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Your Way Or The Client’s Way?

Freelance Writers HighwaySometimes we have to say ‘no’ to our freelance writing clients. I was reminded of this when I read On Shaky Ground by Lori Widmer. She’s a true professional freelance writer and if she says a client is causing nightmares with endless revisions I know she’s being totally realistic.

Unfortunately, it happens to all of us from time-to-time. We end up with clients who ask, one way or another, the impossible.

Not surprisingly, I’ve written about this before. I Don’t Want These Clients! will give you some idea of what I consider to be impossible clients for this freelance writer.

As you begin to work with writing clients there are several places and ways to so ‘no.’

Say ‘No’ To The Whole Writing Project

The first, turning down a writing project, is probably the most scary, particularly for the beginning freelancer. There’s this sense that you need each and every client and that if you turn one down you may never find a replacement.

Not true. In a very real way when you turn one client away, especially for good reasons, it seems to open up space for another – one you can do a good job for.

There are lots of reasons you might want to say no, including: low pay, unreasonable deadline, wants a kind of writing you don’t know how to do and aren’t interested in learning, or writing that for whatever reason you personally find objectionable.

The truth is if you take on any of these projects you probably won’t do a good job because you’ll be full of either resentment or fear.  Far better than you pass on those that don’t fit.

Say ‘No’ To A Special Request

Sometimes freelance writing clients will ask the impossible. Usually this shows up as a special emergency request of some sort. It may be they want a major revision turned around in way less time than you know it will take to do it well. Or they may ask you to put together a piece of writing that’s not part of your current contract – often a sales letter or other promotional piece, and they want it in 24 hours.

Often the client doesn’t understand what they are asking. They don’t understand the writing process and you’ve probably made it look easy.

A simple ‘no’ followed with a brief but reasonable explanation of why you can’t get it done in that length of time or because it’s not part of the original contract, goes a long way toward reducing their demanding expectations.

Again, the fear may be that you’ll lose the client. If they are at all reasonable, you won’t. And if they are not reasonable, perhaps letting them go entirely will be a good thing.


Many times, however, the best action is to negotiate with the client. For example:

  • If the pay offered is low, counter with a higher number. Make it close to your usual rate – they might say ‘yes.’
  • If the deadline is unreasonable specify what would be a reasonable length of time. They may accept that. Implicit in your job is educating your clients.
  • If the deadline is unreasonable, agree to do it but with a hefty surcharge – such a suggestion may bring some reality to the situation or fatten your bank account.

For me, negotiation is about two people getting what they want – me and the client.

You may also want to read Blogs About Negotiation and/or Negotiation And Freelance Writers – An Art

What’s your biggest challenge in negotiation?


Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • I had to laugh when I saw this blog post…I just wrote a post on my blog about clients who demand content I don’t feel comfortable providing. Sometimes I can negotiate to the point where what the client wants is acceptable to me, but more often I end up turning down the job…and usually being glad I did.
    Debra Stang recently posted..Keyword Writing and Business EthicsMy Profile

  • Great advice. I turned down clients because I had a “gut instinct” that the opportunity would be more work than it was worth. My sanity and peace of mind are important to me. It was scary, but I did what I had to do.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Are You a Special Freelance Writer? =-.

    • Anne

      Rebecca, I’ve learned to trust that intuition… good for you.

  • How timely as just this morning I had the following experience. I acquired a new client for what looks (ed) like a great prospect for future work. I sent my contract. It requires 50% up front for the project (a white paper). Invoice send 2/25.

    The client set up a phone interview with an Executive for an initial call on 2/26. I spent an hour on what was a great call. I typed up my notes and started working on my outline. They had a huge snowstorm that day so the client said she would send the contract on Monday. I had to follow up on Monday but the scanned copy was sent. I was told my invoice was processed 3/2 and they would let me know when I could expect payment.

    This a.m. I received an email for a call this pm. I had to turn it down due to other commitments. We scheduled for Monday. I asked for the status of the check. Client accepted meeting request invitation-did not respond to inquiry about check. I graciously 🙂 said I think she missed the other part of my email about the status of the check. I still have heard nothing.

    The idea of the 50% is it’s received BEFORE I start work. I was pushed into breaking this rule (probably because of the appearance of a more projects from this client). So, now I am contemplating cancelling the call for Monday if I don’t hear back by the end of today. And if I get the “check’s in the mail”-what then?

    Sorry for the long post.
    .-= Cathy Miller´s last blog ..The Social Media Fantasy: Be Yourself =-.

    • Anne

      Long comments are fine… and when they tell me the check is in the mail I wait until it arrives before I start… good for you for sticking to your guns.

  • Some great advice here Anne. In my experience, evaluating what your own time is worth and what value you can bring to a project is one of the most challenging aspects of establishing yourself as a freelance writer.
    .-= Benjamin Hunting´s last blog ..Building A Macquarium =-.

    • Anne

      I know it seems that way… I think it’s daunting at first because we’re used to others giving us that information… jobs I’m talking about… and thinking somehow some boss is right about our worth… hmmm… maybe there’s another post in there somewhere. Love it when my readers make me thinks

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