5 Steps to Take if Your Shitty Clients are Beating You Down

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The danger of not believing in yourself is that you won’t be able to land good clients. You’ll constantly be stuck with the shitty ones who take the piss out of you because they know you won’t have the confidence to stand up for yourself. ‘You want me to write three pages of copy for $36? Well um, that doesn’t sound fair to me, but since you’re the only client I’ve found who’ll give me regular work so far, I’ll take it.’

Heartbreakingly, this exact thing happened to one of my students recently. Her client — whom she usually writes SEO articles for — wanted her to write three pages of copy for a meagre $36. THIRTY-SIX DOLLARS. FOR THREE PAGES OF COPY. And when she wrote back saying she thought she should get paid more for that, what did he say? I feel like I’ve given you enough work to warrant you doing this at the given price.

Say it with me, folks: Ass. Hole.

This guy is a total cunt. A pain in the ass client who doesn’t appreciate good writing or understand value. My student would be better off without him — all this guy is doing is knocking her confidence and making her feel like she’s not good enough to earn more, when I know that she is. I’ve seen her writing, after all. And even if I hadn’t, come on — EVERYONE is worth more than $36 for three pages of copy. The problem is not my student. It’s the client. Here’s what I told my student:

Dickhole of the first degree. You’re better off without him, although I realise it may not feel that way if he’s your only source of income. This is one of the biggest struggles when you first start out, especially with SEO writing, where there are plenty of unethical companies that want to take advantage of people with low self-confidence. You feel like you have to cling desperately to anyone who’s willing to give you money to write, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Good clients won’t just land in your lap, of course, but they do exist. You have to put in a lot of work, deliver good quality writing, act professionally at all times, keep slogging on even when you don’t feel like it, and, most importantly of all, you have to believe in yourself.

If you start doubting you can make this work, your enthusiasm will wane, you’ll stop working so hard because it feels pointless, then you’ll start feeling dejected and like you’re not good enough to do this, and so will end your not-so-illustrious writing career — slowly rolling to a stop before you’ve even given it chance to get going.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Stand your fucking ground, soldier
    Until you become the sort of person who won’t stand for this shit, this is the shit you’re going to have to stand in. And that may be enough to make you give up on this freelance writing thing altogether.
     
  2. Don’t be afraid to fire shitty clients
    If they resolutely refuse to pay you any more, you pick your confidence up off the floor, tell them you ‘don’t feel you’re a good fit’, and sashay your way out the door. And, as much as you may want to, do NOT tell your ex-client what you really think of them. You’re a professional. Act like it. (And rant to your friends in secret.)
     
  3. Make sure you actually are a good writer
    You won’t be able to land good clients if you’re not very good at writing, weirdly. I feel this caveat needs to be thrown in there, because I don’t want people who aren’t particularly good writers to run around and fire all their clients, leaving them with nowhere left to turn.
     
    So take stock: ARE you a good writer? Is your grammar up to scratch? Do you know where all the little bits of punctuation go? Can you spell? There’s more to good writing than that, of course, but you must at least have those basics down to land good clients. If you’re not sure, ask somebody you trust to give you honest feedback (but er, only if you know THEY are a good writer). There are also plenty of online grammar tests you can take (though admittedly they’re mostly taken by people who know they’re hot shit when it comes to grammar and want to feel smug). If it turns out you’re not so good, invest time and effort into learning. Grammar Girl is one of my favourite resources for leaning about grammar. And I think I should win some points for ‘most uses of “grammar” in one paragraph’ or something.
     
  4. Behave professionally at all times
    There’s also more to this than being a good writer. Being professional means doing things like this, this and this, and not doing things like this, this, this or this.
     
  5. Be persistent
    Nose to the grindstone. Make your website as good as it can be. Hunt down those clients. Do not stop, unless you decide this freelance writing thing is not for you after all.

I was going to add ‘start believing in yourself’ to this list, but that’s not something you can just do — but then again, following these 5 steps will help you get there, so that’s a win.

What’s the worst encounter you’ve ever had with a shitty client? How did you deal with it? And what do you wish you’d done differently? Share in the comments down below!

Photo by Maks Karochkin.

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