You might think getting ripped off by a client is something that only happens to newbie freelance bloggers.
You’d be wrong.
I hear from a lot of experienced bloggers who are still having bad experiences with clients, time after time. Why does this keep happening?
Often, it keeps happening because you keep trusting in people you have absolutely no reason to trust. Sometimes you just don’t spot the warning signs. Sometimes you spot them, but you keep going anyway because you don’t really know what else to do.
I’ve been played by bad clients a couple of times. I know how it feels when you’re halfway through a project and you get that sudden feeling of impending doom. Your gut tells you to run for the hills, but you’re too busy worrying about your money and your reputation to act on that instinct.
And so, you get fooled again.
Learn these lessons now, and you won’t have to suffer the same thing later:
History Repeats Itself
A client who treats one freelancer or employee badly is likely to give everyone the same lack of respect, so investigate before you accept a gig.
Check with other freelancers to see if they can tell you anything about your potential client. This is where your networks come in handy – tap a members’ club like the Freelance Writers Den (aff. link) for information, or ask an open community like Freelance Bloggers on Google+.
Look the company up online and check out their consumer reviews, too; bad customer care is a warning sign that they probably don’t care about the people they work with either. If word of mouth is bad, don’t waste your time – move on to brighter prospects.
History Doesn’t Always Repeat Itself
A client who paid you last month won’t necessarily keep paying this month. Any business can hit a bump, and if things are getting tight then a freelance blogger’s paycheck is low on their list of priorities.
Protect your income with advance payments or escrow deposits whenever you can. Even a 50% advance payment doesn’t mean you’ll get the other 50% at the end of the job, so make sure you’ve got a written agreement with your client about how and when you’ll get your final payment.
Likewise, the projects you have now may not even exist next month. Clients can change tactics, stop blogging, or start publishing posts written by their new marketing intern. Blogs can go under in the blink of an eye. If that happens, you don’t want to be left waiting on a payment that never comes, so be wary of a client who keeps you in the dark about how their business is doing.
No Free Lunch
After seeing a million requests for free trials in job ads across the internet, you might think an unpaid, custom-written sample piece is the new industry standard. And yep, I suppose that’s exactly what it is: Free trials are standard for clients who care more about cutting costs than about hiring the best blogger.
A good client believes that your time and your work have value. They don’t expect professionals to spend time writing free trial posts.
If someone asks you for a free trial piece, there’s only one reason to agree: if it’s such a great gig that you’d be happy to do it for free all the time. So if Wired is looking for bloggers then hell yeah, I’ll do a free trial! Otherwise, the best response is to politely tell them your rate for the type of trial piece they want.
This approach also helps you to avoid a dirtier scam: some blogs ask for free trial pieces and expect to publish them without paying the blogger. Often, they don’t even tell you they published your work. Don’t get caught up in this trap – it’s a waste of your time when you could be earning real money with a real client.
Take a Step Back
When you’re offered a cool-sounding gig, it’s easy to get overexcited. Yay you! Let’s celebrate!
No. Take a step back and check what you’ve really got:
- Full contact information? If you don’t know your client’s business name, phone number and mailing address, ask for them before you start work. An email address or Skype username isn’t enough if your client suddenly stops answering your messages.
- Project description and scope? If your client hasn’t provided all the details you need to understand the job and get it done, ask for the rest of the information now. Make sure you’ve defined what you will and won’t be doing, as well as deadlines for delivery and for payment, before you take on a project that could grow out of control.
- A good hourly rate equivalent? The thought of a $200 blog post each week is delightful, but what if that blog post is 2000 words long and involves interviewing five different experts for half an hour each? Estimate the amount you expect to make per hour on the project – that’s the number you need to focus on to avoid getting ripped off.
Take a Step Up
The higher up the freelance blogging career ladder you climb, the more great clients you find. Once you get close to the top, they’re everywhere!
But the question on your mind is, how do I get there?
Simple: get someone who’s already up there to give you a hand.
Someone like me.
My training program The Freelance Blogger’s Client Hunting Masterclass teaches you how to find the clients who pay $100 per hour and appreciate your input. In this training I share my best marketing and negotiation tips to help you get the clients you deserve, and give you insider info about where to find the most gigs at the best rates.
Are you ready to take a step up?
Come and join us!
Image: Alan Cleaver