Editor’s Note: I’ve accepted and published several stories over the last few years that discuss how freelance writers can improve their businesses and make more money. One common piece of advice that consistently surfaces pertains to setting “limits” with clients. I recently asked one of WritersWeekly’s most respected regular contributors, Jennifer Brown Banks, to give us the low-down on what limits writers should be setting between themselves and their clients.
“We teach people how to treat us by the things we accept.”
In an effort to earn a living, enjoy the benefits of being a freelance writer, and provide good customer service, many of us have bent over backwards in the line of duty. We’ve accepted late payments, rigid deadlines, disrespect, and poor treatment to remain in the good graces of those we serve.
Our rationale? Flexibility leads to customer retention. After all, a “satisfied” customer is often a repeat customer.
Theoretically speaking, flexibility is indeed a good thing. But, unless you’re a gymnast or circus contortionist, being too flexible can actually sabotage your business and your bottom line. The key is to be accommodating when possible, yet establish respectful limits for optimal success.
THERE ARE A FEW COMPELLING REASONS WHY LIMITS ARE IMPORTANT
1. There’s great validity to the expression, “If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.”
2. Limits contribute to mutual respect and regard for your time.
3. It prevents burnout.
4. It prevents bullying.
Here’s an example. Many years ago, when I landed my first paying blog job, I was over the moon with excitement. Blogging was just starting to be big and I wanted to be on board. Being paid was a bonus! Initially, the guy that hired me presented himself as being very professional, likable, and eager to have me join their team.
A few months into the gig, he began sending me profanity-laced emails whenever he had an issue with the formatting of my work in their content management system. The first 2 or 3 times it happened, I overlooked it. I chalked it up to him possibly having a “bad” day.
Then, it got to be too frequent and demoralizing to ignore. Though I really enjoyed the job and the popularity of the site, I had to “pink slip” this client due to the stress associated with the ongoing disrespect. Lesson learned. If you’re ever in a similar situation, I advise the same for you. No client is worth sacrificing your dignity and mental health.
As a general rule, I refuse to work with clients or editors who are difficult, disrespectful or condescending no matter how much money they pay. In fact, “Choice” is one of the biggest freedoms we enjoy as freelancers. Choose your clients wisely.
Here, in a nutshell, are some of my most crucial limit-setting areas that I recommend for you as well:
- Limit your hours of availability to prevent burnout.
- Limit the time frame you’ll accept late payments without penalty (to avoid lengthy open invoices and to prevent operating in “the red”).
- Limit the number of revisions a client is allowed per project before additional charges are assessed.
TO GIVE YOU A MORE WELL-ROUNDED PERSPECTIVE AND HELP YOU MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS IN THE FUTURE ABOUT SETTING LIMITS, I POLLED A FEW OTHER PROFESSIONAL FREELANCERS. HERE’S THEIR TAKE ON THINGS:
“I would let clients know that they can call me until 7 pm with a brief, relevant inquiry or concern. However, they can email questions and concerns thereafter, and may not receive a response until the following morning.”
– Marcie Hill of Marcie Writes
“Cover any rules regarding everything in your on-boarding process, ESPECIALLY as they pertain to things like “scope creep”; how you like to be contacted, when, how often, do-overs/revisions; etc. These should be crystal clear. If you start out with clear boundaries, there’s less chance of problems down the road. And, if there are, you have the contract to refer back to. And, yes, you should have a contract that the client signs during the on-boarding process that you both keep copies of.”
– Yuwanda Black, Publisher of Inkwell Editorial
“At the first sign of a client turning nasty, run. You’ll be glad you did. I’ve had authors email me multiple times after midnight, with each message growing increasingly more rude and downright belligerent because I haven’t responded (because I’m asleep!). When they resort to profanity, I terminate their contract. If they’re going to harass me after-hours right from the get-go, imagine how badly things are going to get further into the process of publishing their book! It’s unfortunate that some people think that, just because they paid you for a service, they can then treat you like crap.
“Our website clearly states ‘we don’t work with jerks’ (and that’s actually an excellent vetting tool, by the way – jerks get offended by the comment while nice folks think it’s hilarious).”
– Angela Hoy, Publisher, BookLocker.com, Inc.
Additionally, freelance writer and virtual assistant, Lisa Tanner shares: “Remember that not every client is a good client, and establishing boundaries is one way to cull out the bad ones.”
When we set boundaries for our professional relationships,”the sky’s the limit.”
- Are You UNDERcharging Your Clients to be “Nice?” Don’t Sell Yourself Short! by Angela Hoy
- Scammed! Three Vital Lessons I Learned from Fraudulent Clients – by Akintubi Ayodeji
- Four Types of Clients to Avoid to Earn More Money with Less Stress! By Jennifer Brown Banks
- How I Raised My Rates and Still Kept Clients by Ingrid Cruz
- Charge Your Clients by the MINUTE?? Sure! Here’s How and Why… – By Sharon Woodhouse
Jennifer Brown Banks is a Content Creator and Creative Strategist. She’s won the “Top Blog for Writers” award from 2013 to 2020. Check out all she has to offer at her blog Pen and Prosper.
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Thanks so kindly, Linda. 🙂
Jennifer Brown Banks, point on about establishing limits with clients. I always look to you for great advice.