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Not all clients are good for your freelance business

Ben McKinney

Norwich based writer for business. Former sports journalist and ex-window cleaner. I'll still make your business look great, just with words not shiny windows.

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Some clients aren’t good for you, and other things you don’t want to hear about freelance life.

Despite the ambiguity present in the title, I wouldn’t change my working life to one of employment with any great haste. I’m lucky in that I’m both a freelance copywriter and a self-employed business owner, but neither is ever a bed of roses, as you’d expect.

Freelancing can be the best way to earn a living – and the worst. It can be feast or famine, an all-inclusive spread with as much to eat and drink as you want – or starvation.

Drought or deluge. You get the idea. But what doesn’t change and shouldn’t change, no matter how busy or quiet you are, is your client compass.

As adults, in workplaces and life, we can all spot and usually avoid what I’ll politely call ‘bad eggs’. If they’re your line manager, and they’re vindictive, lazy or incompetent, you’ve got problems. If they’re your clients, you have choices.

Now you may argue that you can leave a job. You’re not a tree, but you may like the workplace, colleagues and what you do. It’s just your boss.

Self-employment and freelancing supposedly give you freedom – but just as saying “No” to a boss is a real challenge for most of us; it’s difficult to say “No” to a bad client. But you should. And here’s why.

You go into freelance life, usually, to pursue a passion, to claim independence, to carve a niche, to abandon hierarchies and commutes. But you can easily fall back into old ways with clients who aren’t good for you.

Time hoovers

You’ll find people expect you to give your time freely – travel to meet over coffee, an hour on Zoom, 5 phone calls a month. All useful perhaps but if you’re in a feast or deluge, you need less of this and more time focused on work.

Non-payers or late payers

Freelancers don’t have a set date – like the 1st or 19th of a month – when a fixed payment lands for work. You might set terms on invoices of a week to 4 weeks, but whether they’re settled or not is Russian Roulette.

Many freelancers ask for payment in advance to avoid this – and why shouldn’t they? Mortgages, childcare, council tax payment dates are fixed and freelancers have to pay these – but some clients stretch payment terms or don’t pay at all. Very few, mind.

Scope creep

Non-payers and late payers are stressors to any freelancer but so is scope creep. A price is agreed to do X amount of work for payment of Y but the client asks the freelancer to add Z on, with payment of Y only.

You wouldn’t ask a mechanic to service a second car for free, or try to get Apple to throw in a free iPad with a MacBook purchase and yet a minority of clients like stretching agreed briefs.

I’ve described 3 common issues – time hoovers, poor payers and scope creep merchants – but what are the solutions?

  1. Time hoovers – allocate a maximum time for a free consultation like solicitors do.
  2. Non-payers and late payers – ask for full payment or 50% payment upfront. If they quibble, walk away as you’ve dodged a bullet.
  3. Scope creep – be specific in invoices and proposals. If a client wants more, tell them what it will cost.

Finally, if you’re a prompt payer, someone who recognises that time is finite and knows you’ll get what you pay for – contact me for any copywriting projects today.

I specialise in writing persuasive web copy and content marketing for owner-operated businesses that are looking to grow and find the right type of clients.

And, if you’re a freelancer, or someone looking to set up, choose the client and not the money!

Need help with your business blog? Contact me to write content for your business.

First published on www.benmckinney.co.uk

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