Freelance Writing Warnings and Pitfalls
Just as in any other world, the world of freelance essay writing has its pitfalls. The most obvious ones concern payment, but we have discussed that issue in another article. This article will discuss concerns relating to the projects themselves, as well as the clients who ask us to undertake those projects. As with all other issues, most can be avoided if they are spotted in time, and those that are not caught ahead of time can still be held to a minimum of damage if handled correctly.
Projects to Avoid Like the Plague
The best thing to do with a nightmare project is to avoid it like the plague. Do not get caught up in the trap of thinking you must accept all work that comes your way, no matter what. There are some projects that will always be far more of a liability than an asset, and it’s important to recognize them. Here are some warning signs, and what to do when they arise:
- Warning Sign #1: The client tells you that s/he will send you all the details of the project after s/he pays for it. Never let this happen. Ask, politely but firmly, to see all of the details before you set a price. Inevitably, the client will spring something on you like the transcription of 25 hours of interviews after payment has been agreed-upon, and it will be very difficult for you to insist upon more money if you’ve already set the price.
- Warning Sign #2: The client wants to give you the details for the project over the phone. Never let this happen. Without a written record of what was agreed-upon, no one can say for sure who is right in the event that a conflict occurs. Clients will protest that they “can’t put it in writing,” or that “it’s much better said than written,” but gently insist, and explain to them the truth: that if you do or do not do something, and they are upset, there is no way to prove conclusively whether or not that “something” was part of the original agreement. It’s truly for the protection of both sides.
- Warning Sign #3: The client wants to engage in endless conversations about the project before it’s underway. This is a problem for two reasons. First, the client might well simply want to get free advice about how to write their own project under the guise of “hammering out the details.” If that’s the case, you risk spending hours of your own time giving away work for free. Second, the client might well continue this behavior into the project once it is official, and you might well find yourself buffeted about, first in this direction and then in another. If that is the case, nicely find a place to draw the line, telling the client that after this or that conversation, future changes will not be allowed as you have to get down to writing the thing.
Difficult Clients and How to Handle Them
Difficult clients come in all shapes and sizes. Some insist they are genius writers who don’t really need your services, but they are very busy. Such clients tend to be the opposite of genius writers, and will in fact tend to rip your work to shreds, alleging errors where errors do not exist. Such clients can best be handled in a firm, no-nonsense fashion. Set boundaries, do not admit errors if there are none, and limit your engagement to factual conversations.
Other difficult clients are very nervous. They will want to hear from you every ten minutes about how their project is going, and can get angry with you if you don’t answer fast enough. Again, the best approach is to be kind, but firm. Explain that the bulk of your time is taken up with writing, not emailing, and that if they don’t hear from you immediately, it’s because you are doing what they paid you to do: work on their project.
Still other clients tend to be nasty. There is no other way to put it. They can be very mean, ordering you about and telling you how to do this or that. If they don’t like your style of writing, they will most likely inform you of that fact in a sneering tone of voice. Don’t let them get to you. Again, stick with the facts with such clients, and don’t allow yourself to be sucked into pointless exchanges that, in the end, serve no purpose. However, do insist upon your right to be treated as a professional. There is never any reason to allow a client to insult you, swear at you, or cross other, similar, lines. If that happens, tell the client you will be happy to discuss their project with them once they act like an adult.
Having said all this, don’t be scared. For the most part, you will find that clients are delightful to work with and happy with the services you provide.
Important Tips to Minimizing or Preventing Nightmare Projects
It is worth saying twice: Get all project details before you set your price! To do otherwise risks serious amounts of extra work on your part – extra work which will usually be uncompensated.
Along those lines, let clients know that there is a cut-off in terms of when they can send you additional materials for their project. In an effort to be “helpful,” some clients will send hundreds of files (literally). That’s a true nightmare for any writer. Feel free to nicely inform clients that this is not, in fact, helpful, and let them know that they need to send you only the vital project materials, by a deadline you set.
Editing projects in particular can be difficult to handle. Before you set a price, run the paper through plagiarism detection software; if the client wants you to ensure there is no plagiarism in the paper, you will want to know just how much of it is plagiarized to start with. Often, entire papers are plagiarized, and in those cases, you are pricing a total rewrite, not an edit. It’s also important to look the document over carefully before setting a price and deadline. The first page might be well written, but pages three through fifty might be a complete disaster. Take your time to look through the whole thing before determining a price.
For upper-level projects, one of the more typical problems is a poorly-conceived research question (or set of questions) ad accompanying proposal. If the client is already at this stage, your best bet might be to ask him or her to gain approval for the proposal before you step into the picture. Until this part is hammered down, the back and forth can be endless, and generally uncompensated. Feel free to ask the client to gain approval for his or her project before you start work on it, and be honest about the fact that it will save him/her time and money to do it that way.
What to Do if You Already Accepted a Nightmare Project
Unfortunately, there isn’t too much to do for many projects that turn into nightmares. This is especially the case with such situations as editing projects that get out of control. If you come back to the client to ask for more money, they can understandably say they assumed you had examined their paper before accepting the work and setting the price. And they would have a point.
That is why prevention is far better than intervention.
However, sometimes we all make mistakes. In such cases, there are two choices: suck it up or approach the client. Over time, you will more effectively be able to read a given situation and know which choice to make. In general, though, if you are friendly and professional, it is perfectly fine to say to a client look, this project is far more intensive than appeared on the surface, and my original quote isn’t sufficient. Many clients will react negatively to this at first, but many of those can eventually be helped to understand what you are saying. Other clients will be surprisingly agreeable right away.
If you do have to suck it up and get the thing done anyway, at least you will be able to learn a valuable lesson for the future.