Friday, October 10, 2008

Are You Working With the Wrong Regulars?

As a freelancer, regulars are invaluable. They're the folks who have a lot of writing needs, and they come back to you regularly, month after month, with substantial orders. These companies can keep your business going during the lean times. It can be tough deciding to let go of such steady work--but sometimes your regular client might not be one you should hang on to. Here are a few signs you might want to consider moving on--and they're not all about the money.

Are you keeping quiet about your work? When I'm thrilled about a client, I tell everyone I know about the cool business I'm working for. Seriously, my friends and family are sick of hearing about it. But eventually in your career, you'll probably land at least a few clients you don't talk much about. Maybe their values clash with yours--you're an avid anti-smoker and they're a cigar-manufacturing company, or you're a passionate conservative and they're a political organization with a liberal bent. You get my drift. Sometimes these clients pay well, but you're kind of disappointed in yourself for working with them--and you don't tell everyone you know about what you're doing. Ultimately even if the paycheck is good, it's better for you to walk.

Are you being asked to do something shady? Sometimes you'll get asked to do things you're not comfortable with. Like write an "article" that turns out to be a college student's essay, or write website copy promoting a scam product. There are plenty of gigs out there that aren't for everyone--and some that shouldn't be for anyone. If you feel what you're doing is wrong, get out sooner rather than later.

Are you getting paid less than you're worth? You don't always realize this will happen right away. You sign up with a company promising regular work. You discover those articles you quoted an hour for are really taking you three hours to complete. You're working more than you thought you would, and suddenly that great pay rate doesn't look so hot. It happens to the best of us. While it can be scary to let go of a regular, you'll have more time to develop your business if you drop the low paying projects.

Are you bored? Five hundred keyword articles around the word "California Real Estate," anyone? Sometimes projects can be boring or repetitive. Maybe you're just writing too much about a subject that's too small--or you're just not interested in the topic. They say a great writer should be able to make any topic interesting, but before you can do that you have to develop your own interest in the topic--and nobody is interested in everything. Spending weeks bored out of your skull is why you left your cubicle job in the first place, right?

Do you and the client have conflicting visions? With some clients, you can't get anything right. And some clients will be ultra-picky even if they like you enough to keep coming back. This is fine if it only happens once in a while with short-term clients, but when you're doing a lot of work for someone, it can be draining to your ego to be nitpicked to death all the time. If you're doing substantial amounts of work for a client who's never satisfied, it may simply be that you and she are not a good match.

It can be tough letting go of regular work. If you're reluctant to let go of a lucrative regular, start marketing to find some new clients who are a better fit for your business--then drop the ones that aren't. The freedom of freelancing is wasted if you can't do just that.


Unknown said...

Great post, Jen! I agree with every point, especially the being paid less than you're worth and the differing visions. If it's not enough money, it's not worth it. And if you and the client can't see the same end result, you need to let go.

Jennifer Williamson said...

It's so true. While I definitely welcome revisions and realize nobody hits it right on the head the first time, there's a difference between needing basic revisions and having a totally different understanding of the project than your client does. Sometimes you're just not the right writer for the project. It's a tough lesson to learn but necessary.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I've got one client I'm about to leave, and several reasons you mentioned here are reasons I am planning to do so. The "not talking about the client/work" thing is a big one. I had thought it was a silly reason to leave them at first (hey, it's work!), but it's nice to see it validated here.