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Freelancers--Do you ever back out of projects and how do you?

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    pgrundyposted 8 years ago

    My freelancing work is picking up, which is good, but now for the second time (out of, I don't know, maybe 20 projects or so), I have been chosen for a project and the buyer is just making me nuts and I've barely even started. First she wanted all this copy written on an Excel spreadsheet with six different longtail keywords per 250-300 word paragraph, and I don't really use Excel and don't understand how or why that's useful in writing web copy. Plus six keyword phrases per paragraph? That's not writing--that's a word salad. I've emailed back and forth with her for four days now---normally I'd be done with a project of this scope and size in four days and have my money.

    I got into a situation like this once before where an 'easy' project that could have been whipped out in a few days turned into this slogging-through-hell-marathon of nonsense. That one, I finally just said, no, no more rewrites, no more additional work, I've already done three times more than we contracted for, let's move on on good terms and let it go. He paid me 1/4 of what he owed me for a project that was 4 times longer than he initially said it would be. It would have been even worse if I hadn't set a boundary. I'd probably still be working on it.

    How do you handle this? Any thoughts? Advice? I want to be professional, but I don't want to waste time on projects that are going poorly or likely to end in non-payment. Thanks in advance for anything you might be able to offer here.

    Pam (o:

  2. Sally's Trove profile image99
    Sally's Troveposted 8 years ago

    Pam, most sincerely, I feel your pain.  I have been there many times.

    Here's the first thing that happened to you:  When this client described her request, she was not thorough in laying out her expectations.  That's her bad.  Here's the second thing that happened:  She did not hire you as a professional who knows the business, but as a lackey to push around.  (Not uncommon.)

    With that said, here's how you can prevent this situation in the future. 

    Before you commit to an assignment, get your expectations and the client's understood.  You have to do this, because the client is not as knowledegable as you in your business...that's why she's hiring you, right?  Doing this may involve an email, netmeeting, phone session, or face-to-face meeting.  Maybe more than one of each.  State what you understand of the request, get the client's affirmation of your statement, and invite her to make clarifications.  If you know that you can't meet the expectations of her clarifications (such as, it has to be done in an Excel format), be honest about it and refuse the job politely.  You will both be happier in the long run: You will have your good reputation in tact, and she will find someone else with the wherewithall to complete her job.

    If, however, you are in a forum where you have to make a commitment without this kind of back and forth dialog, because that's the nature of how you secure your assignments, then you need to revisit your resume, profile, and the site or agency that is showing you potential assignments.  The venue you have chosen for securing assignments may not be right for you.

    I hope this helps.  You are at a turning point in your business where you must refuse jobs that would make you a crazy person.  Be glad of that.  It speaks well to your expertise.  You just need to head the crazies off at the pass.

    1. Lifebydesign profile image80
      Lifebydesignposted 8 years ago in reply to this

      I would agree with all of the above. But first clarify as clearly as you can what type of clients you want! Will they pay on time, be easy to work with, not make more requests than feasible..You'll be able to assess almost immediately who will fit into your category of 'ideal clients' and you can identify more easily who you want to work with.
      Then of course identify for yourself what type of work you will do with them. By the time your next client comes along, you'll have a better idea of who will suit you.
      It might mean knocking back some clients- and you'll use your judgement whether you need the funds or the client base more. I *always* start though with a good list of what my ideal client- and 'put it out there' as they say.

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        pgrundyposted 8 years ago in reply to this

        That is a great idea, thank you. I realized reading your advice that I do have a good idea of what that ideal client is like--and I have half a dozen who do send me repeat projects and are fabulous. But writing it out can be so powerful. Excellent idea, thanks.

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      pgrundyposted 8 years ago in reply to this

      God thanks, that does help. I think I really just was looking for permission to turn this job down. I really think its a hideous project and underpaid and I want out, but I felt like, well I said I'd do it. I think I am going to cut my losses so she can get someone else asap. Thank you this is just what I needed to hear.

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    TiffanyDowposted 8 years ago

    I wasted so much time as a ghostwriter worrying about stuff like this. Pull the bandaid off, refund them, tell them it's not working out as planned and move on.

    Don't let it worry you at ALL.

    You have to maintain the upperhand in this relationship. I got pushed around SO much before I grew an ego (out of necessity) and started cutting clients loose who were a hassle and not a perk to work with.

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      pgrundyposted 8 years ago in reply to this

      Yes, yes, yes! That is it in a nutshell--Pull the band- aid off! I love that!

      You know, I'm getting lots of work now, so when I get bad work, I resent it because it takes away time from the work I really want to be doing instead. Thank you. I needed to hear this from other people who have been there. It's such a solitary thing, writing for money. You can lose your bearings and forget that nobody can please everybody. It's not even healthy to try.

  4. John Chancellor profile image85
    John Chancellorposted 8 years ago

    I often advise clients to go over their client list and choose the ones that the love working with and to identify the ones that are a pain, drain their energy and take too much time.  The next step is to "fire" the bad clients. 

    You will be much happier if you get rid of the negative client.  The real problem is the effect the negative client has on the rest of your work and your outlook towards your other clients.

    It is very important to have extremely clear expectations - the clients and YOURS at the outset of an assignment.  You might even have a standard working conditions that you attach to the scope of work.  But as soon as the client shows a disregard for your working conditions, you should bring it to their attention.  Failure to call attention to the first infraction makes it more difficult to call the next one.  Soon you have lost control.

    Your satisfaction is just as important as the client's.  If the relationship is not working for both, get out.  Give a refund, take the blame and cut your losses.

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      pgrundyposted 8 years ago in reply to this

      John that it is it in an nutshell. Thank you. I'm thinking now that it wouldn't hurt to write something up as far as my "rules" or expectations so the client knows up front what I will consent to do and where my boundaries are. I am going to do that instead of this project. I am so out of there. The other negative client I had I waited way way too long and he ended up getting about 12,000 words out of me for $40. Ever since then, if I feel something is 'off' I'm very reluctant to keep at it. But setting up ground rules to start is a good idea that I will be implementing right away.

      Also, I don't think I will accept anymore web content work that is totally SEO focused. I don't mind being given a keyword or two for a 500 word piece, but when I have so many keyword phrases there's nothing left to really write, I don't see the point in that. Just throw all the keyword phrases into a hat, dump them out, and insert commas and periods here and there. Why hire a writer and torture her to death when all you really need is a big hat? big_smile

  5. Veronica profile image89
    Veronicaposted 8 years ago

    TiffanyDow really nailed this, short and sweet.

    I'm a ghost writer and have had to end jobs with clients for exactly what you're describing.
    Assignments come up very quickly, and often have pending deadlines. Most of my contracts are verbal. My line of work does not allow for the luxury of that very specific back and forth long involved exacting description of what the client needs and what I will do. Additionally, no matter what the client tells me they want, by the end of the job they've completely changed their minds, usually after seeing the options I could provide.

    Give yourself permission to just end it, like you said. It's one of the perks of being in business for yourself. You get to decide when you don't want to continue a job. TiffanyDow is right. Walk away.Take the hit, take the loss.

    A good deal of my client base comes from referrals. However, I've learned over the years that the client that is so difficult and cheap with you, is probably the same way with others. You aren't going to get good referrals from that person anyway. You haven't lost anything.

    I happen to have these numbers handy because I just did my taxes. In 2007 I had 147 freelance writing jobs. One stiffed me. Two I ended when the feeling I got became as you've just described. That leaves 144 jobs that went according to plan. That's not bad.

    Once you have large client base you can be choosier. John Chancellor is completely correct: I bend over backwards for my favorite clients, and I "fire" or refuse assignments from anyone who's been a pain in my ass. Over the last 15 years I've gotten very good at identifying the wieners prior to accepting an assignment. But one slips through the cracks every now and then.

    Fire your wiener. And good luck to you.

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      pgrundyposted 8 years ago in reply to this

      LOL!!! Thanks so much!

      I did it. I FIRED MY WIENER.

      Amazingly, she was totally gracious about it. All that angst for nothing. I think she knows she is a total pain in the ass, and is ok with that!

      Tiffany DID nail it. But everyone's advice was so good and dead on.

      THANK YOU EVERYBODY. Thanks for the excellent advice and encouragement. big_smile