We talked last week or was it week before last, about when you should drop a writing client. Then a black man was murdered by a white cop and mostly peaceful riots started first in this country then around the world as more and more people demanded that white people stop killing people of color, so I didn’t write the promised story, until now.
You know, I’ve been writing professionally for decades and it’s still exciting when someone contacts me with a possible writing gig. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I start thinking of how I can actually make this new client happy, what new thing I’ll learn in the process, and how I’ll spend, give or save the money I’ll earn.
Over the same decades I’ve learned I must be ready to turn down many of the potential clients who approach me. As you’ll see from my list many of the red flags swirl around money, but there are other issues as well.
The I’ll pay you when it sells crowd
These are usually people who think their story is so compelling and so necessary for the world that they’re bound to make a significant profit. They want you to have ‘skin in the game’ and share in what they are certain will be a huge income.
If they have a project I really like and a market for it I’ll sometimes take a percentage in addition to my pay. I’ve never won on these deals, but I haven’t lost either because I’ve gotten paid the fee I set, or no deal.
The I can get it for half that much group
I always chuckle when someone assures me with indignation that they can get someone else to write what is wanted for half or less than I charge. While once in a while I might come down a bit because I really want that particular gig, mostly I say, ‘ok, and good luck. If I can help down the road, please consider me a resource.’ A couple of times clients have come back and been willing to pay my original fee.
How about the I know you’ll want to support this good cause gang?
Yes, I occasionally write to support a specific cause, but not often. Just because a possible client is doing good works doesn’t mean I’m not supposed to be paid and paid well.
Some writers have a ‘charity discount.’ I don’t because it’s just too much trouble and won’t be low enough for many charities anyway.
I do support my favorite causes, sometimes with cash, and other times with work, even writing work. More often than not I’ll make the offer even before they ask.
Then there are the I must be able to instant message you 24/7 or at least 12/7 or instant messaging period wannabe clients
If an ad for a writer talks about how I must be in contact with the client by instant messenger I say no right then. Of course the advertiser doesn’t know that I’ve said no, but I have. There may be a writing gig somewhere on the planet that requires I be on call a great deal, but I don’t know what it is.
It is my not very humble opinion that the prospective client who thinks I need to jump every time they press return or ping me on whatsapp is a control freak. I want nothing to do with them. Harsh? I don’t think so, but remember these are my rules — you’re not required to adopt any of them.
And then there’s the No, my cousin will proofread for me
Most cousins, sisters, girlfriends, boyfriends, secretaries etc. have no real idea how to proof. At best they may be able to spot spelling errors. I tell clients right up front that I’m not a copy editor and to not hire a real pro is a false economy. Told you I have some strong opinions.
And maybe my all-time favorite client to avoid, the one who says I’ll be reporting to three or thirty people
I won’t write for a committee, even if they have a strong leader. My favorite story is of a group that wanted me to write a book for them. I was well qualified and wanted to do the project until the two gals interviewing me told me I’d be reporting to a committee of four or five. I asked how they planned to approve the book. “Well,” the committee chair said to me in all seriousness, “it only took us a year to approve the bookmark we released last month.”
No, I promise I’m not making this up. I explained that I’d probably die before we got the book written at that rate. I also suggested the chose one among their group who could make decisions and call me if they got reorganized in that fashion. I’m not sure the book ever got written; I am sure it didn’t get written under the guidance of that committee.
Finally, I’ve learned to trust my gut
Yes, I trust my gut or my intuition. And if it says to turn down a client I usually do. The ‘usually’ is how I know I can count on my intuition; when I’ve taken on a client it hasn’t liked it’s always turned out to be right. Yes, always.
There really are plenty of clients for you out there. The trick is finding them. It’s a skill worth learning.
You don’t have to take on clients who don’t pay you enough or treat you the way you want to be treated.
Write well and often,
The 4 Secrets of Making Your Writing Pay is a free, 6 lesson ecourse that will help you make more money with your writing.