Client Red Flags: My Story

"Run, Angie, run!"

My Client Red Flag Story

When I was very new at this, I had a guy throw up so many red flags it was ridiculous - and it's a good thing he did, too, because I wasn't savvy enough to catch them until he pissed me off.

Here's what happened:

This guy called (he'd found an ad I'd placed on Craigslist) and he, like many, had the next hottest Web idea. He didn't want to tell me the domain name because he was afraid I'd steal the idea and run with it on my own. We talked for over an hour about his project before he even asked me for a quote.

I quoted him X amount for X words, and he said, "Let's not limit ourselves to word counts." I said, "Ok, then I can bill you hourly." He said, "I'd rather have a per-project fee, and each page should be upwards of 1250 words."

I changed my quote and he said, "Hm. Seems a bit much." (It wasn't; I was very new and charging too little at the time.) I told him it was nonnegotiable and asked if he'd like to move forward.

He talked more about the project - as if he were trying to convince me that my services should be cheaper because I was lucky enough to be working on the project. I steered him back toward talking money.

I said, "Well, first, I'll need you to sign a contract which guarantees you'll love the work and that I'll have it in to you at a certain time."

He said, "You and I both know that writers' contracts are set up to favor the writer. Can't we just do this without a contract?"

I said no and by then I was ready to scream. (I had been busily working on my all-time favorite client's stuff when he called in the first place, and here we were over an hour later.) He said, "Well, I'm not comfortable with a contract..." and then started talking about the project again.

(I thought the project was a pretty dumb idea, by the way, which is another red flag - although that one wasn't his fault, I'd have dreaded working on it because I couldn't wrap my head around why it was so 'awesome.')

I told him, "I'm sorry, then - I don't think we can work together. I can't give this project the time and attention it needs."

He said, "Sure you can."

Ok, mister, now you're done. I said, "No, I really can't, but I appreciate your time. Thanks for calling me." And I hung up.

I got three emails from him in the next week asking me to reconsider. Are you serious, dude? (I think I was seriously that cheap.)

I never answered him back - and I haven't seen his big idea taking the Web by storm, either.

What red flags have you run into?

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© Angie Papple Johnston, 2010; if you are reading this anywhere but on, it's stolen.

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Freelance Writing Tips by Angie Papple Johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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