Over the years, I’ve worked for more than a few fantastic clients.
These people’s professional approach to the work we were doing together was key to helping me deliver powerful and relevant copy to their brief, and complete their job without a hitch.
Don’t want to be that kind of client? No problem! Read up on these 13 terrific techniques used by some of the very worst clients of all time, and you can quickly be ruining your projects and making copywriters’ lives really difficult at the same time.
1) Assume that any freelancer will be desperate to do your job.
You’re handing out patronage, right? So go straight in with, “How much do you charge to…?” After all, it’s a given that any freelancer must want to do your job, so long as you agree their price, isn’t it?
Well… not so much, as it turns out. Freelancers have only so many project hours each month. We like to work on jobs that interest us, for people who seem like they understand that. “Would this project be of interest to you?” is both courteous and a tactical masterstroke. Not your style, though. Just not.
2) Request a quote without being prepared to discuss the job properly.
You want to know what the job will cost. You need to get a figure into your costings as quickly as possible, and you’re dammed if you have the time to explain the job properly to some freelancer, right?
Well.. turns out it’s not reasonable to expect to be given a price unless you are ready and able to discuss the job so a freelancer can understand properly what work it will involve. Who knew? Now you could get around this by having taken the time to write out what you need done, and to answer some questions on top so the freelancer can be sure they’re giving you a price you can both rely on.
But that’s work, isn’t it. Don’t go there!
3) When giving feedback, start by listing anything you’re unhappy about, without mentioning everything that’s really rather good.
You’re paying! You know what you don’t like, right? And you don’t have time to beat around the bush.
But… when a freelancer submits work to you, they put themself on the line. They are proud of their work. They want you to like it. And most freelancers have a need for the reassurance that you do like it or, at least, like it with a few provisos. You could begin with, “In the main, I’m really happy with this.” Or at least with, “I can see you’ve worked hard on this, so thank you.” You’d probably gain rapid agreement on whatever you want to be revised being revised.
But your way is good! You take work the freelancer has spent days or weeks on, and respond with nothing other than a curt list of things you don’t like. And well done, you.
4) Creep the project scope.
When you request a Quote for a project, why not try to add in a few additional tasks as ‘free extras’ just before you confirm the job, using the possibility of not confirming as leverage?
It’s a winner! Better still, how about trying to piggyback extra work once the job’s underway on the basis of “I’m already spending all this money with you. Can’t you do this for us as part of the deal?”
Of course, you know that freelancers usually analyse the work required to do a job and offer the best possible price, for that work specifically, as keenly as they are able. And you know you could get in touch, explain the extra requirement, and ask the freelancer to revise the Quote by adding this into the project.
Not your style, though, right? You’re one tough dealin’ cookie.
5) Dangle “We’ll have lots more work for you in the future” to try to get a super-low quote for your one-off job.
How about trying this old favourite? When contacting a freelancer for the first time, attempt to lever them into a bargain basement Quote by adding “We’ll have lots more work for you regularly if we can get a good price on this”?
What you’re actually saying is, “If you cut your margin on this, we’ll give you loads more opportunities to work for us at a loss in the future, as well.” You kind of understand that only an idiot would go for this.
But that’s not going to stop you!
6) Say you’d do the job yourself if you only had the time.
Fabulous idea! Completely devalue what the freelancer does by telling them you’d actually do this task yourself… if only you weren’t so busy.
It’s the exact equivalent of saying, “What you do can be done by anyone at all, without any kind of training or practise. Now… would you like to do this job for me because I’m really very important and too busy to do something so menial?”
It’s a great approach. Trash the freelancer’s expertise, experience and skills as a way to get them to help you! Who’s going to refuse that?
7) Make clear you have no real interest in the task and just need to get it off your desk.
You contact a freelancer about a project that, frankly, you don’t give a **** about. Either you consider the task beneath you, or you are so busy on other things that you have decided to just get it off your desk with minimum involvement.
The freelancer has questions? You don’t have time to answer! They want to talk over how they could best do the job for you? You’re just running into a meeting!
Of course, if you don’t care about the job, it’s very hard indeed for the freelancer to care about it either and it’s almost certainly doomed to be a disaster.
But on the upside, you’ll get away with doing next to nothing. So that’s good!
8) Waste several Freelancers’ time getting a quote for a hopeless project.
You have some kind of personal agenda in your company and are hopelessly trying to drive it without taking an early sounding from your managers or directors on whether there’s any appetite for it.
So why not get the whole thing quoted out, in detail, by several freelancers so you can show how thorough you’ve been! Three or four professionals can each spend a chunk of their valuable time analysing a requirement, calculating costs and writing up a response, and it won’t have cost you anything at all when the entire thing is met with “Why are you doing this?” by a grown up with actual authority.
Way to go.
9) When trying to negotiate a price, boast that you have other quotes that are much cheaper.
This is excellent. Review a quote you’ve been sent by a freelancer, decide you’d quite like the person to do the work, but cunningly write back revealing triumphantly that you are in possession of several competitor quotes that are lower.
Now of course there will always be someone willing to do any job with less care, skill and expertise, at a lower price, so this proves nothing.
But you’re not above demonstrating your absolute lack of any concern for, or understanding of, the quality of the work you are commissioning, are you!
10) Contact freelancers already knowing you will mess then around on payment.
Anyone who works freelance has two demanding jobs to do: their work; and the admin of running their business.
Not your problem, right? You know, even while first getting in touch to discuss your project, that when it comes to paying for your work you will mess around whomever you hire. You will ignore the payment terms you agree, fail to respond to emails and eventually, in some cases, need to be served with legal proceedings before you pay.
You go for it! Everyone loves working for people like you.
11) Let your freelancer do most of the job before supplying key information.
You are about to ask someone outside of your organisation to work on a project about which they can know nothing other than whatever you share with them. So you should probably take the time to collate all the relevant source information, wrap that up in a document that puts everything into context, and send that across, right?
Are you kidding? That sounds like it requires a ton of work. So how about you let the project get well underway, and only then ‘helpfully add in’ further resources or information that materially affect the project?
Now, you know that if this causes any kind of windback to an earlier point in the workflow in order to accommodate the new information, it will be a redefinition of the project scope, and the freelancer will almost certainly want to bill you for the time wasted.
But, the great thing about you is you’re always up for confrontation!
12) Ship over bad news or unreasonable requests at 5.55pm on a Friday and turn off your phone.
This one’s an absolute killer! You know that what you have to ask or tell the freelancer will not go down well, but you don’t have the courage or perhaps the prepared line of thinking with which to call or email them to discuss it and reach a resolution.
Easy! Ping them an angry/frustrating/concerning email while leaving them no way of reaching you to discuss or resolve the issue for two and a half days!
13) Send a skip full of unfiltered references and resources and expect the freelancer to try to work out which parts matter.
This is always good. Rather than invest the time to review your resources, extract or build an index to items that are relevant, and compile these into a helpful reference that the freelancer can work from to complete the project, just send every document or asset file you have in your possession which could have any bearing!
The freelancer won’t mind spending the time required to wade through hundreds of pages of peripheral nonsense looking for relevant items. And the freelancer (who is entirely new to your business situation and agenda) will of course definitelybe able to identify those items which are relevant, no matter where they are buried in this mire of information.
There you are. Easy. Don’t feel you need to adopt all 13 of these ill-judged and destructive angles. Even one or two should put you well on the road to a poor working relationship and some very disappointing work. If you can get up to even half of these, however, you’ll have proved yourself a true nightmare, your freelance will be miserable and the work you get back will probably be awful.
Now wouldn’t that be something?