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?