17.5 Ways Not To Be A Crappy Client When Working with Freelancers.
With bonus tips. And some real life quotes.
Would you like to be the cream of the cream? The ultimate client that any quality freelancer would be delighted to work with?
Read on! It's not quite as simple as you may think. Picture this.
You've found a new freelancer to work with. You're rapt. Your new freelancer is a gem – experienced, qualified, low-drama, their work is brilliant, they've hit all the deadlines, they're lovely; everything is peachy.
BUT IS IT?
Did you know that freelancers rate their clients just as much as those clients rate them?
Well, we do. And guess what?
Not all clients are created equal.
I've been freelancing for over 20 years, and I've got lots of freelancing mates. We talk. We compare notes. We've all got our battle stories when it comes to dodgy clients.
Yeah. Just because a client wants to work with us again doesn't mean that feeling is mutual.
Here's a list of the top 17.5 things that will get PITA clients chucked on freelancers' blacklists.
(And if you're still feeling brave and confident after that, a quick quiz for you).
Crappy clients are systematically late for meetings. It might be a minute or two, it might be ten. If we're ready and waiting and the client isn't - again - it doesn't matter how much they grovel. We know they don't mean it and will do it again. Nothing says a client doesn't value our time more blatantly than this. And yep, we do notice those lovely cups of coffee they manage to find time to get while we wait for them. Even when it's not a conference call. We can just tell.
Constantly late clients do freelancers' heads in.
Crappy clients haggle over our fees (mentioning how cheap workers are on Fiverr or how their13-year-old niece did them a logo for $10).
Crappy clients act like we're indentured to them and should be available 24/7. We're not. We love our clients to feel they can jump on a call whenever, but it's a reasonable 'whenever'. We have lives (including other clients). We don't love being bombed at the crack of dawn, late at night or at the weekend, or any time a client spots us on social media.
BONUS TIP .
We love clients who ask for a good time to chat instead of just calling us directly.
Crappy clients miss deadlines to give us the info/feedback we need to do the project on time - despite insisting the work is life-threateningly urgent.
Crappy clients use the evil little phrase, "Can you just…?". Work is work. Making out that a request is simple completely dismisses our skill and experience. It's like saying, 'Can you just whip out my tonsils while I'm here?' to the GP when you're there for a check-up and expecting the op to happen then and there for no extra cost.
Crappy clients are a hot mess and not in a sexy way. Why? A shambolic client can lead to delays and budget blowouts. Not to mention stress.
BONUS TIP Files named things like 'sZlo97skfj2ka3.jpg' are a sure sign of deep-rooted chaos. We LOVE organised clients.
Crappy clients promise us lots of ongoing, big-budget work that never eventuates (and was never going to). Why? It's bollocks, pure and simple. We'll cop on very fast and leave.
(Seriously) crappy clients cause scope creep by adding things to the project while expecting to pay what was quoted initially. It's gross and exploitative. And also Scroogey.
BONUS TIP We love clients who respect that asking for more work will equal more time and effort from us and, therefore, more $$.
Scope creep = adding things to a project - but not expecting to pay for it.
Crappy clients consistently overshare. We're all about relationships, but there's a time and a place for rants about their kid's bad attitude. Hint: it's not on the quick call we've set up for project-related issues. Things will go dramatically better if clients stick to business because we won't be sticking pens into Blu-Tack voodoo dolls of them.
Crappy clients splatter vital project information across every platform, so we have to jump from WhatsApp to messenger to email to Slack to text to Zoom and Loom and beyond, to find it all.
!!!!! A tiny flash of the blinding obvious. Do this, and stuff's going to go missing.
Crappy clients are megalomaniacs and behave like they're doing us an enormous favour by hiring us.
BONUS TIP .Such clients are warmly invited to leave their 'benevolent monarch' fantasies at home and work alongside us as equals.
Crappy clients refuse to listen to suggestions. It's tedious and also, duh, pointless. Unless we've missed the memo where clients just love throwing money away? In that case, sure, they can pay us to work for them just so they can come along and redo it their way if they want to. But it does seem kind of pointless and wasteful and a wee bit weirdly controlling.
Crappy clients ask us for freebies. This is not ok. Even more so when they're friends or family. It was very awkward when Aunty Petunia cornered me at a family barbecue last month and suggested I write unpaid product descriptions for her new adult toy range. She laid it on thick, heavily hinting it was the least I could do in thanks for the zoo visit she took me on when I was seven. It was very awkward, and I couldn't think of a polite way to get out of it. I had to fake a sudden, violent illness and run for the loo. To this day, I'm avoiding her calls. Kudos on the dildos, but otherwise, deeply uncool, Aunty Petunia, deeply uncool.
Similar to the above. Clients offer to barter something for our services instead of paying us in legal tender. For some reason, the creative communities of writers, artists, photographers and so on seem to get hit with more than their fair share of this.
BONUS TIP It gets seriously weird when clients try to pay us in goats.
Crappy clients make a huge stink about something that turns out to be based on the opinion of someone with no knowledge of the project, understanding of the process, or authority to give the green light. My worst example of this one was early in my scriptwriting days when I was too green to know better. A cast of seemingly thousands took their turn to put in their five cents' worth. The final cherry on the cake was when I was asked to do another draft because the cleaner's husband didn't like the ending. The film was literally based on history. In other words, the ending WAS the ending - that's what happened in real life.
BONUS TIP We love a project with ONE person designated as the ultimate decision maker on the client side (two at the absolute max). They alone have the authority to sign off on a project. Late-stage phrases like "So now we just have to run it by the Board" will bring a freelancer out in hives.
Crappy clients refuse to use track changes and other tools that make collaborating easier. We get it. Technology changes constantly, and learning new things is a pain in the butt. But, if we recommend a specific tool for a job, there's a good reason - usually because the old way takes far longer or isn't as good.
Crappy clients ghost the freelancer. Unless the freelancer has crossed a legal/ethical line, there is literally zero excuse for this. Ever. Clients should just use their words. Seriously, it’s not that hard.
The crappiest of all crappy client behavioursis 'forgetting' to pay, so they have to be chased. I'm lucky, I've never had this happen, or even worse, had a client who didn't pay at all,but I know plenty of freelancing friends who have. Say no more.
REAL LIFE QUOTES FROM SOME REAL LIFE FREELANCERS WHEN ASKED "WHAT MAKES A BAD CLIENT?"
"Nervous and needing handholding all the time."
"Telling me it won't take long."
"Forgetting about scheduled Zoom meetings!"
"Narcissistic tendencies and talking about how great they are."
"Expecting you to know what they do without filling a brief."
"Telling me how much bettter and cheaper their last freelancer was."
"Leaving their projects to the last minute and acting desperate and upset when I say no."
"Saying stuff like 'I estimate this sales page will take you 2 hours, including research. Oh and throw in some ads too.' "
"Notifying you they will be late with revisions, but they'd appreciate you turning them around ASAP as the project is now 'urgently urgent"'- yes, that's a direct quote."
"Telling you they don’t like it and spending half an hour on zoom trying to extract what they don’t like then realising it’s literally one line they don’t like and the rest is fine."
"Having a great briefing meeting and promising all the things then total ghosting after."
"Oh, no", you're thinking, "Could this be me? Am I a bad client?"
I've put together a little quiz for you. You can quickly check. If you're a great client, bravo. If there's room for improvement, don't worry. I've got loads of tips to help.*
*Unless you score 29 or more. You're stuffed.
Never - O
Sometimes - 1
Often - 2
Always - 3
Ask for freebies?
Try to barter?
Regularly show up late?
Ghost your freelancer?
Fail to give a decent brief?
Involve too many people in the sign-off process?
Think you're better than your freelancer?
Refuse to learn new tech?
Contact your freelancer 24/7?
Cause scope creep?
Blow hot air?
Pay very late?
Not pay at all?
Get on tyre-kicking calls with freelancers to mine for free advice or their prices with no intention to hire them?
Tally ho, how’d you go?
0 - 5 points. Five stars. You're a legend! Freelancers love working for you and give you their best.
6 -10 points. Four stars. You're mostly a good client but a few bad habits are slipping in. Nip those pesky tendencies in the bud and you'll be sweet.
11-15 points. Three stars. You're not anyone's favourite client at this stage, but it's not too late to mend your ways. Plaster a 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' type memo front and centre of your brain, and follow it. I guarantee that things will improve dramatically
16 -30 points. Two stars. You're in dangerous territory and your freelancers are already shopping around for better clients, (if they haven't left already). You need to change your attitude to freelancers completely, and remove all the heinous behaviours mentioned above from your repertoire, or you'll be a no-go zone for freelancers for life.
31+ points. No stars. You're officially a crappy client and yeah, that's EXACTLY why freelancers don't stick around for you. Sadly, I don't think there's any hope at all for you.
So there we have it. Freelancers are fond of feeling valued. (I never claimed it was rocket science!).
Appreciate your freelancers, treat us the way you like to be treated yourself, tell us if you're not happy so we can do something about it, and respect our craft, and we'll honoured to partner with you. But treat us mean and you DEFINITELY won't keep us keen!
Over to you.
Freelancers, what are your pet peeves when it comes to clients? And let's flip this around. People who work with freelancers, how can we be better, as a tribe? Put your answers in the comments below.
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