Article by Wendy McCance
When I was starting out as a freelance writer, one of the biggest dilemmas I faced was deciding if I should turn away some job opportunities. In the beginning, I felt that I should be grabbing every assignment that came my way. I mean, who was I to get picky and pass over any project that was placed in my lap?
Back when I was in sales, it was drilled into me that you must pursue prospective clients. If a person was difficult to get in touch with or was wishy-washy, it didn’t matter. There was potential in each connection and it was a sales persons job to convince that prospective client to work with you.
I have found that even though this way of going after a prospect worked when pursuing a restaurateur (I was a wine and spirits salesperson), the concept didn’t translate quite as effectively working as a freelance writer. It took some time before I realized that what worked for one job title just wasn’t going to be effective in my new job as a writer.
I struggled with this concept. It was so ingrained in my head after years in sales. There was a little voice that would pop up and remind me that I needed to be proactive. I couldn’t let any interested prospect slide through my fingers.
At the same time, I had that bit of intuition telling me that something was off. There was just something there that told me that the hassles would far outweigh the benefits of working with some individuals. Although I was never burned from pursuing what I know now were a few clients that weren’t a good fit, it took me some time to accept that not everyone was going to be a good choice for me to work with.
What are the red flags that should be considered? When should you pass on an assignment?
1. The client is difficult to reach. I have worked with a few people who tossed an easy assignment my way. It should have been a no-brainer. Something could be written up fairly quickly and completed in just a few days. Problems would surface trying to get approval on a rough draft or getting a response to a question would take two weeks or more.
I found myself putting in too much time chasing down a client for something that could be resolved rather quickly. Good luck with these people. It takes forever to get through what should have been a quick project and getting paid takes just as long.
2. Watch out for the demanding client who doesn’t understand you are working for anyone but them. If you are getting last-minute requests to meet the same day and the get together is for something that could be answered in a quick phone call, then there’s a problem. It’s up to the writer to guide the client and keep unnecessary meetings to a minimum. It’s a red flag when you can’t get on the same page as your client.
Remember, every time you leave to go to a meeting, you are losing money.
Of course there are times when a meeting is necessary. There might be a lot of information to go over, a third person needs to be in on the collaboration or you have a meet and greet with a potential new client.
3. It is up to the writer to ask all of the relevant questions and get as much information on a project as possible. That being said, when requests are made to get information relevant to the project and the client drags their feet, it holds up the project. I have dealt with clients who promised to email me papers for technical assignments, and yet, I would have to hound them for the information. Worse yet, they wouldn’t understand why the project wasn’t completed yet.
4. It’s important to know when to cut the cord on a cycle of requests that go nowhere. I have dealt with clients who request multiple proposals for several different assignments. They will ask questions and want to have full-blown meetings to go over social media tactics. All of the work never goes anywhere.
There will be times when the reasons for a stalled project are legitimate. Your client will have a client of their own who backs. There will be times when it might take several months to get a project rolling. These issues will come up. It’s just par for the course.
When a client veers off in too many directions, seems unorganized and uses up too much of your time, the decision needs to be made, is it worth it to continue on with this person. Will anything pan out in the end or are you just spinning your wheels and losing money in the process?
5. The client isn’t enjoyable to work with. Watch out for the client that makes you feel on edge and stressed out in your attempts to please them.
I look for clients who I enjoy working with. I have been fortunate to work with people who I like so much that I would be just as happy working with them for free. Thankfully most of my clients have fallen under this category. If I enjoy who I am working with, I find I am more creative, have more to offer and the sense of mutual respect and trust go far in the relationship that is being developed.
If you dread the person you are working with, your project will suffer and the experience will no doubt do nothing great for your reputation. I’d rather work with people who are thrilled and mention me to others in the most positive of ways.
Walking away from a potential assignment is never comfortable, but if it saves you from chasing after a client, using up ridiculous amounts of time, or just isn’t an enjoyable experience from the get-go, passing on working with that client is something that should be considered.
To contact Wendy McCance about a writing assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]
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