Many freelancers think it’s the number of clients you have that make or break your freelance career. The truth is, it’s the kind of clients you have.
There are many types of clients out there. You will hit it off with some, and others will make you want to give up your freelancing career forever. Many times you can see the signs early on. Other times, you won’t know until submitting your first project. By that time, it could be too late.
As a freelance copywriter, you will inevitably bump into one of the types of “worst clients” out there. It’s your choice to keep working with them or move forward with other, better clients.
Traits of the best and worst types of clients to work with
Here are some of the most important traits to consider when working with your clients. These traits could be the difference between having great or terrible work experience.
Clarity and communication
Clarity and communication are two of the most important parts of having a healthy relationship with your clients. Most good clients will know this as well, for the most part.
The best types of clients give you deadlines and tell you exactly what they’re looking for. They may offer a writing style guide that includes the voice, image size, how they like to link and reference, etc.
Some other details clients could provide you with from the start include:
- The length of the project (how many words, pages, etc).
- What blog the article will be published on.
- What audience the article is being written for.
- The product in which the copy is written.
- An article example or a quick outline.
While receiving an outline from clients is handy, most are more likely to ask you to submit an outline before starting the project. This is typical when clients are contracting with a new copywriter. Some freelancers may see it as extra unpaid work. It’s better to view it as a mutual point of understanding between the client and yourself.
On the other hand, a client who doesn’t know what they want, or doesn’t give you the necessary details can be frustrating to work with. Many freelancers re-do projects for free out of courtesy if there was a misunderstanding. As a freelancer, you know time is money, so it’s best to find clients that are clear with you from the beginning. If they don’t offer up the clarifying steps mentioned above, you should bring it up as part of your workflow management style and hope that they agree. If not be ready for more back and forth than you’d probably prefer.
Feedback and praise
Have you ever submitted a project, then seen the published version completely changed?
If this isn’t one of the worst and most confusing feelings, what is?
Good clients give feedback if they don’t like aspects of the project you submitted. Their feedback allows you to go in and fix any details before the article is published.
Bad clients spend time editing details they don’t like in your work. They’ll complain because they paid you to do a good job and are having to review everything. When this happens, it’s not your fault. They likely weren’t clear with what they wanted in the first place, and that’s why it didn’t turn out how they wanted.
Many clients avoid giving feedback because they worry of offending the writer. However, most writers become successful by growing from the feedback they are given. To encourage clients to give feedback, always tell them you look forward to feedback when you submit the content. This shows them you are easy going and want to improve.
Praise is as important as feedback. As a freelancer, it’s nice to know you’ve done an excellent job on something. It also gives you an idea of what the client expects for future articles.
If the client answers, “please send me the invoice” after submitting a project you worked hard on, it can be deflating. Remember though that they themselves could be very busy and simply forgot to let you know they loved the piece. Don’t let them not saying anything crush your spirit, because nothing said is way better than a complaint or denial of payment.
To nudge a client for praise, ask them what they thought about the piece. You may not get the answers you were hoping for, at least you’ll know their opinion.
The client gives you a deadline. While working on the project, you have a question that brings the entire project to a pause. You send the client an email. The time is ticking, and the project is almost due. The client still hasn’t replied. When you finally get a response, time is up, and you need to ask for an extension. What a disaster!
You can usually tell if your client is responsive from the beginning. Responsiveness on both ends establishes trust between you and your client and keeps projects moving forward.
Remember that if you aren’t responsive, you can’t expect your client to be, either.
What’s an acceptable timeframe to wait for a client’s response?
Generally speaking, in the business world, within 24 hours is acceptable. Of course, the sooner, the better.
Knows who to hire
This point speaks to copywriters and content writers. As you know, there is a difference between the two jobs. They may be minor, and usually, a copywriter can do what a content writer can and vice versa. However, clients who don’t know the difference may ask you to do a task that is better suited for someone else.
This concern may also apply to special cases. For example, law enforcement officers do a lot more than just policing. When they’re on duty, they are often writing reports containing highly sensitive information in a CJIS compliant records management system for cases such as assault, domestic violence, murder, etc. A badly written report can cause an inaccurate portrayal of the incident and a long line of other disasters. To get the officers and investigators up to the necessary skill level on writing, the law enforcement agency might bring in a consultant/writer to teach writing classes.
A good client does their research before contracting. They ask questions like: have you done something similar? Can you provide examples? Can you meet my criteria and legal needs?
They should explain if there are any catches or specifications the writer needs to be aware of. If they don’t be ready for a few curveballs down the road.
If you get asked to do something where you are inexperienced, you can either study and give it your best or be honest and tell the client you don’t have enough knowledge in the subject area. It’s better to be honest than to take the project and do horribly if you don’t think you can do it well because you could lose the client altogether.
Truthfulness is possibly the most important point on this list. Here, we refer to the client telling you they have more work, then never getting back to you.
“For the next one, I’ll probably need a week or so. I have a backlog of blog posts at this point. I’ll be in touch!”
With this message, you don’t accept more clients because you are expecting more work from this client. And to your surprise (or not so much), the client NEVER gets back to you.
They may have found someone who will work for a lower rate, or they’ve shifted their plans. Either way, a good client will let you know. Whether it’s “Hey, I don’t think we’re a good match. I’m going to move forward with someone else” or “Hey, we are stopping production on (blog) and don’t need your services at this time. We’ll get back to you when we do.”
Clients shouldn’t feel shamed telling freelancers the truth. A bad client lets you make room for them, then lets you slip through the cracks.
Could you send a follow-up email? Of course. A follow-up email is almost always the best way to get clarity on something.
How soon is it too soon to send a follow-up email?
The answer to the question is entirely dependent on your situation. If you haven’t heard from the client in a while, and have other clients wanting work, wait to send the follow-up email. The client who promised you more work should still be considered, even if they are slowly getting back to you.
If you have few other jobs pending, the best time to send the follow-up is the day before or on the day they promised you more work. This way, you’ve waited long enough that you aren’t nagging them, and at the same time are expecting an update since you are supposed to be starting more work with them.
Here’s what you can say:
I haven’t heard from you in a while. Checking in to see if you’ll be needing more articles written. I’m ready to start them as soon as you give me the topics and any other information I may need.
This email sounds casual and acts as a “hi, remember me?”
Mind that your clients are busy. They may have projects lined up for you and have a thousand other things going on. A short, to the point, a follow-up email is the best way to stay connected.
Breaking it off with bad clients professionally and responsibly
If your bad client shows one or more of the characteristics above, breaking it off before it escalates could be a smart move.
Before you end it, consider the following:
1. Could the problem be you?
Are you the one lacking in responsiveness, causing the client to respond late as well? Or maybe you are not understanding clear instructions? Are you short and cold with your responses, therefore, the client is the same way back?
Being self-aware is important in every aspect of life. If you aren’t performing well, you can’t expect the client to do so either.
2. Can you do more?
If the client doesn’t give you enough details and you end up doing a project all wrong, next time, take the initiative to ask them more questions before getting started.
If they still aren’t clear and all else fails, it’s time to move on to better clients. Otherwise, you will be wasting time.
Here is an example template of an easy email you can send for almost all of the aforementioned situations:
This is embarrassing and I hate to admit it. I am having trouble understanding the projects you have been assigning to me, so I think they would be better suited for someone with more expertise in the subject area.
I wish you the best with your website’s traffic, growth, and success and hope we have the chance to work together again in the future.
Have a great week!
Remember to always keep interactions between you and the client professional. Copywriting and content writing is based heavily on reputation and recommendations, so you don’t want your clients upset over a snappy email you sent. Taking out your anger when breaking it off with them only burns bridges and will catch up to you if done often.
The bottom line is, as long as you’re professional and responsible, there is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing who you work with. That’s one of the perks of being self-employed.
If you watch for the traits in this article and work with the clients who possess the good sides of these, you’ll be a lot happier and successful in your career.
Continue Reading: Four Ways to Better Care for Your Clients