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5 Times A Freelance Writer Should Say ‘NO!’ To A Client

say no to demanding writing cleintsAs a freelance writer you want, even need, to please your clients and most of us work hard to do so.Sometimes, however, the client is way out of line and it’s time to say ‘no, I won’t do that.’

Knowing when to say no and how to say no can help you keep your sanity and often the writing gig.

Here are my favorite five times to say no, and not even start, or, in some cases, try to turn the situation around.

When the ad demands fresh samples “to be sure you can meet our needs.’ This is often a thinly disguised scam to get free content. While there certainly can be times to write for free or even give a sample, to send them off blind to an unknown advertiser is asking for trouble. Usually there’s not much point in responding to these ads. If for some reason you want to, do so with a link to your writing resume.

A demand you be available via Skype, IM or phone eight hours a day. I’ve never understood why a client thinks they need constant access to me during working hours. But I’ve seen a sizable number of ads where that or something similar is a requirement. Unless I’m being paid and paid well for all of those hours, I’ll have nothing to do with it. I respond to email and phone calls. I can be coaxed to do some instant messaging, but rarely – there’s nothing I’m doing for clients that requires instant access to me except the client’s need for control. I don’t need that.

Any situation that counts my keystrokes or watches me in any fashion. At least one outfit that gets contractors, including writers, find gigs, brags that the client can “Watch the work as it happens.” It’s Odesk and they tout the ability to hook up to your computer so the client can “track” what you’re doing. I find that an appalling invasion of privacy and a total negation of what freelancing is all about. Just say no. While I do understand that clients new to hiring freelancers may be concerned that I will do what I say, I have my credits online and will, when asked, provide references.

Rush jobs without premium fees. When a client calls and tells me they need whatever by the end of the day or other deadline that requires me to drop everything else and work on their stuff, I either say “no, I can’t get it done in that time,” and give them a more reasonable time frame, or, I double my fee. Okay, maybe I won’t double it, but you get the idea. You deserve to be paid when you have to write to an “emergency” tight deadline.

A major change in direction without compensation. Sometimes a client will ask for a major change when you’ve already done a significant amount of work.  While it’s understandable that things change, it’s unreasonable to ask a writer to make major changes without compensating them for the changes asked for. How much extra you should charge is probably best based on an hourly rate and should be negotiated at the time the request is made.

Remember, you’re in business for yourself. That means it’s up to you not to let yourself be exploited. It’s always your choice. Make it a good one for you.

What’s your take on this? When do you say no to a client? When have you wished you said no? Let’s talk about it in comments.


Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by marc falardeau

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Nice one, really couldn’t agree more. Although I never had clients who wanted to look over my shoulder like a big brother all the time. 🙂
    Karol recently posted..The 10 Online Snake Oil Salesman CommandmentsMy Profile

  • Great advice given. As far as major changes, that should be stipulated in the contract. So much due for changes after the work is already in progress. Paid before the changes begin.

    Does the “O” in Odesk stand for onerous? I could not work if I knew Big Brother was watching my every move.
    Irma recently posted..RipplesMy Profile

    • Irma, you and I are obviously on the same page 😉

  • A recent lesson I’ve learned about saying no is to listen to my gut. A potential client that I felt might be tricky after first speaking with him called me five times and emailed me twice on a Friday afternoon while my Mom was trying to use my phone to take pictures of me trying on wedding dresses! I hadn’t even worked with this person yet, but he was already throwing out major red flags, and all it took was that afternoon to confirm my suspicions. I emailed him the next day to politely let him know that I wouldn’t be able to work with him. Even with a wedding coming up, I knew the headaches created by dealing with a difficult person would far outweigh any payment I might receive for the project.

  • I have a IM account just for work contacts, but I don’t give it away unless I’m discussing communications with my client. They can contact me through social networks and via email, if they wish. I’m also thinking about removing my cellphone number from my pages; too expensive to call me outside of Italy and even in Italy clients prefer to catch me on email or Facebook.
    Luana Spinetti @ Writer’s Mind recently posted..Freelance Writing – How I Got Myself Started (And How You Can Do It, Too)My Profile

    • lol, there sure are differences around the world… I don’t have a clue how to use Facebook for client contact, and spent a good 10 min. today trying to figure out how to send someone to my linkedIN profile. Landline phone calls are pretty cheap here.

  • Bex

    Elance has a similar “tracker” function. I don’t use it often, but I don’t mind much for hourly jobs. At least once it has saved us from a client who didn’t want to pay when all was said and done.

  • I had a client expect me to be available by phone and IM from 7 am to 9 pm. I was told this after I’d handed in the first draft and had informed them I was off for the next few days because of my daughter’s graduation and out-of-town company. Didn’t that lunatic call me on a Saturday in the middle of the party — twice — and leave long-winded messages thick with guilt trips on how she wished I had a cell phone. I did, but wisely she never was given the number.

    Worse? This was TWO WEEKS after I’d handed in the project. Sorry, sister. Your fire is NOT my emergency.
    Lori recently posted..6 Ways to Get More from Your MarketingMy Profile

    • Lori, that sounds like your client may have been truly insane… hope you dropped her in a hurry.

  • I also have a problem with people asking for – “at least five well-researched ideas for our blog/website, along with your application”. Seems like a nice way to get content ideas for nothing.

    • I’ll throw out ideas, at least a few, knowing I can always right on them later since ideas can’t be copyrighted… but nothing more, and yeah, it’s a bit irksome.

  • It’s always rubbed me the wrong way when clients demand access to my messenger accounts too. The answer is, and always will be, “no.”

    They have no right to demand constant access or the ability to watch over your shoulder. If they want that, they can take on the employer role, pay their share of the taxes, pay the benefits, etc. And if they offered me that, I’d still decline. I’m my own boss for a reason. And instant messengers are for people I want to keep in touch with in my life… not my business.

    Heck, I don’t even give my phone number out to the vast majority of clients anymore because I used to get hounded at ungodly hours from clients overseas. So far no one’s complaining, and I’ve had that policy in place for years.

    I’ve noticed that most of the people with these all-access demands seem to be hiring in the amateur markets anyway, so it hasn’t even come up for quite some time.
    Jenn Mattern recently posted..5 Tips for Becoming a Happier and More Productive Freelance WriterMy Profile

    • Jenn, totally with you. And the way I’ve solved the phone call problem is to turn my phone off when I head for bed… of course, I’ve got nothing going on in my life that I need to be available for in emergencies.

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