How Selective Are You When Choosing Clients to Work With?

by Mark Andrews Banned
9 replies
What now feels like a very long time ago, when just setting out on my career as a copywriter, I used to pretty much take on anything and everything that was hurled my way from clients.

But as time has gone by, I've become more and more selective in choosing who I'll work with.

If my gut instinct kicks in and tells me, avoid this individual or company, rather than fighting this and working against my better judgement - these days they'll be turned away instantly.

Currently I guess I'm turning down approximately 80% of the potential clients who contact me.

What about you?

Have you become extremely selective in who you choose to work with?

What red flags normally get your guard up and have you running in the opposite direction?

What is your criteria for accepting a new copywriting client?

Please discuss...
#choosing #clients #selective #work
  • Profile picture of the author OutOfThisWord
    You are exactly right!

    Because the time you spend with a less than desirable client will cost you since you can't service a good client.

    And I've even fired clients in the middle of projects when it became obvious they did not know what they were doing.

    Red flags?

    Clients who need things RUSH, meaning... I'm unorganized, so I hope you are not.

    Clients who promise the MOON, meaning... you make money for me and maybe I'll pay you.

    Clients who have no clear DIRECTION, meaning... I want to experiment with your time.

    Clients who are only involved in GET RICH QUICK, meaning neither of you will.

    You can get back money, and you can get good clients...

    ...but you can't get back time and it's a good idea to AVOID anyone who wastes it, in business and in life.
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    • Profile picture of the author Doceye
      OOTW,

      Absolutely spot-on advice to the OP. Couldn't agree more; wish I'd been more aware of the points you mention twenty years ago.

      Doc
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      • Profile picture of the author arfasaira
        I have to admit, I've done plenty of 'take anything' for the last 6 months, but now I'm starting to turn down clients because I'm booked solid until September.

        Other warriors have told me that I should put my rates up and be more selective and they are absolutely right. It's got me thinking now because although I'm sort of weaning my way out of the shameless whore stage, I'm not entirely there yet.

        But when my diary does become free, and I'm a little more stable financially (I'm moving house soon) I'll start looking at being selective. The majority of my clients are in the health and wellbeing and IM niche, and this is where I'm most comfortable.

        I'm looking more and more into consultancy now - which means I'll have no choice but to be selective. My current long term clients are all in the health and wellbeing niche and are great to work with, take on board suggestions and actively allow me to help them make decisions with their marketing - and that's a great feeling when you're appreciated for what you can bring to the table.

        I think if I had a client who was difficult to work with and had their own set agenda without the willingness to learn and without being open to new ideas, I'd find it very frustrating and annoying. To me, working with a client should be fun and engaging and the client should be happy to listen and take on board advice that is given.

        I hate it when clients hire you to do something and then decide to stick their own thing in and change drastically what we have so lovingly and painstakingly put together (yes I know that's a dichotomy). That would really rile me. I guess the issue here is of trust - that clients should trust our better judgement - after all this is why they hire us.

        I don't mind working with people who haven't a clue what they are doing, but I do mind when they aren't willing to listen and aren't prepared to put the time and effort and more importantly the cash into a project to help it succeed. Unfortunately, you can't always tell if a client will do that.
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    Great question!

    I often wonder what other copy slingers turn down... and for what reasons.

    Personally, I'm very clear about the type of entrepreneur I want to work with, and when my criteria isn't met, I send them elsewhere... often here.

    Rapport is everything... When I give a free consultation and there's friction or a lack of general resonance, I'm out.

    If I have to ask what their budget is more than once (and they want to go back and forth about their project), I'm out.

    If a potential client doesn't know how to create exposure for their sales letter or website, I'm out.

    If the product or service isn't stellar, I'm out.

    I used to take on projects that I thought might look good in my portfolio. However, now I don't even show a portfolio.

    I need to feel excited about working for someone to really craft the kind of killer copy they’re after.

    A percentage of the profits is also seductive sometimes…
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    • Profile picture of the author Cam Connor
      Originally Posted by Reflection Marketing

      Great question!

      I often wonder what other copy slingers turn down... and for what reasons.

      Personally, I'm very clear about the type of entrepreneur I want to work with, and when my criteria isn't met, I send them elsewhere... often here.

      Rapport is everything... When I give a free consultation and there's friction or a lack of general resonance, I'm out.

      If I have to ask what their budget is more than once (and they want to go back and forth about their project), I'm out.

      If a potential client doesn't know how to create exposure for their sales letter or website, I'm out.

      If the product or service isn't stellar, I'm out.

      I used to take on projects that I thought might look good in my portfolio. However, now I don't even show a portfolio.

      I need to feel excited about working for someone to really craft the kind of killer copy they’re after.

      A percentage of the profits is also seductive sometimes…

      Reflection, Good points.

      I've also found that people who have no idea how to market, or the first thing about IM'ing in general are pointless to work with, and I can DEFINITELY +1 your point about people who are secretive about their budget. This seems to happen a lot, so when I ask someone what their budget is, and they don't tell me absolutely clearly up-front, I WILL actually call them on it, like "Why is your budget for this project such a big secret?"... They'll usually just either tell me "No it's not a secret, it's $XX, XXX or w/e. If they don't, good riddance. See ya later. lol

      I generally apply the 80/20 rule to my prospective clients, meaning that 80% of them will cause 20% of the problems, and the other 20% will cause the other 80% of the problems, so I generally take about 80% of the people who wanna work with me, and drop the other 20%, but I have no problem firing someone haflway through as long as I've provided to them whatever copy they've paid for already, and I'll even send them money back oftentimes (not all of it, unless I've done very little work for them).

      I try to give newbies a chance sometimes, like if it's their first big product launch, and they're smart enough to hire a good copywriter, but I take these guys with caution, often, it doesn't turn out well.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    Originally Posted by Pete Walker View Post

    What is your criteria for accepting a new copywriting client?
    Pete,

    Since I just work partnership deals, my criteria is pretty strict...

    1. Is the client positioned favorably?
    2. Does the client have a long term goal?
    3. Does the product have a good chance of success?
    4. Are targeted traffic generation tactics in place or planned?
    5. Is the client trustworthy?
    6. Is the client motivated?
    7. Does the client understand what his needs are?
    8. Is the client open to suggestion?

    9. Am I compatible with the client?
    10. Can I meet the client's expectations?

    Alex
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  • Profile picture of the author CreativeCat
    I think most seasoned consultants can spot a real doozy when they roll around. It's typically a business owner who hasn't done a lot of marketing in the past, doesn't know the typical turn around time, costs and how they should act (yes we all know it's a two way street) and want a lot of work in not a lot of time for not a lot of money. Of course there's always the mass amounts of changes, nit-picks and asking for discounts involved. I can spot them like a hawk these days, but the flags are usually the following:

    1. They want everything in a couple of days. This usually means they think they're my only client.
    2. Questioning my rates: they don't know the value of what they're getting and aren't willing to pay for good work.
    3. They're not sure what they want, but get picky after I present something to them. This is a hard one to deal with and I'll usually have to pull teeth to get them to give me parameters.
    4. They want customized examples. This typically means they want me to do the work for free at first, then they'll never call me again. This amounts to stealing and I don't do it.

    There are certainly others but those are my top 4. So you could say I'm pretty selective nowadays. I choose clients who are willing to work with me, not think I'm their microsoft word slave or that they can call me and expect me to answer my phone at 9:30 at night, and those who don't blink when I shoot a number out for them. I like working with people that appreciate it, is the bottom line.
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  • Profile picture of the author TimRobinson
    Although I'm not a dedicated copy writer (though I do do it from time to time) I run a split testing and website optimization company (Zentester) and clients are very similar.

    One of the biggest turn offs for me is when a client emails me before even looking at my site with 15 questions that are all answered on the front page of the website or if they signed up for a free account with my app. Those are the people I generally try and stay away (unless they have plenty of money to spend) as I know they are going to be a massive time sink and will want me to do absolutely everything for them.

    My favourite clients are the ones who are actually appreciative of the work done for them and tell me what they like / love about my product / service rather than just sending criticism. It seems small but it makes me feel so much better about working with someone when they appreciate the hard work and effort I'm putting in so they can profit.
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    • Profile picture of the author TracyNeedham
      Originally Posted by Reflection Marketing View Post

      Great question!

      If I have to ask what their budget is more than once (and they want to go back and forth about their project), I'm out.

      If a potential client doesn't know how to create exposure for their sales letter or website, I'm out.
      I find a lot of them dance around the budget question and I can never decide whether to push further or not. I can see their point of view--if they shoot out a number, you're not likely to quote for much less than that. But it sure as hell would save a lot of time if they would.

      I'm not sure I agree on the not knowing how to create exposure one because I do a lot of marketing consulting with my copy and love helping with this part of it. So, if they're willing to pay for that help I'd consider it unless I thought they knew so little they'd be unable to execute.

      Regardless, I would never take a profit sharing deal with a client like that though because you don't know if they'd actually implement.

      Originally Posted by OutOfThisWord View Post

      Clients who need things RUSH, meaning... I'm unorganized, so I hope you are not.

      Clients who promise the MOON, meaning... you make money for me and maybe I'll pay you.
      Yes, yes! They should have called me last week if they're in a hurry. Sometimes I will accommodate, sometimes I won't. Depends on a number of factors.

      Promising the moon though--yeah, those people I run from now. 99.9% of time there will never be more work or more money coming on the back end because if they truly knew what they were doing, they wouldn't need to make this kind of deal in the first place.

      Originally Posted by CreativeCat View Post

      2. Questioning my rates: they don't know the value of what they're getting and aren't willing to pay for good work.
      3. They're not sure what they want, but get picky after I present something to them. This is a hard one to deal with and I'll usually have to pull teeth to get them to give me parameters.
      Ugh, have a prospect now through someone else who keeps questioning my rates and on and on. Tried explaining to this other person that people either hire me or they don't. When they're questioning and asking you to justify things BEFORE they've even hired you...they're going to be one big PITA after they do.

      And I also had a not-sure client once too. Never again.

      Other things that raise red flags...

      • I could write this myself but I don't have time. (i.e. You'll never write it exactly the way I would--if I actually could, but I really can't, which is why I hired you--so I'll never be happy)
      • Any client whose product or service that seems to be in the gray area (or worse) of ethics--no way. Had a prospect once who had been suspended by the SEC for trading other people's money w/o authorization. Yeah, that's someone I want to work with. NOT
      • Any prospect who makes it a point of talking about "your competition" a lot. (i.e. I'm going to keep working all of you until I get the lowest price)
      • Any prospect who seems to have a lot of stories of other copywriters, designers or whatnot who have done them wrong or haven't been able to get them results. I don't mean one or two stories--I mean where every former provider they mention they have a complaint about. No one gets that unlucky--it's obviously them--and you can be sure you'll soon be on that list
      • Any prospect who wants me to do a "writing test" or spec piece for them. Yeah, I'd like to see them ask their plumber to do that. You can read my site and my samples. Maybe if your name is Clayton Makepeace or Agora. But otherwise, you can go bye bye...
      • People whose first question is price. You can be sure they're going to be shopping for the lowest one. Even if they seem concerned about the price you quote but finally say yes, they'll probably try to get out of paying you all of it or push the line a lot about what's included
      • Finally, prospects who seem to require multiple phone calls--or worse, multiple in person meetings--BEFORE deciding whether to hire you. Can we say high maintenance? And that's if they even do.
      Hmm, didn't realize there were so many. Maybe I should turn this into a checklist. LOL
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