Wednesday, November 17, 2010

When Should You Stand Your Ground?

As a freelancer, it can be tough to stand up to a client who wants something unreasonable. And when you're starting out, you may not have the confidence to say when things are and aren't OK to expect. When I started out, I thought being "professional" meant saying yes to everything. Now I know it has more to do with knowing what battles to fight--and when to stand up for yourself, even if it means losing the job. Such as:

When the pay is too low. Once I was really excited to partner with an SEO firm. They knew my prices going in, and the plan was for them to sell my services along with theirs--for a markup. They would make money for essentially doing nothing, and I would have a flood of new clients. Sounded awesome--right? Except when the SEO company started pressuring me to lower my rates. They wanted me to compete on price with the $5 article people, and I found myself having to draw a line in the sand and explain the difference between my services and theirs. It turned out that although the SEO company was excited to be offering the best writing around--at that price point--their client base wasn't willing to spring for more. That partnership didn't work out.

When the expectations are unrealistic. Does the client want you to manage same-day turnarounds on edits? Expect you to be available for phone or IM chats all the time? Want to treat you like an employee, not a freelancer? Some terms are grounds for dismissal--of the client.

When what they want is less effective. Every so often, I've had to defend my copywriting choices. When a client wants a change that will make the writing less effective, I usually stand up for myself and state my case--once. If after my explanation, the client still wants a change, I make it--they're paying the bills, after all. I try to make sure the whole exchange and the suggestions have a paper trail--so the client can't come back later saying that I didn't do a good job because of bad results.

When the contract is unreasonable. Once I was handed a non-compete contract when partnering with a graphic designer--that essentially stated I couldn't work with anyone else who provided that type of service. I'm willing to sign some general non-compete agreements, but this was way too strict. Sometimes when the client gives you a contract, it's their own arse they're looking after--not yours.

What do you consider reasons to walk from a client?


Lori said...

Great post, Jen!

I've walked on contract issues, specifically when they introduce a third party into the editing or writing process. All my contracts contain language now that voids it should they introduce someone new at ANY stage beyond the signed contract.

I've also walked when they've changed the pay, dictated ridiculous expectations in a short amount of time (that client wanted me to work miracles in 2 hours so she didn't have to pay more), or expected me to be available constantly via IM or cell phone.

Anonymous said...

I walked away from a client who expected 24/7 IM/email/phone access to me. The real kicker was when the scope of the project changed but not the deadline. Add in a sick child on top of that with no understanding from the client on even moving the deadline a day. It reminded me that family comes first - not the client (who I had put up with for over 2 years!!!)


Renee said...

I've spent a year working in an agency where every word is raked over and changed by know-it-all management and clients, and it's killing me. There are so many pieces I've had to let go of because they no longer resemble the decent copy I started with.

The strange part is, all the agencies and clients I work for as a freelancer in my spare time love my work. It must just be a culture thing, because they do it to the graphic designers too, but I'm over it!

AnnaLisa said...

I've had to do this twice, both for the same reason: failure of the client to meet deadlines. Honestly, how can I be expected to edit X document by Y date if it isn't sent to me reasonably ahead of that date? They weren't little articles, either; these were both book clients.

My time is worth too much to set it aside for someone who then doesn't fill it as promised. Better to move on to another client who really needs me and is ready to roll up his sleeves and work with me, than to wait around for one(s) who haven't really decided what they want.