Landing a client can be a big deal. Like your first kiss big deal. (Judgment aside, this hopefully isn’t how you got the client.)
You’re geeked. You love this client for giving you the chance to prove your mad blogging skills and you’re certain you’ve found a slice of freelance blogging nirvana.
Then, some weird stuff starts going down with client. Still, your sheer appreciation for the opportunity keeps the eternal flame of love aglow. It is in this ardor that you may not recognize that the client could actually be an asshole bad news. After all, love is blind.
So to help you see more clearly, here’s a rundown of six types of clients around whom you’ll want to steer a wide berth.
This dude will try to talk down your rate. Or he’ll promise future work if you discount your first job. “Let’s start at $10 for your first post and then I’ll have a lot more work for you down the road and I’ll pay you more then.” He probably won’t, on both counts. And he probably wears a cheap suit like a smarmy used-car salesman.
If you’re brand spanking new to this freelance blogging thing and haven’t had much luck landing anything, it may be to your benefit to write a piece or two for this guy, just to get your stuff out there. But chances are, you don’t want to stick it out too long with Dave.
He doesn’t value you or your work.
Vivian the Vague
Poor Viv. She lacks the skill to make clear what it is she needs.
Vivian is that client who has unrealistic expectations, then is disappointed when you don’t meet them. She asks for, like, a thousand rewrites without really saying what needs revising. Mostly because she doesn’t know.
What’s more, she will be slow in responding to emails and elusive about deadlines. She will keep you hanging. And as dreamy as it sounds, you can’t bill for hanging.
The advantage with Viv is that you know her Achille’s heel right out of the gate. She has difficulty communicating and she doesn’t value your time. That’s two strikes against her.
And while you might believe you’re the one special person who is going to change her, think about how many times that’s worked out for you.
Quincy of the Questions
This guy questions every one of your payment policies or refuses to sign a contract, thus leaving you with the question, “What the hell?”
I had a Quincy in the past. Beyond his pompous attitude and smug manner, something just didn’t jive.
I turned for advice to more seasoned freelance bloggers who suggested I Google, “problems at (Quincy’s) company” and “(Quincy’s) magazine sucks.”
Turns out that if enough people have gone out of their way to say that Quincy sucks, then you can safely assume that Quincy sucks. And my Quincy really sucked.
But what if nothing turns up on your Quincy? Go with your gut, but be wary. Anybody challenging your policies or refusing to sign a contract is, well, questionable.
Annie confuses you with a 24-hour convenience store. She expects you to be at her beck and call day or night. Her dictionary doesn’t contain the word “weekend.”
Annie is Viv’s polar opposite. But where Viv is flighty, Annie can be a pill. She will overreact, barrage you with emails and phone calls, stress out when you don’t put her project above all else (including family and/or non-elective surgery) and micro-manage you right into an institution.
Only if you let her though.
Because the good thing about Annie is that she can be a worthwhile client if you have the chops to lay out the groundwork with her. Set up parameters. Specify your availability and agree on amount of communication needed.
If you’re a newbie, this might seem to scary. But it’s good practice. If, however, it’s beyond scary and sends you into the fetal position sucking your thumb, then you’re probably not ready for Annie and it’s best to let her find someone else.
Speaking of polar opposites, watch out for Joe. He’s the polar opposite of his other self, Joe. He will be your best friend one minute, then disparage and disrespect you and your work the next.
When working with Joe, you’ll either be on cloud nine, or walking on egg shells. Dinosaur egg shells. With live, hungry dinosaurs in them. There isn’t any in between.
I worked with a client like this when I was younger and really needed the dough. It wasn’t worth it. I clearly wasn’t tall enough to ride that emotional roller coaster and my confidence took a serious hit.
Joe is tricky because he’ll use Charming Joe to lure you, then turn into Batshit Crazy Joe once he thinks he has you. The good news is, no one has you. Even if you’re on contract, you can get off the ride when it ends.
As far as tricky goes, Darla is the trickiest. She’ll win you over with her attitude of no nonsense competence. You will see none of the above behavior because she’d never hang out with the likes of Dave, Viv, Quincy, Annie or Joe. Working with Darla will be a sheer delight.
Getting payment from her, however, will not.
You’ll have to chase her down. She’ll have all of the excuses – “The check is in the mail,” “We had a mix-up with bookkeeping,” “My dog ate it.” And she doesn’t even have a dog.
While there is always the distinct possibility that something did get mixed up, it’s best to keep your guard up in this situation. Way up.
I have a client who really did have an issue with bookkeeping when I first began working with her. The problem was cleared up after a couple of weeks and has been fine ever since. But I was close to bailing. I have a friend who did.
Know your limit on how long to wait for payment and if it doesn’t show, then ditch Darla. You deserve better. Having no client is better than having one that doesn’t pay.
Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect client. You’ll mesh with some, and clash with others. Ultimately, if the respect and appreciation is there then trust your gut and go with your intuition.
Oh, and be prepared to falter at times. As much as it’ll suck, you’ll learn from it.
Maybe you’ve got a story about having the courage to reject a difficult client. Or even about finding a way to make it work. Either way, I’d love to hear it.