Yesterday I was lurking about on a writer's forum and came across a very active thread started by a new freelance writer pleading for advice about dealing with a difficult client. She had been working on a project that appeared to have no end in sight. A client hired her to write blog posts about health supplements and has been driving her crazy changing his mind again and again about the keywords to be used. He has even asked her to research keywords to come up with a few suggestions on her own, but never used them.
She explained that whenever she submits the posts for review, he berates her with disparaging remarks – telling her to never, ever use a certain sentence again when writing for him, saying it's the worst thing she could ever write and even resorting to profanity in his responses. If that wasn't enough, he keeps sending her back to the drawing board to make revisions based on his unclear instructions and changing information.
What's worse, more writers joined the thread – not to offer advice, but to share their own client/project nightmares. Another writer posted that she has been writing an ebook for going on four months now (should have been finished three months ago) and is plagued with so many revision requests she has no idea of when it will finally be good enough for the client. These projects have taken up so much of the writers' time, they each admitted to passing up other writing opportunities. Now that's just plain wrong.
These situations happen, and when they do it's a miserable experience. But nothing will change until you, the writer, take control of the situation. The reality of working for yourself is that you will not absolutely love every client, but you don't have to tolerate disrespect or abuse from anyone.
This is where you need to find your backbone, pop it back into place and stand up for yourself. Before communicating with a difficult client, make sure that you are calm. If you are still fighting mad, you are not in control, and you will need to make sure you remain professional and in control no matter how a client chooses to behave.
Slow your roll…
If you are dealing with a client who habitually rants and raves, and lashes out at you with profanity, let him/her know that you will not tolerate unprofessional behavior of any kind. You can offer to continue working on the project if your client agrees to continue treating you with respect, or kindly end the project and move on.
Establish a contract and use it
Anticipate your worse case scenario and include it in your agreement. Neither of the previously mentioned writers had an agreement in place that included details like requiring a non-refundable deposit before starting the project or a cap on the number of free revisions allowed . There are people who prey on the inexperienced. Take this experience and create an airtight service agreement.
Always get everything in writing – email is fine. Do not rely on phone conversations to relay the details of a project. If your client likes to discuss things over the phone, follow up with a detailed scope of the project as you understand it and get it signed or a rely email stating that the client agrees.
Don't be afraid to let go
The reality of being self-employed is that every project will not go smoothly. You find that repeat work with a difficult client is just not worth it in the long run. Can you continuously put up with cursing, non-stop revision requests or constant changes right and left? If not, pass it up and look out for the next freelance writing opportunity instead. Believe me, it will come.
Should you suck it up and complete the project?
Should you just suck it up and finish a project you're working on for a difficult client, or end it as soon as it starts to get ugly? Some writers believe that a professional sees all projects through to completion and then ends the client relationship. Others say that it's best to end the project as soon as the situation becomes unbearable since by that point all professionalism is out the window. I want to know what you think. And oh yeah – Make sure you get out and VOTE today!