Today is the one year anniversary of A String of Words. It’s so awesome to look back to a year ago at this time and realize how far I’ve come with my writing and in pursuing a freelance writing career. When I started this blog, I wasn’t even sure I would leave my job and I never in a million years believed it would happen so fast or that I would have such good results in such little time.
Over the past year, I’ve thought of developing this blog into more than just a personal blog and of trying to create a large following, but recently I’ve decided against it. When I started this blog it was meant to be about my life and my writing journey, and that’s what I want it to remain about. I like that I can talk on professional topics if I want but also go off topic just as easily. I like the freedom. That’s not to say I don’t have other blog ideas in the works, but as for this one, it will remain the way it is.
To the small number of people that read this blog – thank you!
I’ve been applying for freelance writing jobs as an independent contractor for over a year now. In this time, I have come to recognize some reoccurring signs of less than desirable clients. I’m not talking about what is written in the job ad, although sometimes that in itself can be a telling sign. What I’m talking about is what happens between when you apply for the job and then start working with the client for pay. Usually there is a certain amount of back and forth emails and phone calls before you actually start to work. This can be very telling of the type of client that you have on your hands. From my experiences, here is what I’ve learned and hopefully it will help you avoid the less than perfect clients out there.
If a client comes off as unorganized from the beginning, then chances are they will be unorganized for the duration of your working relationship. For example, I once had someone email me about a job. They gave me a list of their writing needs and asked me what experience I had. Fair enough. I sent them a detailed email back including what I could do for them and samples of my work that related to the work they were needing done. The next day they called me and we had a chat about those same experiences and I was told a decision would be made in the next few days. I followed up our phone conversation with an email thanking them for their interest and highlighting my interest in working with them. Then things got a little weird. I received another email from the client a few days later asking me what I had experience writing and asking if we could have a phone conversation about it. I sent them another detailed email and offered to speak to them over the phone again. They never called. A week later, way after they had originally said they would make a decision, I received another email asking for the same information. At this point I caught on – they were highly unorganized. I decided that I didn’t have the patience or time to enter into a working relationship like this and nicely let them know that I was no longer interested in the work. While some clients do make occasional mistakes and mix-ups with writers, right off the bat and repeatedly seemed like a bad sign to me.
Another sign of a potentially bad client is when they don’t have a contract or want to sign yours. In another example I applied for a project that seemed perfect for me. It was right along the lines of what I write and the pay was good. After a few emails I had a phone conference with the client. It became apparent that they would not be giving me a contract to sign even though they claimed to work with many different writers. I thought, okay maybe the writers they work with just give them their contract. So I asked them if they would be willing to sign my contract. They gave me a roundabout answer that ended up being they don’t sign contracts. Um, red flag – no thanks. I abruptly ended that conversation.
Pushing for Work
A final reoccurring sign of a potentially bad client is where they just jump right in and start demanding work without working out the finer details such as pay. In responding to one ad for an editor, I asked several questions and for specifics of the project. In the response email I received I didn’t get a single one of my questions answered. Instead the potential client sent me several projects with instructions. I emailed them back to ask what the pay rate was, if they would sign a contract, how much work a week the project would take, etc. In response, they emailed me that they needed my first project the following day. They still didn’t answer any of my questions. Needless to say I felt justified in telling them I wouldn’t be taking on the work.
Have you encountered any of these types of clients? What did you do about it? What signs do you think indicate a less than perfect client?
Finally, I’m getting in some time for a blog post. It’s been a whirlwind of business for me for me since my trip and I’ve been absent from blogging for longer than I would have liked. But paying clients trump personal blogging. So anyway, about my trip – it was wonderful! Seeing my best friend and spending a whole week with her was awesome! We did some really cool things and I got to see a lot of Colorado. By far the best part was skiing in Breckenridge. Having not been a huge skier, I found that I did a lot better than I had hoped I would. And of course the time spent on the ski lift gave me time to draw some parallels between skiing and freelance writing. From my observations there are two types of beginner skiers and approaches:
- The Jump Right in Approach: Those that hop on the ski lift and head right to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, they fearlessly attempt to fly down the mountain often falling, but when they do fall, they get back up and try to get down the slope again. Like beginner skiers, there are those people who decide they want to try freelance writing and they jump right in. If they make a mistake, they brush it off and move on. There is something to be said for that. Having the courage to keep trying is impressive in this tough career. However, in their haste, sometimes markets aren’t researched and money isn’t saved for slow times. Often they take on one time clients just to get by, but fail to build up long term clients.
- The Slow and Steady Approach: Those that take a lesson before getting on the lift and when they do get to the top, they take their time and practice control as they go down the mountain. If they fall, they figure out what they did wrong to correct it the next time. In freelance writing there are those beginners that are planners. They research markets, they save up some money to fall back on during slow times and they consistently try to build up a good client base while learning from their mistakes so as not to repeat them.
In my previous ski experiences I have been the type to just dive right in to try to fly down the mountain. This as you can imagine caused me to fall a lot and lead me to believe I was not a good skier. This time however it was different for me. I took the slow and steady approach. I realized that it wasn’t a race to the bottom and that it was more important that I make it to the bottom without any broken bones.
I have taken this same approach in my writing career. I saved up money and worked part time freelancing to experiment with different markets before I quit my full time position. I have also worked hard to find long term private clients and to build a good relationship with them.
Even with all of that planning, money was tight and at the beginning – I was barely scraping by, but just as I approached this career in a steady manner, my income has steadily risen each month. I think if I had just jumped right in without planning I would have been much less successful. I would have gotten frustrated, lost confidence and probably by now would have been looking for full time work again. And just like skiing, I’ve made it this far unscathed.
How about you? What approach do you take and how has it worked for you?