Freelance writing is a tough gig. Not only do you have to be prolific, but you also need to deal with the sales side of things. If you’re lucky, you’ll land professional clients who respect your time and talents. If you’re not so lucky, on the other hand, you may find that you end up with clients who you like an underpaid, undervalued employee.
Here are five red flags to look out for if you want to avoid the latter.
1. They ask for a ‘free sample’
It’s only natural that a client would want to review your skills. However, there are ways they can do so without asking for a freebie. For example, they might ask you to share your published portfolio, complete a short test, or take on a paid trial piece.
However, when you come across the dreaded ‘free sample’ request, you’re better off nipping that professional relationship in the bud. The question, while undeniably rude, is also symptomatic of an underlying problem. This client does not respect freelancers, their time, or their work. Cut your losses and walk away.
2. They are vague about their budget
Budgets and rates can be a tricky topic of discussion. (Personally, I prefer it when clients are clear and upfront about what they expect to pay from the offset. But that’s just me!) If a potential client won’t give you a ballpark figure for their budget, the reason is simple. They are looking for the lowest possible rate.
They may ask you what you plan to charge while being entirely vague about what they can actually afford. The most you will get here is the hint that they would appreciate your ‘most reasonable’ rate. Ultimately, they want to scare you into undervaluing your work, and give them a rate way below the industry standard. Don’t do it.
3. They tell you it’s just a ‘quick job’
When you first start talking to a potential client, you might come across this time-old phrase: “It’s a super quick job that won’t take longer than an hour!” Oh, dear. If a client is already dictating how long a project will take and, frankly, underestimating, that’s a major red flag. The client likely wants to pay a low rate, and is trying to justify doing so.
Unless the client has ‘been there and done it,’ chances are they don’t really know how long this job will take you. You are the professional here, which means that you are the only person who can answer that conundrum.
4. They ask you to be available 24/7
One of the biggest advantages of being freelance is the fact that your time is your own. Sure, you have to organize yourself properly and prioritize the most time-dependent jobs. But, the point is that you have the freedom to dictate what you do and when you do it.
Some clients don’t respect this fact. If a potential lead asks you to communicate with them 24/7 online – via Slack, Skype, or WhatsApp – that’s a seriously bad sign. It sounds like they’d rather have a personal assistant than a freelancer. However, they’re not willing to pay for that luxury and nor should you give it them. Being communicative online is one thing (and it’s a major pro), but you should by no means be on call.
5. They are less than professional
Building client relationships is all about having mutual respect. However, sometimes it doesn’t matter how professional you act if your client isn’t willing to give you the same courtesy. For example, you might find that a new client sends you one-sentence email replies, calls you up randomly, or, worse, talks trash about previous freelancers.
If they cross that line, and become overly familiar with you from the offset, you may want to reconsider the arrangement. It’s quite clear that this person has no boundaries and, the more you work with them, the worse the problem will get. Remember, you’re a freelancer, not their confidant, friend, or counselor. Keep it that way.
- When Charging a Pain in the (Bleep) Client More Money…is More Than Justified
- 5 Signs Your Client is About to Fire You – by S.E. Batt
- Four Types of Clients to Avoid to Earn More Money with Less Stress! By Jennifer Brown Banks
- Would YOU Write for a Convicted Killer? 5 Types of Clients…and Which Ones to AVOID! by Rich Mintzer, Ghostwriter
- How to Deal With Your Clients’ TERRIBLE Ideas By Ryan Leclaire
Charlotte Grainger is a freelance writer living in Sheffield, UK. Her work has been seen in Men’s Health, Reader’s Digest and Psychologies. When she’s not writing articles, you can find her reading a book or binging Netflix.
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