work a little bit harder, but when all is said and done, you will still get paid if they don’t 100-percent approve of your work or the way you do it.
Sadly, with hard-to-please freelance writing clients, that’s not the case. Your clients are the ones writing your checks and paying your bills, and if you want to get compensated for your time and effort, you must live up to their expectations and make them happy.
Sometimes though, that’s a lot harder than it looks. A client will want 25 revisions, they’ll expect immediate and 24-hour responses, or they may even want you to start a project completely over from the beginning if they’re not totally happy.
It’s unfortunate, but as frustrating as it is, dealing with difficult freelance writing clients is a part of the job.
Lucky for you, I’ve experienced just about every challenging customer in the book, and I have some tips to help you manage them, please them and make sure they live up to their end of the bargain every time.
Here are a few ways I recommend dealing with difficult freelance writing clients:
Get Clear-Cut Directions
During the project inception, get as many details about your client’s project as possible so you don’t allow any room for error or miscommunication.
Ask questions, request examples, and have clients outline EXACTLY what they expect for the final product. If there’s any push-back on these detailed requests, let them know it’s in their best interest so you can give them the best product possible in the shortest amount of time.
The more info they provide you now, the fewer revisions the piece will need and the happier they’ll be with the final product in the end.
Establish the Right Expectations From the Beginning
Clients get upset when they expect one thing, but get another, so set the appropriate expectations with every new customer.
Clearly outline your availability and…
- Your office hours
- How quickly they can expect an email response. Make sure they don’t expect you to become a full-time, 24-hour employee unless that is what you agreed upon
- The details of your deliverables – the length they can expect, the day they can expect them by, and how many rounds of revisions you offer, whether free or paid.
You don’t want any surprises down the line that could damage your client-contractor relationship, so be as detailed as possible as you move forward.
Have Set Processes in Place
Implement a few set-in-stone work processes, and share those with your client at project inception.
An important item to outline is your editing and revisions process, specifically how it works and how you will make changes on the client’s behalf.
Also, detail how invoicing and payment will work, whether you require a deposit up front, you charge by the word, or you expect payment upon delivery of the final product: Make sure your client is clear on how the project will progress and what is expected. Don’t leave room for any misunderstandings.
Try a Phone Call or Skype
We freelance writers communicate mostly via email, but as convenient as that is, sometimes, it’s not ideal.
Some clients may be too short in their responses or they don’t describe what they’re looking for very well, or maybe we can’t comprehend the ideas or edits they’re trying to communicate.
Instead of wasting time going back and forth, schedule a Skype or phone call with your client and discuss the issues via a real conversation.
This is more important for the initiation of the project, however. Most times, I will get on a call with a client at project inception to ensure we are on the same page, and then the rest of the communication regarding the project will occur via email. By talking to clients verbally, they’ll appreciate that you went the extra mile, and it will help you get more clarity on how to move forward with the project.
NOTE: Though you may discuss the details of the project over the phone, you still need to agree on terms in written form. Both parties can forget the details of the conversation and if things ever get ugly, it will be your word against theirs. Always sign off on terms in writing via a contract (recommended) or at the least via an informal email if it’s a quick project
Use Examples and References
When you’re unsure what a client wants, default to examples and references. Ask the client to send you a few blog posts or articles that follow the instructions, or pull a few samples yourself and ask clients to verify that’s the type of content they’re looking for. Sometimes, just having a reference point can provide more clarity.
Check in Often
As you get more experienced, you will be able to spot difficult clients before you even start the work. At this point, it’s your decision whether or not you want to work with clients like this.
How do you know a client will be difficult?
Difficult clients may have more than the normal number of of questions or make you jump through several hoops before hiring you, or they may just give off that “high-maintenance” vibe. Either way, if you think a client is going to be a hard one, but you want to continue with the project, start nipping that in the bud right away by offering constant, regular communication.
Some good solutions are to:
- Set up milestones with clients so they can check your work periodically
- Send regular emails updating them with your progress daily or weekly
- Ask questions often to show that you’re ensuring 100% satisfaction
- Schedule check-in calls and/or email updates to go over progress as needed
These tasks may steal a little extra time out of your day, but if you recognize a difficult client early, work the extra time you’ll spend, into your price quote, and the customer will never know the difference.
It will also keep you from wasting any time and effort in the long run. Just think: If the client is unhappy with your final product, how much time would you spend on revisions and editing? Probably a lot more than you spent checking in with the client! Checking in is definitely a worthwhile investment in the end.
High-Maintenance Clients Can Be Managed!
Are you currently dealing with difficult freelance writing clients? Don’t let them get you down. Manage their expectations, check in often and be clear on your processes and instructions, and you’ll be well-positioned for success.
And, you know what? If you can’t make it work, you can always fire your client. You are the boss! Oh how I love working for myself.