Why do some clients think the writers they hire are beneath them?

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I just parted company with a client I acquired last week. He promised me long-term work, and he was willing to pay reasonably well too. I did a couple of product description articles for him last week, and he even gushed over a Skype chat, telling me they were "really brilliant".

He took several days to pay me, which worried me a bit, but he did pay me at the weekend, which was just as well in retrospect.

Yesterday he sent me lots of information on how to write the perfect Amazon product review. He sent me three PDFs on the subject telling me to write a review on an Amazon product he owned, strictly using the structure he had provided.

I don't work on weekends, so I only looked at the PDFs this morning. One had 7 review templates to follow and another had 7 pre-sell techniques to follow. The third one was something in between. I found this confusing and lacking clear instructions, so I contacted him this morning asking him what exactly he wanted me to do; which of the 7 templates and 7 techniques was I expected to follow as they were all different?

I received a curt reply telling me to pick any of them I liked.

I did that, but halfway down the template I was told to review three popular similar products on Amazon. Was I supposed to review three products from scratch, within the overall product review I was writing? Was I supposed to lift them out of existing Amazon reviews? Or what? It still wasn't completely clear, so I contacted him again asking for some clarity on the matter.

At this point I discovered that, despite having a foreign name, his command of trailer trash styled English was actually very good. He seemed especially fluent in his use of a four-letter word beginning with "F". He could even deftly switch between using this word as an adjective, verb, noun or adverb. His virtuosity in this respect was quite astonishing.

And quite uncalled for too ...

I have been writing online for almost 18 and a half years; I started on February 14th, 1996. I have had hundreds of clients in that time, some have been excellent, some so-so, and some have been like my client of this morning.

I'm pleased to say that the vast majority of the clients I have had have been of the excellent variety. They treat me with respect and treat me as someone with an expertise they are happy to pay for. I, in turn, always treat them with the due respect they deserve. It's a good way to do business, I have found.

However, this is not the first time I have come across a client who seemed to think that just because I agreed to do some work for him, he could treat me as he liked. The tirade that poured out against me on Skype this morning, before I managed to block this difficult client, included things like (and I paraphrase from memory here), "just another ******* stupid freelancer," "you ******* freelance writers think you're so clever," and " **** you, you ******* freelance ******* ******!" (I told you he was good with that word and its variations).

I am proud of the writing skills I have. I am not the greatest writer, nor do I claim to be, but I can hold my own writing good online content. I am fairly well-paid for what I do and I think I deserve it as well.

Why then do some clients think they can treat the writers they hire like scum? We are not common slaves to do their bidding. Our clients do not do us a favor by hiring us. On the contrary, we are the ones with the expertise they lack. However, it is a partnership. We writers need the work and the clients need the expertise. We are at least equals in the partnership.

I think my client of this morning was actually psychopathic, but he is not the first one I have encountered who thought writers could be treated badly with impunity.

OK, rant over. Sorry if I've bored you. I guess I'll have to go looking for another client now ... Someone who appreciates me and my work and can show me due respect, I hope.

John.
#beneath #clients #hire #writers
  • Profile picture of the author ecoverartist
    Apparently, he's desperate, jealous, temperamental or a combination. Your time is better spent with the excellent clients you've collected over the years
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  • Profile picture of the author ShoppingSignals
    Hi John,

    Sorry to hear about this a-hole client of yours. You're definitely better off without him. I'm not a paid writer, but I have done lots of client work over the years, so I can relate. I think the reality is that it doesn't matter if you're a writer, programmer, designer, CPA or attorney. Some clients are just plain crazy, egocentric, maniacs with no self control or respect for others.

    This really is a case of "it's not you, it's them". You just have to chalk it up to a learning experience and take a mental note of their wonderful personality characteristics so you can further weed out the crazies for future client acquisitions.
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    • Profile picture of the author John Coutts
      Originally Posted by ShoppingSignals View Post

      Hi John,

      Sorry to hear about this a-hole client of yours. You're definitely better off without him. I'm not a paid writer, but I have done lots of client work over the years, so I can relate. I think the reality is that it doesn't matter if you're a writer, programmer, designer, CPA or attorney. Some clients are just plain crazy, egocentric, maniacs with no self control or respect for others.

      This really is a case of "it's not you, it's them". You just have to chalk it up to a learning experience and take a mental note of their wonderful personality characteristics so you can further weed out the crazies for future client acquisitions.
      You're right of course, and I should have added that it's probably the same for just about any service you provide, but I'm only familiar with writing.

      I certainly won't go bankrupt by losing this client, and I know I'm better off without him, but it's just that this attitude I sometimes encounter bothers me.

      John.
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      • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
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        Originally Posted by John Coutts View Post

        I certainly won't go bankrupt by losing this client, and I know I'm better off without him, but it's just that this attitude I sometimes encounter bothers me.
        Yes; I see how distressing things like that can be. It would be for me, also (and I'm not as tactful or easy-going as you are). And I agree that in the long run you're better off without him, of course.

        Thanks for posting this thread, John.
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    • Profile picture of the author Steve B
      "Why do some clients think the writers they hire are beneath them?"


      John,

      It's not a personal thing. When you agree to do work for someone else you're often in a position of being told what to do in order to be paid. So the relationship may be seen by the hiring party as "I'm the boss and you'll do what I want if you expect to be paid."

      If your client treats you this way on a simple writing job you can assume that he is the same way in his personal life - probably a bully without a lot of interpersonal skills.

      If you need the money from such a client, do the work, be done with it, and don't work for him again. If you aren't dependent upon this "gig" - just terminate the agreement and tell him he's fired.

      Steve
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      • Profile picture of the author John Coutts
        Originally Posted by Steve B View Post

        "Why do some clients think the writers they hire are beneath them?"


        John,

        It's not a personal thing. When you agree to do work for someone else you're often in a position of being told what to do in order to be paid. So the relationship may be seen by the hiring party as "I'm the boss and you'll do what I want if you expect to be paid."

        If your client treats you this way on a simple writing job you can assume that he is the same way in his personal life - probably a bully without a lot of interpersonal skills.

        If you need the money from such a client, do the work, be done with it, and don't work for him again. If you aren't dependent upon this "gig" - just terminate the agreement and tell him he's fired.

        Steve
        Yes Steve, I understand that the person hiring me needs to tell me what to do, but that's just it - he hadn't told me properly what to do, and when I asked for clarity on the matter, he exploded.

        I've encountered that kind of thing before, so I'm not all that surprised. I just wonder why this attitude exists. Just because you might be the one paying for a service, it doesn't necessarily make you superior.

        Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, unless they lose that right for whatever reason. I don't think asking for greater clarity of the instructions provided was a good reason to be insulted in the extreme manner this man did.

        John.
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  • Profile picture of the author BizQ
    I'm sorry that happened to you. Many people feel the need to feel superior to others, it is where their self worth comes from. This narcissistic culture that has developed certainly has not helped.

    Plus, it's easier to be a jerk via Skype than it is face-to-face. However people who lack emotional intelligence will behave that way no matter the situation. It's shocking when it happens, but it's something we have to learn how to navigate.
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  • Profile picture of the author Lucas Tyson
    Clients can be a-holes, simple as that. I've worked as a freelance graphic designer and have nightmare clients who think they know best, and when I try to give them what they want they just get defensive and sometimes even insulting.
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    • Profile picture of the author John Coutts
      Originally Posted by Lucas Tyson View Post

      Clients can be a-holes, simple as that. I've worked as a freelance graphic designer and have nightmare clients who think they know best, and when I try to give them what they want they just get defensive and sometimes even insulting.
      That's true, but I've found that clients who are prepared to pay a decent rate usually treat you a lot better than the bottom feeders paying $5 or less for 500 words, for example. But of course, it isn't always so.

      Even if a writer commanding $2 per article isn't all that good, as long as that writer isn't copying and pasting from somewhere else, and is just trying to do the best they can, they still deserve to be treated with respect.

      We all want to retain a level of dignity, but that's only possible if we are shown due respect. Some people lose their right to be respected because of the things they do, but that's different. As long as someone is behaving sensibly, doing the best they can, they deserve to be respected.

      John.
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    • Profile picture of the author Frank Donovan
      John, I'm glad you've been able to let off some steam.

      It's a constant puzzle to me why good writers continue to rely on clients - effectively locking themselves into "job mode" - rather than use their talent to build long-term assets for themselves. But anyway...

      If your business model does depend on satisfying clients, you can, at least, be choosy about the clients you take on. In my experience (and I'm generalizing), clients looking for Amazon product reviews tend to view writing as a commodity. When someone holds that opinion, it can extend to viewing the provider of the service as just another outsourced expense, rather than a partner who can bring added value and creativity to the enterprise. Of course, that's not to excuse any rudeness, and the vast majority of clients would, I'm sure, agree that this particular person was out of order.

      Just let this one go, John. In any case, you're too good a writer to be doing someone else's product reviews, especially from templates.
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      • Profile picture of the author John Coutts
        Originally Posted by Frank Donovan View Post

        John, I'm glad you've been able to let off some steam.

        It's a constant puzzle to me why good writers continue to rely on clients - effectively locking themselves into "job mode" - rather than use their talent to build long-term assets for themselves. But anyway...

        If your business model does depend on satisfying clients, you can, at least, be choosy in the clients you take on. In my experience (and in general), clients looking for Amazon product reviews tend to view writing as a commodity. When someone holds that opinion, it can extend to viewing the provider of the service as just another outsourced expense, rather than a partner who can bring value and creativity to the enterprise. Of course, that's not to excuse any rudeness, and the vast majority of clients would, I'm sure, agree that this particular person was out of order.

        Just let this one go, John. In any case, you're too good a writer to be doing someone else's product reviews, especially from templates.
        Frank, as to building long-term assets for myself, I'm doing that too - I just haven't quite got to the point where I can stop writing for clients yet.

        I'm definitely choosy about the clients I take on. This guy seemed OK at first, but then they usually all do. I made a mistake taking this guy on, but we live and learn. Initially it was just product descriptions he wanted me to write. The product review bit was sprung on me this morning.

        I agree that Amazon product review clients can be difficult, often viewing the writing they contract as just a commodity, and if he had mentioned the review side of things at the beginning, I probably would have turned him down.

        John.
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  • Profile picture of the author salegurus
    It's not just online or only writers etc.
    Try dealing with Nissan, Disney, Halliburton etc. When you have a contract with them they "own you", but then again your'e talking 6 or 7 figure contracts so if you're willing to put up with them it's extremely lucrative....
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    • Profile picture of the author John Coutts
      Originally Posted by salegurus View Post

      It's not just online or only writers etc.
      Try dealing with Nissan, Disney, Halliburton etc. When you have a contract with them they "own you", but then again your'e talking 6 or 7 figure contracts so if you're willing to put up with them it's extremely lucrative....
      Well, I admit I haven't been in the position to command 6 or 7 figure contracts from any of those companies, but I would argue that they should definitely show respect to any contractor who can command those kind of figures.

      I mean, just because a company can throw serious money around does not give them the right to act like shitheads towards their contractors.

      John.
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  • Profile picture of the author WeavingThoughts
    You need to learn to fire clients. There is no other way. Just write:

    "Your fired"
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  • Profile picture of the author IvoryPulse
    Sometimes we just need to recognize a real personality conflict. It happens to all of us. Sometimes you’re just going to run into an oil-and-water scenario where you can’t find a way to work with a specific client. You can't be afraid to say no especially if they are taking up an exorbitant amount of your time and resources. Time to fire the client. Why not spend your time working with more productive clients, and let one of your competitors get your irrational client. That’s a win-win.
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  • Profile picture of the author seasoned
    Originally Posted by John Coutts View Post

    At this point I discovered that, despite having a foreign name, his command of trailer trash styled English was actually very good. He seemed especially fluent in his use of a four-letter word beginning with "F". He could even deftly switch between using this word as an adjective, verb, noun or adverb. His virtuosity in this respect was quite astonishing.

    And quite uncalled for too ...
    Well, a LOT of foreigners tend to learn vulgar slang FIRST. HECK! I speak some danish and my danish aunt got me a GOOD danish dictionary(Like a dane would use, it is danish all throughout). I went to denmark, and went to a bookstore. I found a SLANG dictionary, for DANISH SLANG, and it is like 1/2 as big as the dictionary!

    He sounds like some kook that probably just bought some offer that was supposed to be great, and wanted YOU to run with it. The idea of three reviews is a good one, but ONLY if you are honest, etc... That is like sales 101! It makes what you say more believable and gives you a way to HONESTLY make your product stand out and kill alternate decisions. But I don't think that is what YOUR client wanted!

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author garyv
    The best thing to do is to not take it personally - just cut them off and move on immediately. You can't make everyone happy, so the most prudent thing to do is to recognize it quickly. You'll save yourself time, money, and frustration.
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    John, trust me on this . . . it's not just writers that this person treats poorly. It's nearly everyone in his life at some point, some more often than others.

    People like this tend to have low self-esteem and attempt to lift themselves up by tearing others down. It's not you, or writers in general, it's whomever is in the way when they need a "lift" ...which, of course, doesn't last, and the cycle repeats.

    It's a character weakness that will trouble others temporarily and torment him indefinitely.
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    • Profile picture of the author MissTerraK
      Aw, I'm sorry you had to go through that abuse, John.

      Some people are just downright ludicrous!

      Like you, I've been fortunate to have really good clients, however, I had a one that was just, just, well, even as a writer, I have no words!!

      This particular client prepaid me $5,000 up front to write pieces for his website. His new company was selling industrial furnaces for melting different types of metals for all sorts of industry. A rather dull subject for sure. But I felt I was up for it and would find fun facts about different metals throughout history to liven up the content. I went to three different University libraries and from my local library had access to private material on this subject.

      I wrote 5 pieces and sent them along to him as the first of many I was contracted to write.

      The feedback I received back from him blew me away.

      He told me that he found what I had written, on the internet. I was shocked!

      I asked him if he could please let me know what he was referring to. He sent me little snippets and phrases describing how the furnaces worked and on every single fun history fact regarding use of gold, bronze and silver. Not word per word mind you, but the same "idea" (in my clients words).

      He wanted me to write material that had never ever been on the internet before! What the heck? He wanted me to write about industrial furnaces, but there is information about industrial furnaces on the internet. And what was I supposed to do? Make up fun facts about different metal uses early in history?

      Can someone please explain to me how you write about something in existence that hasn't ever been mentioned on the internet before, LOL!

      Anyway, I wrote him a dismissal letter and refunded him all of his money even though I had put some significant hours of research in as well as the pieces I wrote. I just wanted this client to disappear and the loss was worth it to me. Seriously!!

      It happens, just move on and continue to write for people who aren't out of their cotton pickin' minds.


      Terra
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    I am also a writer, John. I have experienced a few similar instances but not many, thank goodness.
    Recently I picked up a new "regular client" who is a lawyer.
    I quoted for several jobs and had no problem getting paid.
    Then he gave me another job that was twice the amount of work so I quoted double the fee. This is for proofreading/editing and his work is time consuming.

    He said he is not prepared to pay that much. He would be "happy" to pay $X which was only $20 more than the quotes for half the work.

    I decided to grab the bull by the horns and told him that it is twice the work. It's only fair to pay twice the rate. If that wasn't suitable for him, then I think that "we have to part company."

    He replied back quite quickly and said "fine, I ill pay your rate." After I finished, he commented on how good a job I had done.

    I think because he was a lawyer, he felt he could "negotiate" his way out of paying more money but he's no better than I am, even though he probably makes a LOT more money.

    You do need to stick to your guns in some cases and it's up to you to decide when that is necessary. I believe you definitely had a nutter for a client so well done for firing him!

    Despite popular belief, the customer is NOT always right.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by laurencewins View Post

      Despite popular belief, the customer is NOT always right.
      I've said that a few times to clients.

      To the OP, you need to set better ground rules. Don't be a jerk about it, but you have a skill they don't have. Do you tell the doctor what tests he is going to run? What medications to prescribe?

      Maybe say that you accept "a general guideline at the beginning of the assignment".

      Have term type that out in 50 words or less. Every time they make changes, it's another fee.

      The reason most people treat others badly, is because they think they can. And we tend to be the ones that let them know that we'll tolerate anything.

      On the other hand, this may be an isolated case of an unstable person, making demands.

      I have unreasonable customers too. I always assume that they are in pain, that has nothing to do with me. And their happiness isn't my responsibility.

      It really helps if you have a steady work flow, and you don't need the client.

      And even if you need the client, never let them know that.
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      • Profile picture of the author John Coutts
        Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

        It really helps if you have a steady work flow, and you don't need the client.

        And even if you need the client, never let them know that.
        Oh, I don't need him, neither financially or otherwise. I'll pay my bills at the end of the month just fine without him. I'll sleep better at night too.

        I suppose it's just that I have a few regular clients who are great. They have become like friends, and this idiot came along and upset me. I didn't need that.

        John.
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    That sounds like another nightmare client, Terra. I am sure everyone has at least one example of a clown for a customer. It's good that we can stick to our principles and only work for people who do appreciate us.
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  • Profile picture of the author thunderbird
    I just read the headline. I'm sure you're familiar with the attitude filmmakers often display towards screenwriters? It is almost expected of them.
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  • Profile picture of the author marketingva
    Originally Posted by John Coutts View Post

    Yesterday he sent me lots of information on how to write the perfect Amazon product review. He sent me three PDFs on the subject telling me to write a review on an Amazon product he owned, strictly using the structure he had provided.
    John,

    I would have fired him when he asked me to write fake reviews of his product on Amazon.com which is clearly against their TOS... and can get your Amazon account terminated.

    I fire clients who ask me to do anything unethical.

    Bonnie
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