As a freelance writer, some of your clients will be amazing. You’ll both reap the rewards of your collaboration, and you’ll wish you could keep working with them forever. Other clients—well, not so much. Every freelance writer will encounter a difficult client every now and then, so learning how to manage your relationships with them is part of the job. If you’re new to freelance writing, when you end up with a difficult client, you may begin to wonder if it is really worth your time.
In some cases, the only answer is to cut and run when you have a difficult client, but often, you can salvage the project and even come to a place where you have a better working relationship. The key is knowing how to get on better footing with a demanding client and knowing when you’d be better off moving on. This advice will help you keep the peace—and your sanity—when you are dealing with a difficult client.
Prevent Difficulties with a Pre-Project Interview
Sometimes, difficult clients aren’t really difficult—they may simply be inexperienced in working with a freelance writer and don’t know what is realistic to expect. You can avoid many of these challenges by doing a pre-project interview with the client.
During the interview, ask very specific questions about what he or she wants from the work you are doing. Agree to word counts, deadlines, format, preferred delivery method, tone, the number of revisions you will perform without charging an extra fee, and of course, the price. Get all of this in writing, and submit a final project proposal to the client that details everything you discussed. Although you may not be able to stop a difficult client from questioning these things time and again, you will at least have a written record of your agreement to refresh his or her memory.
When you do freelance work, going with the flow comes with the territory. Each client is a little different, and part of completing a project often means adapting to these idiosyncrasies. When a client is being difficult, step back and consider what it would mean to accommodate his or her request. When you let go of the annoyance, you may find that it is easier that you’re imagining to adapt to his or her needs to get the job done.
This may mean sending a client who wants to know your work hours a schedule for completing the project, or letting a client see drafts when you usually don’t let a client into the process until you have a polished piece ready. These things may not be the way you like to work, but if you can accommodate them, you’ll get through the project with less stress.
Know When to Walk Away
In some instances, a freelance writing project can’t be salvaged. If a client is verbally abusive, drop him or her. This is a sign of an unreasonable client who you won’t be able to please. You should also walk away if a client threatens to withhold payment or actually does withhold any portion of payment, if you are getting payments for a scaled project. Don’t invest any more time in a project that is going nowhere.
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