Dear Freelance Client,
There’s no easy way to say this.
I put this off as long as I could, tossing and turning in bed, arguing with myself as to whether or not I should write this email.
I know this Friday was supposed to be the most romantic day of the year, the day that we looked into each other’s virtual eyes and imagined a lifetime of happiness together. But instead of snacking on heart-shaped chocolate and dreaming of your email address, I have to tell you…
I’m leaving you.
I remember when we started our relationship, when you replied to my email saying yes, you wanted to hire me! My heart leapt, and I had butterflies in my chest at the sight of every email you sent me.
But now, things have changed. Instead of feeling happy when I think of you, I have other, less positive emotions. Stress, sadness, and anger run through me at the mere mention of your name.
When we first started out, I dreamt of the perfect relationship.
In my crazy daydreams, I imagined that I would provide you with quality content that would make your business grow. We’d enjoy the success together as my content helped to engage more readers, attract new leads and convert current readers to customers.
In return I hoped you would pay me a decent wage, one that would allow me to make a dent in my student loans and put food on the table.
But things haven’t turned out as planned. The competitive rate you promised turned out to be $5 per 500 word article.
Even though I was dismayed, I tried to suck it up at first, but it’s all getting to be too frustrating. I want someone who gives as much as she takes, someone who’s willing to pay me a decent wage for the hard work that I put in, someone who’s willing to invest as much in the relationship as I am.
In addition, I wanted someone who was willing to take things to the next level. You kept telling me how great my content was, and how much you and your readers enjoyed my writing. But when I asked for better rates for the excellent work I was doing, you told me that it “wasn’t in the budget”!
I can hardly believe that after all this time in our freelance relationship, I’m still no better off than when I started out — and you seem to have no interest in making a change.
I also don’t like the way you’ve been treating me. Too often, after I hand in my writing assignments, you disappear for days or even weeks at a time. My calls, emails and messages go unanswered, even though I know that you get them when you come online.
This seems to happen especially often when you’re supposed to pay me, leaving me frustrated and wondering if I’m being used. Not only that, the last time I suggested a pay raise, you told me that there were many others that would be happy to write at a lower rate!
Whereas I had thought we were both important to each other, I now realise that I’m disposable — just another name and number on your list of freelance writers.
It’s not me; it’s definitely you.
I’ve found someone else. After putting up with you for so long, I decided to take charge of my freelance career to find someone who recognises my true worth. Now, I’ve found someone who actually respects me. Someone willing to pay a much better rate, and who responds quickly to every single message I send. I feel valued and important, and I think this is the start of the relationship I should have had all along.
So this is goodbye. Please don’t call or text — I won’t be available. Instead, I’ll be working with my new freelance client, one that leaves me satisfied and happy!
How to Avoid Messy Client Breakups
Maybe you’re in the above situation and you want to know how to get out, or maybe you want to avoid getting into this negative relationship in the first place. Either way, here are five survival tips to help you move on from crappy clients to business love:
1. Sharpen your skills
Some freelance writers get passed over for the higher-paying gigs because their writing skills simply aren’t up to par. Thankfully, there are many ways to improve your writing, from websites that offer hundreds of free training courses to online communities like Reedsy and Freelance Writers Den where you can get personal assistance and support. By improving your writing skills, you will be able to show freelance clients why you deserve a decent pay rate.
2. Take a course on how to secure high paying clients
Sometimes freelance writers need to look specifically at how to attract high-paying clients. Courses such as Sophie’s Client Hunting Masterclass are a great way to improve your skills in locating and securing those big-budget clients and lucrative gigs.
3. Demand more thanks to your expertise
Many freelance writers don’t realise it, but you can make more money by pitching yourself as an expert in your particular field. By selecting an area or niche that you’re extremely knowledgeable or experienced in, you’ll be able to justify the higher wage.
4. Avoid low-paying content mills and bidding sites
There are lots of low-paying content mills and bidding sites where clients are looking for the writer with the lowest price as opposed to the writer with the best skills. Ignore sites that only offer low-budget jobs, to avoid being locked into a long-term low-paying relationship.
5. Charge what you’re worth
Don’t be afraid to ask for the price that you deserve. Too often freelancers underbid or undersell themselves in an effort to get a gig. Instead, they only position themselves for difficult and cheap clients. Be confident in your skills and charge the price you’re worth.
Have you made the transition from a toxic freelance writing relationship to a successful and enjoyable one? I’d love to hear about it — share your story in the comments!
Adam Bailey says
I’m still in the early stages of co-dependency. :/
Hey Daryl, LMAO! I LOVED this post, it’s a great analogy and so true. Thanks for reminding me that I deserve a good rate for my services. I’m still at the starting line and very new to the freelance world, but a great post like this makes me feel right at home. Your survival tips are awesome! Well done sir!
Thanks Adam! Yeah its not easy to break away. Glad that I could help you! The trick is, just keep pushing on, keep learning from your mistakes and eventually you’ll get to where you need to be!
Williesha Morris says
Yes! I’m working on a blog about how breakups are good for business for V-Day. Definitely linking this. Nice job.
I enjoyed reading this post Daryl! I actually read it like it was a real breakup letter, haha!
Happy Valentine’s Day! 🙂
Thanks Joy. Happy Valentine’s Day to you too!
Loving this! I’ve made the move from clients wanting free advice to paying me for it. It’s all about standing my ground and saying if they want to discuss things further, then book some time with me (for a fee) and I can consult with them.
It’s a constant battle though, Daryl – between wanting to help people, and making a living !
It is a battle Razwana, one that’s often very complicated. But of course, one that you have to keep fighting to win!
This breakup letter really hit the nail on the head with how many writers feel especially when working with freelance bidding sites and content mills.
Thanks for including Freelance Writers Academy as a resource for writers. We work with writers every day who are struggling with this issue. Writers who feel insecure, beat-down, and used by these pimps who make them feel like hookers on a street corner.
Writers, you deserve to love the work you do and be loved by the clients you are working for. If you don’t feel that way, it’s time to make a change. Stand up and earn what you truly deserve.
Definitely Valerie. And to be honest, I think there are times when all of us (including myself) feel like this, a bit used by cheap freelance clients. However, it’s always great to find those that do pay what you deserve!
Alicia Rades says
Love the idea of this post. The entire thing was captivating!
Really, $5 per 500 words? That’s so not worth the time. I’m glad you left. You deserve better than her.
Haha…to be brutally honest, 500 words was the absolute minimum, they expected around 600-700 words…for 5 bucks! That was exactly my feeling – simply wasn’t worth the time.
Lynn Silva says
This post came just in time for me. A local client called me on Wednesday and wanted to trade a ‘free’ testimonial for my site in exchange for my assistance in setting up a system to cross train his office employees. I haven’t known how to respond…until reading this post. My head is very clear now. Thanks so much.
Glad I helped you clear your head!
Absolutely LOVED this post, Daryl.
I was writing 450 to 1000 words per post at less than $5 per post for my ex-client. She even said the same thing! “It’s not in my budget.” And she drove a Lexus and bragged about all the money she was making owning her own realty business.
Since then, I’ve taken a step back to sharpen my writing skills and research a potential niche. Good luck to you on your freelance writing venture! 🙂
I’ve been in similar situations MJ. Clients who want (and get) stellar copy, who can afford to pay more, but don’t. A big part of the problem is that they don’t understand what goes into good writing, and another part of the problem is that they can often get adequate writing for close to nothing.
And thanks for the well wishes!
Raspal Seni says
Loved to read the letter you wrote! I’ve copied and saved it in a text file in my Dropbox. Whenever I need to end a relation with an editor, I’ll sure use your letter as a template. 🙂
But, at this time, my mind is between two decisions since I don’t have any job and am not making any money from affliates or any other source.
The other day, I applied to a job ad on Problogger jobs. It was about posting articles on a tech blog. The guy told me, he couldn’t give anything more than 5 bucks an article. I didn’t reply back, but sometimes think if I should accept such a job for a while before I get a better one, like you did. I had already rejected an offer through oDesk a while ago, which also paid the same rate. It can take much more than an hour or two for a tech article of 500 words, so I’m avoiding applying to any such jobs – I won’t be able to get what I want. Staff blogging jobs would be better but seem harder to find.
Check out http://www.goodblogs.com.
I have written 7 articles for the site http://www.bumpbliss.com and 1 for http://www.degreediary.com .
When and if, your article gets voted to the top post page, you get 15.00 sent directly to PayPal.
There are sites that pay much more than that!
The tech and engineering sites pay up to 50.00.
I also submitted an article to http://www.theflamingvegan.com , that was promptly rejected. The title was something like “Calling out PETA to show compassion blah blah blah” I don’t know what I was thinking…. I am surprised I was allowed to submit any more articles after that one.
Anyway, get a list from http://www.goodblogs.com, ask again if you don’t get results in a week. You sign up for each individual site, ie bumpbliss, flamingvegan, degreediary, writteninchrome, etc
Write your article and submit it.
Share it on FB, pinterest, whatever…
If it’s good it will get votes… and you’ll get experience and money!
FYI Unless you have a bunch of pro photos don’t even bother uploading a pic. They will replace it with one of their own.
If you want an example of a bumpbliss article copy and paste this link:
I wrote it and got paid 15.00.
Whoo Hooo! Hey, it’s better than nothing!
I worked my ass off on an article through a content mill and dude wanted to pay me 2.00 per 500 words.
I researched a groupon/online coupon code site (flipit/India) and my writing sample rocked!
He didn’t even pay me the 2.00.
He said it needed “good content keywords”.
I told him the good words cost extra .
I imagine my article is floating around with his name attached to it.
Raspal Seni says
Saw an ad the other day which asks for the best writing, but can’t pay more than $1 per 1000 words article! What a shame?!
I remember starting on oDesk with $0.25 an hour. Many people still pay that much only, and they do get some decent articles in that money, from people like me, who are new and need money, especially from South Asian / SouthEast Asian countries.
Hi Raspal, coming from a Southeast Asian country I know where your coming from.
The very first article I wrote for a client was $5. After that I thought wow, I really love writing but I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills with that rate. So I stopped writing for clients altogether. A few months after that, I thought I’ll give it a try again. This time I was able to charge $10. I was so happy that time because the norm is $5. Then I discovered makealivingwriting.com and beafreelanceblogger.com. Then I told myself, “What the hell was I doing writing for $10 when I could have charged more!”
I think the best way out of content mills is to say goodbye and never look back. 🙂
Raspal Seni says
$5 was still a good start from you, if you see the low paying $1 per 1000 words clients on oDesk and other sites. The one I talked about above was on Problogger!
I too stopped taking low paying clients since early last year only after reading Carol’s advice. I did get a client last year, paying 8 bucks an hour through oDesk, which seemed good at the time, but it would be worth waiting to get much higher paying clients.
I think it’s important for any and every freelance writer to take a long hard consideration as to what rates they do (or don’t) want to write for. I too started for far less than I was worth. But don’t be too worried about the odd low paying client, there are some good ones on Problogger.
Raspal Seni says
Thanks Daryl, I’ll keep looking for better jobs at Problogger and other job boards.
Margaret McGriff says
OMG can I use this letter because I have a client who really needs this! As much as I need the business I also don’t want to feel dread when dealing with a client.
I wish people like that could really understand the hard work that we do.
Lauren Tharp, BAFB Community Helper says
Sorry to hear about your bad client, Margaret! That can be quite a harsh situation to be in… choosing between money and happiness.
It’s not a good idea to burn bridges – http://littlezotz.com/2013/08/k-is-for-karma/ – however, I’ve found that I actually make MORE money when working for clients I like. Mainly because I’m not spiraling into a pit of self-loathing and burnout on a daily basis. That feeling of dread from a bad client is bad for your health, and, ultimately, your wallet.
Just one more reason why it’s important to market yourself even when you’re “busy!”
Raspal Seni says
Found a post by hubpages on Problogger job board, but they don’t pay for the articles. Is it any good, writing and posting on hubpages? I wonder, after how long, do people earn those hundreds of dollars a month.
Jordan Clary says
Great post! One of the most important things I’ve learned as a freelancer is to value myself. In my case, I left a degrading staff writing job on a newspaper to freelance. For the first few months I got almost no work because I turned down anything that didn’t pay decent rates, but if you hold out, something seems to happen. Most of the offers I get today pay decently.
Lauren Tharp, BAFB Community Helper says
Good for you, Jordan! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.
Deanna Dolan says
Daryl, this post made me laugh so hard I had to read it twice! I’m a member of the Freelance Writer’s Den and I agree with your recommendations. The sooner you start setting your prices higher, the faster you get out of the rat race. It took me a while to let go, but I realized that the companies that are willing to pay you better aren’t interested if you if you’re low balling your rates. Sometimes higher rates can actually make landing the companies you want to work for a little easier because they understand they are likely to get higher quality content. Great post!
Lauren Tharp, BAFB Community Manager says
Daryl certainly has a way with words, doesn’t he? 🙂 Glad you enjoyed this post, Deanna! Thanks for stopping by.