How to Identify Pain in the Ass Copywriting Clients BEFORE You Start Working With Them

You’ve experienced it, right?

The client who always wants just that little bit more? For that little bit less? Who appears to thrive on making your life a misery?

These guys are the total douchenozzles who:

  • Take an age to pay your invoices.
  • Email you on weekends and expect immediate responses.
  • But don’t bother responding to your emails in a timely manner.
  • Think they’re entitled to call you any time of day or night, because HEY! You work for them, right? So yeah, that basically means they own you. Obviously.
  • Give you a sinking feeling in your gut. And your brain.
  • Are all-round unpleasant to work with.

You know what?

Screw ’em.

You don’t need these guys. Never forget that this is your business, and you don’t have to work with anyone you don’t want to.

You may feel like you need to take on every client who is willing to work with you in the beginning. Or even in the middle, if you’ve never broken out of the working-with-assholes loop. You need to pay rent, right? And eat food? Stuff like that? So of course you need to snatch up every available penny that floats past your face.

Except that you don’t.

The way you escape this loop is by offering the very thing that these asshole clients don’t understand:


These guys don’t get it.

They don’t understand why you charge so much for something they can get way cheaper elsewhere.

And because they don’t understand it, they don’t provide it to their customers. And because they can’t provide value to their customers, they’re constantly forced to compete on price.

Which means they’re always scrambling to make enough money. So they can’t afford to hire somebody good – somebody who’ll provide something valuable – and so they buy based on price.

And then they sell based on price.

And so repeats their never-ending cycle of worthless shit.

What is Value?

Understanding value means understanding that something will provide more to you than it costs to buy it.

That doesn’t necessarily mean a good return on your monetary investment, although obviously it does also mean that, and monetary return is the simplest way to identify value.

You should also consider whether buying a product or service will save you time or energy. Or give you pleasure. Remove pain. And – if yes – will it do so in proportion to how much it costs?

And this is the thing about value: it’s completely subjective.

Some people pay for someone to come and clean their home every week, because they absolutely hate hate hate cleaning, but they do value having a tidy, relaxing environment to live in.

Others would baulk at hiring a cleaner, because they could easily do it themselves, or because a little mess simply doesn’t bother them.

So yes, value is completely subjective. But there are some people whose only way of identifying value is based on one singular thing. Let’s investigate, shall we?

How to Identify People Who Don’t Understand Value

The first thing they tell you is that they don’t have a very big budget
This should always set big flashing warning signs off behind your eyes. This means one of two things (and often both): a) They’re running an unprofitable business, probably because they don’t provide any value themselves. b) They don’t think you offer a product or service worth paying that much for.

Under both circumstances, they don’t understand value.

They don’t make any specific comments about why they want to work with YOU
These guys have probably just done a quick Google search to find people who sell what you offer, and are getting in touch with every single one of you to find out who can offer them the cheapest price.

This is not good. You want to work with people who have specifically chosen you because of the individual value you bring, not with people who don’t even understand the concept of a Unique Selling Point (another way of thinking about value), let alone care about it.

They just ask for your rates without asking about anything else
I don’t even need to explain this, do I?

They tell you it costs too much
Their loss, right? Don’t bring your prices down to accommodate these assholes. Just tell them you can’t help them, and wish them luck in their search. (Preferably without a dose of sarcasm – hurray for taking the high road! – but hey, over the internet, who can detect sarcasm anyway?)

They ask why it costs so much
If you need to justify why you’re worth the prices you charge to someone, you have a battle ahead of you. They should already understand why you charge so much (BECAUSE OF THE VALUE YOU PROVIDE, GODDAMNIT) from looking at your website. I mean, why did they decide to contact you in the first place?

It’s unlikely you’ll face this problem if your rates are listed plainly on your website, so consider including them if you haven’t already.

They ask for a free trial
There’s only one circumstance under which you should give someone a free trial, and them asking for one is not it. (It’s when you suggest it.)

They ask for a discount if they offer you lots of work
Why, though? Why is you having to do more work for less money a good thing? These assholes act like they’re doing you a favour by giving you ‘lots of work’, but wouldn’t you rather just work for cool clients who will pay your full rates? Maybe have a slightly smaller workload but make the same amount of money? Yeah.

They refuse to sign a contract or pay a deposit
I once had a guy who I was doing a trial piece for (paid, obviously) tell me that he ‘knows how this works, and you don’t sign contracts before deciding if you’re going to work together.’ To which I told him, ‘I don’t do any work without a contract in place.’

He signed the contract. And then continued to be a pain in my ass. Lesson learned.

Contracts and deposits are a standard part of service-based work. If your prospect doesn’t understand this, he’s probably wildly unprofessional. (Weird how being unprofessional and not understanding value go hand-in-hand, eh?)

They ask you to do extra work for no extra cost
Commonly known as ‘scope creep’, pains in the ass are famous for this. They always ask you to just do this little bit extra, without wanting to pay you a little bit extra to do so. The easy answer? Tell them, ‘Sure, it’ll cost an extra [insert amount here]. Would you like to go ahead?’

So yes, value is completely subjective. But if the only thing someone bases their judgement on is price? They’re a surefire pain in your ass.

You’ll do well to follow these guidelines when deciding who to work with, but another factor you should take into account – something that’s arguably more important – is your gut feeling. If something feels off about a prospect, it probably is. So if you get a bad feeling, consult this list and see how many of the boxes they tick. (Hint: one is enough.)

Now, go forth and provide value! Just not to the people who don’t appreciate it. Because you’re better than those assholes.

Reserve your time and attention for those who deserve it. You’ll be rewarded with more enjoyable work, more referrals, and more money.

Want more guidance on making this work? Check out my course about building a successful freelance copywriting business.