If you’re a new freelance writer, you’re probably eager to accept any, and all, new work. I’m here to tell you that’s a bad idea. Some clients will give you more headache than they’re worth. So, you need to be prepared to spot a difficult client. Take a look at these 10 red flags that you should turn down work from a potential client.
1. The Client Asks You to Work for Less than You’re Worth
The number one reason to turn down work from a potential client is if he is unwilling to pay you a fair rate. Some negotiation is acceptable, but you shouldn’t compromise your worth.
Content mills are often the worst offenders. I’m not saying you should avoid them entirely, but make sure that your hourly wage is justifiable. For instance, I don’t think you can even make minimum wage writing for two or three cents a word, even if you’re a really fast and efficient writer.
2. The Client Doesn’t Want to Sign a Contract
Once you’ve agreed on a wage, you should get a contract before completing any work for a new client. It ensures that you will actually get paid. A verbal agreement is not good enough — you need to have it in writing. If a client is not willing to sign a contract, you should turn down work from him or you might find yourself working for free.
Also, be careful of clients that only pay if they decide to use your work. This is called working “on spec.” If this is the case, make sure you have a clause built into your contract that confirms a kill fee, which means you’ll get paid no matter what.
3. The Client’s Business or Website Seems Fishy
Freelance writers are often victims of scams because scammers target people that work from home. That’s why you should thoroughly research potential clients before agreeing to do work for them. Make sure the potential client has a good reputation with the Better Business Bureau and his website looks professional and reputable.
Watch out for clients that want you to pay start-up fees to access a job board or to do your work. There are a few exceptions, but real clients won’t make you buy anything to get started. Also, be careful when giving out your personal information because you don’t want to fall victim to a phishing scam.
4. The Client Doesn’t Really Know What He Wants
Another thing to watch out for is a client that can’t tell you exactly what he wants. You might end up doing more work than you originally negotiated to do because the requirements will keep changing on you. The same is true if you come across a client that keeps asking for revision after revision. If that happens, you shouldn’t take further work from the client because it isn’t worth the hassle.
If the project is unclear, doesn’t have a specific set of requirements, or leaves you with too many questions, you should turn down the work. Of course, this isn’t always clear cut because if the compensation is high enough, you might not mind dealing with a little extra work.
5. The Client Asks You to Write a Sample
It’s perfectly acceptable for a client to ask to see samples of your work, but you shouldn’t be required to write something new on a specific topic in order to get a job. When this happens, the client is often looking for free work. He knows you will do your best in hopes of getting the job, but he also knows he doesn’t have to pay you for the sample.
This happened to me once and I won’t let it happen again. The potential client published my article with my name attached and I never heard from him again. I tried contacting him, but never got a response. I think this is just as bad as when someone steals your online content.
6. The Client Asks You to Write for Exposure
For some reasons, new freelance writers think that they need to work for free to build their portfolios and get actual paying clients. This is not the case at all. If you’re a new freelancer, you can’t charge as much money as an experienced freelancer, but there is no reason you need to work for free. So, think twice before doing work for a client with only exposure as compensation.
With this in mind, there are certain situations when writing simply for exposure can be a good thing. For instance, it’s good when you’re trying to build backlinks to a blog or website. Many online marketers do this as common practice, it’s called guest blogging.
7. The Client Promises Equity or a Percentage of Profits Instead of Pay
Start-up companies don’t typically have a lot of money to spend on freelancers, which is why they sometimes try to offer other types of compensation, such as equity. Yes, there’s a small chance that the client could make it big and pay you, but it’s usually not worth the risk. Politely decline the work and let the client know that you are willing to work once he has the money to pay you what you’re worth.
8. The Client Wants a Fast Turnaround Time
If a client comes to you with a huge amount of work but wants it done really fast, you should probably turn him down, unless you are sure you can complete all the work without compromising on quality. Clients that want a fast turnaround are usually difficult to work with. They don’t realize that you have work coming in from multiple places, and you can’t focus all of your time on them. If you take more work than you are able to handle, you’ll get burned out.
9. The Client Is Rude or Disrespectful
As a freelancer, you don’t have to deal with clients that are rude and unreasonable — you can simply turn down work from them. In the corporate world you might have to put up with a rude boss, but that is not the case when you run your own business. You get to choose who you work with and when.
Additionally, if a potential client tells you that the project will be really easy, you might want to think about turning him down because the client doesn’t realize how much time and effort goes into writing and editing. He probably won’t respect or value your work.
10. The Client Is a Friend or Family Member
It’s never a good idea to take work from friends or family because it can ruin the relationship. Firstly, you’ll be expected to give your friend or family member a good deal on price, and then there is no guarantee that you’ll actually get paid. Even if you’re really desperate for work, you should make it a rule to avoid any situation that could complicate your personal life. I learned this the hard way. Please, keep your work life and personal life separate.
If you have any doubts about the client at all, just say, “No.” It’s better not to deal with the hassle later. You don’t always have to accept every assignment presented to you. I believe that if more freelancers were to think like this, overall pay rates and respect for freelancers would increase. Too bad this will never happen since there are so many people willing to work for pennies and take crap from clients.