Do You Take Your Freelance Clients Seriously?

Well?? Do you take your freelance clients seriously? Of course, plenty of you do - but there are also plenty of you out there who don't.

I'm one of those writers who figuratively bends over backwards to accommodate good clients. I'm also very willing to drop bad clients like a bucket full of prawns gone rancid in the sun. I don't have time to deal with clients who treat me badly, or disrespectfully, or simply don't value what it is I do for a living. There are too many good clients out there to worry about those kinds of clients.

One of my better clients has also become a very good friend over the several years I've been working with her. She has 14 writers working for her just to handle her own freelance writing overflow. (no, she's not hiring. Don't leave comments asking for her contact details. She has enough writers for now.)

She treats her clients like gold. She treats her writers like gold. She understands that the clients are the people who pay her bills - and those of her writers by default - so she makes sure they're happy and receiving the work they're paying for in the time frame they want them done.

Unfortunately, as part of a 14-writer team, I get to see some of the wonderful excuses and responses she receives on a daily basis from some of the other writers who simply don't treat their own freelance clients very seriously at all.

You see, even though I have other private clients I work with on a regular basis, my friend is also one of my clients. This means we both learned very quickly to separate business from friendship. If I accept a job she's allocated, I make absolutely sure it's completed when she needs it completed. If I'm otherwise occupied and can't handle the work she needs done in the time frame she needs it by, I'll turn down that particular job. Simple, huh?

Not quite so simple...

Today I was assisting that same friend with some admin work she needed done so she could work on finalizing a copywriting job she was busy working on. She allocates very regular work to her little team. She pays every week and she pays above average rates for the work offered. (once again, she's not hiring. Don't leave comments asking about it!)

What I saw in her email inbox amazed me.

Of those 14 writers, perhaps 6 of them take her seriously as a freelance client (including me!). The others completely take the work she offers for granted. That means they're taking her clients for granted too. By default, it also means they're not treating their own freelance client - my friend - seriously at all.

For example: A job posted on Sunday evening with a very clear deadline of 24 hours written on it was taken immediately by one writer. Usually the deadlines are a lot more lenient. This was a special job. Two days later when I requested an update or an explanation for why it was late and why I needed to speak to the actual client about it, here's what I read:

"I had the worst migraine. I'll try to work on it later tomorrow."

Okay. I thought that was fair enough. A migraine can be nasty, painful and debilitating. But my friend tells me those migraines happen on a regular enough basis to be recognized as "every Monday".

Another great excuse for missing a deadline arrived on the heels of the first from a different writer. "I had the 'women's monthly visit' and felt terrible. I'll do it tomorrow" (paraphrasing here, but you catch my drift).

My friend laughed and said "Again? That's the third time this month!"

The next email was a begging plea for an extra payment outside of when every other writer gets paid. Apparently that writer decided not to work at all last week and has now decided the rent's due, so came hassling my friend for extra work and early payment. 

Another very frequent excuse received is "my kid was sick". (substitute 'kid' for father, mother, grandmother, aunt, neighbor's dog and you see what goes on each week for excuses - and always on the same day from that writer!).

And then one email arrived from a writer saying "I'm so sorry, I thought I had WiFi at the place I was at, but it dropped out and I'm stuck." My friend sat up in alarm. That particular writer NEVER makes excuses and NEVER misses deadlines. She was immediately worried that something was wrong and sent a message saying it was fine and she'd cover the deadline herself. Thus is the power of consistent professionalism and courtesy.

I'm horrified. I'm also disgusted and appalled at the unprofessional manner of these "freelance writers" who have it very easy working with my friend.

As a professional, full-time freelance writer, I understand that I'm self-employed. I choose when I work and I work those hours that suit me around my daughter's needs. This means I only accept work that I know I can get done without disappointing those freelance clients. If I can't get it done, I'm honest enough and respectful enough of my clients to admit it, or to ask for a longer deadline to accommodate their needs.

But watching my friend shrug off the same round of excuses each week for the same missed deadlines - and then watch her sit up until 2am to complete the work that wasn't done in their place - is a little disheartening.

Of course, it also showed me that the writer who has a great reputation for being reliable, trustworthy, professional and timely with completing assignments received all of her attention the moment there was a problem.
(it's also worth noting that the same writer mentioned receives almost four times the amount of personally allocated work each week compared to the other writers to ensure that writer always has plenty of income!)

So the next time you decide to accept a freelancing job, complete it. If you don't have the time or inclination to complete it - don't accept it. If something crops up, say something to your client. Don't ignore it, or avoid it, or just wait until someone complains. In the world of online freelancing, your reputation means everything.

This doesn't just apply to your private clients. It applies to any particular writing job you've accepted from any paying source, including content mills, bidding sites, private requests and any other source that actually pays you to write something in order to get paid.

Treat your freelance clients with respect. They're paying you to complete a job to their specifications. They're paying good money they could have given to someone else to have you work for them and you agreed to it. So do it. If you don't want to do it, don't make false promises that you will.

'nuff said.