Client horror stories.
They make endless fodder for every single copywriting forum I’ve seen.
Because we all have them.
And over the past several weeks, I’ve cataloged them to figure out what they have in common…
…and what we can learn about vetting better clients.
What I found surprised me.
Of course many of them shared the same traits:
Clients that don’t value copy
They set insane expectations for workload and timeline… and insult us with what they’re paying.
Two different ideas of what “good copy” looks like
The client doesn’t want the sales page to actually have any sales language… or they just want you to type up the thing they were going to write anyway.
It’s like pulling teeth to get good feedback, research materials in a timely manner, or answers to our questions.
Now if you’re a copywriter, you’re probably nodding along.
“Yeah, awful clients! Where do I find people that don’t do that?”
But before we raise the collective pitchfork, let’s dig a little deeper.
Because below the surface is something interesting… the common denominator.
The common denominator in all your bad client relationships… is you.
Maybe the copywriter is the problem.
What are we –collectively and individually– doing to encourage this behavior?
Turns out, quite a lot.
Here’s what I mean:
I come from a big, close family.
It has its advantages. Free childcare is probably at the top.
But a big family can easily become all-consuming.
If I’m at my parents’ farm less than twice a week, we’re “avoiding” them.
If I miss a text or call, it must be because I don’t care.
And last week, my sister was mad at me.
I found this out from my brother, and then my mom.
She was mad because she felt she wasn’t being appreciated.
So this stressed me out.
Until I realized something.
My sister had taken the time to talk to my brother and my mom (so presumably, my dad and my other sisters as well)… but she hadn’t talked to me about it.
In fact, I hadn’t talked to her in weeks (which looking back, was no doubt her way of signaling it).
Was I at fault? Absolutely.
My sister had been helping me out a lot with the kids during some recent travel and I never took the time to thank her. And that’s 100% on me.
And this is a big one…
How could I have fixed it if I didn’t know?
By not voicing her concern — to me — she robbed me of the chance to make good on it.
I value my relationship with my sister deeply.
A simple text, “hey, ya know, I’ve been helping you out a lot lately, I don’t think you realize it, but I’m getting a little burnt out and I feel like you don’t really care” ….
Could have saved literally hours of stress (and 3 other people getting involved).
And we play my sister’s role ALL THE TIME in our client relationships.
We don’t set expectations up front
We don’t teach our clients how to communicate with us
We complain on industry forums instead of voicing our concern to the only person that can fix it — the client.
We put up with minor annoyances so long they become major headaches.
We expect the clients to just “know” how much is too much (or not enough).
Now, I know I’ll get pushback on this.
I know this because the most unpopular answer to the question “How can I find better women” is “Be a better man.”
And “How can I fix my marriage” is “Start with fixing yourself.”
People hate hearing that.
But it needs to be said.
How do we find better clients?
We become better freelancers.
So let’s be better.
Are you with me?
Just like a marriage counselor who encourages you to improve yourself first… there are exceptions to this advice. If you’re being abused, get out. And the same is true for client relationships. I’m not advocating putting up with penny-pinching, jerky McJerkerson clients. Tomorrow via email I’m going to show you a four-part test to determine whether you should cut your losses and run. Just enter your email below to get in on it.
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