Archives for July 2012
Ahhhh, “good clients.” It’s what most of us as freelance writers strive for. We bend over backwards to do what they ask because we know that they are for the most part our bread and butter. And the vast majority are worth it. I wouldn’t trade my clients for anything; some of whom I’ve worked with for years and never had a problem.
But . . . then there are a few who make you want to question why you freelance.
So, what does this have to do with the topic of today’s post? Well, I received the following email a couple of weeks ago from a frustrated freelance writer. The gist of it is, she doesn’t want to piss off her “good client” because he sends a lot of work – and referrals – her way. But in the same breath, she says that he’s “very very very cocky” (which translates to me as he can be a bit of an a**hole).
FYI, the reason I put the phrase in quotation marks (“good clients”) is because if someone is costing you money, then really, how “good” of a client are they?
Email from a Disheartened Freelancer about a “Cocky” Client Who Cost Her Money
I hope you are enjoying your holiday weekend [4th of July] with your friends and family.
[I’m writing because] I am a bit perturbed. And don’t know if this ever happened to you, or if you can give pointers to your readers about this situation. Here’s the scenario:
I had a repeat client (he’s the one who sent me my [biggest client]).
He placed an order over the phone for 38 articles.
I went over the parameters of the project over the phone.
I went over pricing over the phone, and I was confused and wanted to be clear that he was ordering 38 articles.
I distinctly remember this because he kept saying 19 x 2.
So I said: you want 19 articles on (topic a) and 19 articles on (topic b)
He said correct, and we distinctly went over that the total cost of the project was going to be ($1,000).
He let me know that he was paying 50% in advance, which he did.
I sent him a Letter of Agreement, which I always do, to let him know I understand the scope of the project. He said in a very cocky voice, do whatever works for me. (By the way, he is very very cocky. It feels like every time we speak on the phone and I ask him a question for clarification, he dumbs me down). That’s why I kept asking him questions about the parameters of the project because I wanted to make sure we were on the same page.
I sent him the work, and I needed to make a few edits. No problem. But, now he called me and said I didn’t need to write that many. However, I distinctly remember going over the numbers with him with a calculator and him agreeing to it.
I don’t think he’s trying to stiff me, he’s still sending a lot of referrals my way. However, I am very disappointed by this action. But, I guess I need to cover my ass more. Since, I never had problems with him in the past, I didn’t mind if he didn’t sign the LOA because he has always paid with no problem. I thought he had built my trust until now.
I did send him a copy of the letter of agreement, and did express my confusion and frustration, but in a very polite manner. I don’t want to piss him off because he’s still sending me work for his clients. However, this experience is leaving a very sour taste in my mouth to work with him. I know that he is very very very cocky, but I always overlooked it because of the constant stream of work he provides.
I really don’t see where I was wrong. I am thinking that for now on, I should have everyone sign and fax, or do some kind of electronic signature so we can both be on the same page. It’s a bummer because that’s 500 dollars lost. I really don’t want to get in a collection battle, when he’s stating that I only needed to do a certain amount than what he contracted me for.
Has this ever happened to you?
No, this has never happened to me. Like you, I tend to go over and beyond when explaining the parameters of a project.
I don’t send a letter of agreement, but I do send emails that explain exactly what is expected, eg, number of articles and word count), the date it’s due, what we need to get started (ie, 50% deposit), and who the contact person for the project is if there are questions along the way, etc.
As you outlined it here, I don’t think you did anything wrong (that’s too strong of a word). But, following are a couple of places where I think you may have gotten off track.
1. Your Business Processes: Whatever they are, follow them EVERY time with every client. Like in any relationship, you train people how to treat you. So, for example, if your business practice is to send out a Letter of Agreement (LOA) and have it signed before work begins, then stick to that. This way, if there’s ever a problem, you can go back to this document and present to the client what THEY signed on for – literally and figuratively speaking.
2. Outlining Cost: While this will be part of your LOA, state it in an email – even if you do say it over the phone. In my email correspondence with clients, I always say something to the effect of, “The total cost for the project is $450. We require a 50% deposit to get started ($225), with the remainder due upon completion of the project (we will invoice you expeditiously).”
If you’d done this, your client would have known that $500 wasn’t the total cost of the project, it was the 50% deposit, with another $500 being due upon completion. At that point, he could have disputed it and you all could have gone over the parameters of the project again.
Some General Freelance Advice on Working with Problematic Clients
I don’t work with “cocky” clients. I mean, a client can be cocky all they want, but not at my expense. So, if I feel that a client is trying to “dumb me down” (and thank goodness this has never happened), I wouldn’t work with them.
Freelance Writers: How to Politely Brush Off Potential Clients You DON’T Want to Work With
I’d politely say something to the effect of:
I appreciate you thinking of my firm, but I don’t think we’ll be able to accommodate your content needs. There are some great freelance writers on sites like Twitter who I’m sure would be glad to have your business.
Barring this, I’d refer them to another freelancer directly if I felt it prudent (as an aside, generally I won’t refer clients who I feel will be a problem).
Never denigrate a potential client or be rude to them (unless they do something so outta the box you can’t help yourself), but DON’T feel the need to work with them if they present problems for you or make you uncomfortable in some way. Life is too short to work with people who put you on edge or make you feel like you’re doing them a favor.
As a freelancer, remember, you provide a valuable business service. And, just like freelance writers are a dime a dozen, so are clients. It’s a symbiotic relationship, so don’t feel the need to take abuse from any client – no matter how subtle (thinking of your remark that he “dumbs you down”).
Some people are just a**ses, but that doesn’t mean they have to be part of your business. The wonderful thing about being a freelance writer is that you can pick and choose who you work with. And no client – I don’t care how much they’re worth in dollars – are worth my sanity or dignity.
THOSE are priceless.
When – and When Not to – Implement New Practices for Your Freelance Business
One final thing, in general, it’s not a good idea to change your business practices based on a bad experience with one client. And here I’m referring to your idea of “having everyone sign and fax, or do some kind of electronic signature so we can both be on the same page.”
You already have a system in place to cover this (ie, your LOA), so don’t make it harder for new/existing clients to do business with you based on one bad client. Again, just consistently implement the good business practices you already have in place.
I hope this insight helps.
BTW, see if you can sell those “extra” articles you wrote to this client at a discounted bulk rate. This way, at least you get something for the time you’ve already put in. Also, you might try selling them to a like business.
P.S.: How would you have handled this situation? Sound off in the comments section below.
P.P.S.: Want to start a career as a freelance social media consultant / SEO writer and start landing jobs almost immediately? This ebook package gives you everything you need.
Freelance Writing Advice: A Freelancer Asks, “How Do I Handle a ‘Good’ Client Who’s All of a Sudden Paying Late?”
So, how do you handle it when one of them goes off the rails, ie, they start falling behind on payments. That’s what happened to one freelancer who contacted me recently. A couple of days ago, I received the following email.
Email from a Freelance Writer about a Client Who’s Late Paying
I’m one of your newer freelance writing “mentees” with a situation and questions about how to proceed.
My best and favorite client is 30 days past due on some of my invoices to him. I have sent him gentle Paypal reminders on these. For the month of June, he owes me over $1000. He paid me almost immediately in the months of April and May when I started working with him. He’s a really great guy and I really enjoy collaborating with him, but, my articles are live and working for him… and, yeah.
He’s got several writers working for him. He’s got a pretty decent sized site with good traffic. He never runs out of titles. He lets me keep my byline, and links to my Google+ page. He agreed to my pay rates. He agreed to pay on delivery.
How long should we wait for clients to pay us? When should we contact them by phone? What do we say if we do contact them by phone for a late payment? Is there a better practice than phone calling? When do we say goodbye? What if a client refuses to pay for work?
I actually answered these questions back in May on SeoWritingJobs.com, which is a subsidiary blog of this site. A freelance SEO writer had basically the same problem. Get this detailed answer on how to handle late-paying clients if you freelance.
I didn’t address the “what to say” portion, so when I called, I’d just say something like:
Hi [client name], this Is Yuwanda from New Media Words. I’m just calling to follow up on a couple of reminders I sent you about some outstanding invoices. Did you receive them?
If they say no they didn’t receive the invoice (or any reminders), then I’d say:
Well, I’ll send them again straight away. Can you please confirm receipt when you get them? Also, can you tell me when to expect payment? I don’t like to get to let invoices run beyond X number of days (in my case, it’s 45-60 days), especially as we produce ongoing copy for your firm. The bookkeeping can be a little dicey trying to keep track if payment lags too far behind invoices. I’m sure you understand.
I’d say all of this in a light, conversational tone, but hold them to specifics, ie, saying something to the effect of:
Thanks for taking my call and I’ll note in my file that payment will be forthcoming on X date. Have a good one!
If the client says yes, they have received the invoices and the payment reminders, I’d then say something like:
I hadn’t heard from you – and I know how hectic things can get sometimes — so I’m just following up to see when payment will be forwarded.
Then take it from there. Most will explain why payment is late and give you a date as to when you can expect payment.
Advice for Freelancers: How to Get Over the Nerves of Picking Up the Phone to Ask Clients about Late Payments
It can be nerve-wracking to do this, but this is how I learned to get over my nerves about it . . .
Confront your fear. To explain, most human reactions come from a base of two emotions – love and fear. So if you’re anxious, nervous and stressed, those emotions come out of some type of fear that you have. In this case, it’s most likely fear of losing a “good” client. But the reality is, if a client is not “respecting” you by paying you in a timely manner, then they’re not a good client.
And this is the way you have to look at it – and accept that you might lose the client. But again, this is not the type of client you want anyway. Remember, you are a business. You provide a service (one clients ostensibly like) and you do it on time, in a professional manner.
The vast majority of clients who use you as a freelance writer understand this and you will not have a problem collecting from them. I’ve been freelancing since 1993, and I’ve gotten stiffed on exactly one project – it was by a lawyer (it woke me up and taught me some lessons).
I’ve had to pick up the phone to call clients about invoices maybe a dozen times in almost 20 years of freelancing – really! Like I said, most clients are a dream to work with, so clients not paying is NOT a common problem.
And usually, when a client pays late, it’s an aberration – eg, they’re out of the office on vacation (especially this time of year); they really didn’t receive the invoice; they overlooked the invoice (my inbox is crazy, so this can happen more often than you think); etc.
So keep this in mind – and good luck collecting.
On a Personal Note . . .
I’m taking advantage of the slower summer season to train for yet another marathon — a full one. My new training schedule (early morning runs) is killing me because I most definitely am NOT a morning person. So I usually get up, go to the park, get my run/workout out of the way, then eat and nap before working. This means I usually don’t log on until 12 or 1 pm (EST U.S.).
I point this out because if it takes me a few days or a couple of weeks to get back to you, don’t sweat it, ok? Orders, of course, are handled the same as before (within a few hours). Thank goodness for VAs!
Hope you’re enjoying the summer!
P.S.: Want to start a career as a freelance social media consultant / SEO writer and start landing jobs almost immediately? This ebook package gives you everything you need.
Happy 236th Birthday America! You’re looking good for your age:-)
As a freelance writer, I’m particularly grateful on Independence Day; grateful to live in a country that lets me . . .
Pursue my passions with freedom; and
Live the dream of entrepreneurship doing anything I set my mind to.
On this day, I also thank all the men and women of the armed forces. Thank you for protecting and preserving our freedoms, and happy 4th of July — whether you’re here in the U.S., or abroad in a foreign land. Your service is never forgotten and always appreciated.
A special shout out to my nephew, who is serving in the U.S. Air Force. I’m so proud of you!
Now, for some fun facts, following are . . .
9 Things about About Independence Day You Probably Didn’t Know
1. Freaky Fourth of July Deaths: For America’s first five presidents, the Fourth of July was not only a celebration of their great achievement, but it was also, apparently, a prime day to die. Three of America’s first five presidents died on Independence Day.
2. A Century in the Making: It took nearly 100 years for Congress to make the Fourth of July an official holiday, despite the widespread celebrations that had been ringing in America’s birthday since the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.
3. A Presidential Daughter is Born: President Obama’s oldest daughter, Malia, was born on the Fourth of July.
Learn 6 more things about the 4th of July you probably didn’t know.
What are you grateful for as a freelancer on this Independence Day? Please share in the comments section below.
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P.S.: Get the training that will allow you to replace your current job. If you’re the average Joe pulling in $30K-$50K, this is a career that can easily replace your current job. Get full details and sign up today!