Freelance Writers: Are Sleazebag Clients Getting You Pregnant? - Make a Living Writing

Freelance Writers: Are Sleazebag Clients Getting You Pregnant?

Carol Tice | 67 Comments
Freelance Writers Are Sleazebags Getting You Pregnant?

Here’s a question for freelance writers, you probably haven’t thought about. Are sleazebag clients getting you pregnant?

Sounds ridiculous, right? You wouldn’t do that.

You’re smarter than that. You wouldn’t fall for some sleazebag taking advantage of freelance writers.

Here’s the thing. Most freelancer writers don’t go looking for sleazebag clients. It kind of just…you know…happens.

One day you’re trying to stand out in the sea of freelance writers to land a gig, make money writing…even a little money.

And then one day, you realize you’re screwed.

I’ve seen this happen to freelance writers over and over. And I’m sick and tired of watching freelance writers get played, taken advantage of, and stripped of the money they deserve.

Have you ever been screwed by a sleazebag client? Want to avoid the pitfalls of making this mistake?

In this post, I’m going to show freelance writers what a sleazebag client looks like, how they try and use you, and what you can do to tell these losers to get lost so you can move up and earn more.

The fairy tale of the freelance writers and sleazebags

You were so excited when you first met.

A prospective new freelance writing client!

The romance was on.

You got all dressed up, headed into town, and met up.

You were hoping it would be a brief get-acquainted thing and quickly lead to a serious commitment to hire you for some nice, steady writing work at an appealing rate.

So many freelance writers would be jealous!

Instead, the meeting took 90 minutes…

  • During which they told you the entire history of their lives and their business.
  • But couldn’t quite get around to defining their writing project.

It ends only with the vague idea that you should set another meeting to talk further.

This is what freelance writers do, right?

After the next marathon meeting, it starts to dawn on you:

You’re being used as a free consultant. This client doesn’t know what they want written. They may not have much money, either.

They can’t commit

And now you’ve invested hours in this client.

  • You’ve fallen for their hard-luck story.
  • The owner is battling cancer!
  • The business does such wonderful work and helps people…even freelance writers like you!

You try to break it off, but it’s not easy.

You’ve fallen in love. You want this client! You’re hot for them.

In your head, you’re already in bed with them.

But the story on what they want written keeps changing…

  • They drop hints that they have “budget restrictions.”
  • They cancel phone calls at the last minute.
  • You start to wonder if they’re talking to other freelance writers, too.

Warning bells are clanging. But you don’t listen…

You’ve spent so much time with this client, you’ve just got to land them. Otherwise, you’ll feel like a sucker for wasting so much time.

It’s a trap too many freelance writers have fallen for.

The only way to justify the dates you’ve already gone on with them is to consummate the relationship.

  • Finally, the big day arrives. They tell you what they want you to write.
  • The um, size of their thing turns out to be disappointingly small.
  • So is the price they’re paying for freelance writers like you.

This isn’t the relationship you were dreaming of at all.

Still, you say ‘yes’

Why? In your mind, they’ve already become your client.

What happened here?

  • You’ve let a sleazebag prospect get you pregnant with their project.
  • You bought their sob story.
  • Then you tolerated their dysfunction, instead of cutting them off.
  • You let them suck up your time.

And now you’re stuck nursing the squalling, cranky baby that is their misbegotten, underpriced project through to its sorry conclusion.

Freelance writers and the sad tale of getting knocked up

This sad tale of business romance gone wrong is one I hear all too often.

Freelance writers get sucked in by loser clients and end up making peanuts.

Here’s what you gotta know about freelance writing clients:

There are a lot of users and losers out there ready to take advantage of freelance writers. If you don’t set boundaries for the relationship, they’ll walk all over you. Then, they’ll leave you broke and alone.

How can you avoid an unwanted client pregnancy?

Here are my tips for freelance writers:

  • Observe the 30-minute rule. I try not to let any initial meeting go longer than a half-hour before we move the conversation to defining the project and discussing rates. More than that, and I consider myself to be doing pro bono consulting work for them.
  • Ask them to define their project. Gently but firmly, bring the conversation around to what exactly they want done. Yes, you should interrupt them if necessary. A blowhard prospect can pontificate about themselves for hours otherwise.
  • Ballpark rates ASAP. As fast as they tell you what their project is, ask them their budget. If they won’t spill, give them a quick ballpark figure. “So, it sounds like 10 pages of Web content about your microbiology lab that needs interviews with your team and a few outside experts. Sounds like about $2000 or so of work. That about right?” If they were thinking $100 for the whole thing, you want to find that out fast, so you can ditch this loser before you get attached.
  • Offer to consult. If they don’t know what they want, tell them you are happy to help them conceptualize about what they need written at $100 an hour from here forward. You’ll be amazed how quickly this news concentrates the minds of most business owners and enables them to figure out what they want.

When you take this approach with freelance writing prospects, it’s easier to spot the losers before you get sucked into their lies and dysfunction. And you’ll be one step closer to landing clients ready to pay you pro rates.

Have you gotten in bed with sleazebag clients? Leave a comment and tell us your story.

Recession Proof writing: free video - How Freelance Writers Double Their Income. Presented by Carol Tice, Freelance Writers Den Founder and Coach. WATCH NOW


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67 comments on “Freelance Writers: Are Sleazebag Clients Getting You Pregnant?

  1. Inga Brereton on

    Carol: just posted on LinkedIn.

    Thank you SO much.

    This article has really helped me summarise some of my thoughts/ideas for my fledgling writing business that I’m working on getting up and running, so – Cheers.

    Best wishes for a far more humane and compassionate 2021.

    PS My blog is just a personal one; however, don’t yet have my business website up and running – yet..

  2. Patricia Sutton on

    I am susceptible to this type of interaction, so thanks for the warning and the tips. The “consult” tip is priceless/

  3. Christine Osterwalder on

    Thanks, Carol! This was really helpful, especially limiting the initial conversation time, clarifying ballpark rates, and the tip about offering to consult, if clients don’t know what they want.

    • Carol Tice on

      It seems like lately there’s a real epidemic of startups who know they want some kinda content, but have no real clue — sell them consulting, I say! You may know there’s been a new-business boom this year, up 43% from the previous year in new-biz starts… so it may be a function of that. Lotta brand-new businesses. Make them pay for strategy and don’t be milked for free consulting!

  4. Christy on

    I just had one of these tonight. TWO hours into the meeting, I had to cut them off and tell them the project wasn’t for me. I had trouble because it was a sweet old man. But man, no way. I don’t work for free. He had a start-up with a “unique pay structure.” Nope.

  5. Julie on

    This post really hit home. There was a time when a would-be client asked me for a sample, about three times. I kept being told that my article was turned down. I wonder to this day what the deal was, and actually by the third submission I decided to put a link to the content on one of my own blogs. That way, the sample was live and they couldn’t steal it if they wanted.

  6. Sandhya Valecha on

    Ohh my Gawd! This post completely resonated with me!

    I can’t believe I’m reading my story on this page.

    Just a week back a prospective client called me telling me he’d been wanting to contact me urgently. He said, “I found your number on your site. I liked the posts you write and I want you to write content for my website”.
    I asked him for his content requirements and budget. And what spiraled next was a series of non-stop of emails. He asked too many questions and I spent at least 30 minutes to 1 hour responding to each email. We did get around to discussing the budget part but his emails continued. After receiving 8th email from him, I sat back, stared at my screen and screamed at myself – “What the heck am I doing? Why is this becoming a never ending process? Why isn’t he getting started with the content” Am I offering free consultation here?” I invested over 5 hours worth of time in this project pro bono! The project finally did kick start but I learned a lesson – ‘never give free advice’. But I wasn’t really sure how I would go about the process and how exactly I’m going to streamline the process. I now know, thanks to this post!

    You just gave me so many brilliant techniques. The hourly consultation fee rule and the thirty minute timeline are remarkable approaches. Thanks for writing this terrific post. I loved the catchy and peppy title. I’m on my way to read other posts on this site…

  7. Pam on

    Fantastic headline!

    This article is so good I just printed it out in 14 point type and put it on my wall. I have done this dance with too many “clients” who never really were clients.

    The 30 minute intro-interview rule or the hourly consulting fee alone is gold. There are an awful lot of people who want free consulting or therapy sessions. They actually seem to be surprised that I’m not going to talk to them for hours for free out of the goodness of my heart, while my financial situation goes further down the toilet.

    Thank you. This is exactly the sort of stuff I joined the Den for.

  8. Jefferson Faudan on

    I as much as possible try my best not to get involved with their lives… not that i don’t want to… but emotional attachment tends clients to attack you in a way to sway you to lessen your rates… Usually, when a client starts to talk about their private life (things that do not involve the business), it sends me the signal that “i need to move on”… it may sound cold, but it wouldn’t compare to the number of times i learned the hard way that upon collection of invoices that you’re the one being shoved aside for priority which annoys me when i have to message them with “i am running after bills yada yada yada” which i personally think is very unnecessary to do and very unprofessional of them not to consider

  9. Rolfen on

    I’m a freelance website developer. I’ve had a prospective customer (more like an intermediary) who asked me for a quotation for some project. Then another one related to the first one. Then a skype meeting with the final customer, where it started to get fishy as there was a hint that the intermediary was presenting me for someone that I was not. Then a face-to-face meeting where I had to wait 1/2 hour at the day office of that guy – he worked in some monetary institution. The another quotation…
    I went along because I had gotten a good first impression from that person, and I could not believe that someone would make me do lengthy quotations if he had no intention of considering me for the job. And he seemed to be satisfied with the prices.
    Anyway, nothing came out of it, and I don’t think I can claim anything from him because I don’t bill for such things as quotations, estimates, preliminary meetings… I guess I can only try to put measures in place for it not to happen again. This is plain abuse. I’ts like going in the restaurant and grabbing about six pounds worth of those little ketchup bags they hand out for free… just because it’s free.
    At some point you’ve got to stop it but I don’t think you can make them pay for something that you said was free, can you? Not legally I guess, and they surely aren’t going to pay to make you happy.

    • Carol Tice on

      These kind of timewasters really hit your earnings.

      I try to talk money within about 30 minutes of meeting a prospect. If they want multiple meetings, I let them know I’m happy to help them continue trying to figure out what they want — at $100 an hour. That usually concentrates their minds on getting quickly to defining their project and naming their budget.

      I had one guy recently who seemed to think we could take multiple hour-plus meetings while he free-associated about the structure of the book he wanted me to ghost. After meeting two, I let him know my price for helping him finish the book proposal (based on what a time-wasting pain I had seen he was). That got rid of him, so I could move on to clients who actually wanted to hire a writer rather than waste a writer’s time 😉

  10. SarahJoy on

    I love this article, and love the way you spin it to bad dating. Had both real live bad dating and had to do a break up with a bad client in the last two weeks, so this was good for a laugh on both fronts.
    The client meant well, I think, but is a shoddy business owner who has his hand in too many projects and therefore does none of them well or to completeness. The project was one that I was very into and loved actually doing, but I am very new and this is one of my first clients so I did not know what to charge. The fee he offered was low. I thought it might be worth the trade off getting my name out there and getting to connect with other potential clients so I did it despite my misgivings.
    It went like this. He could not articulate what he wanted, but he could complain when he did not get it. He failed to make meetings with me forgetting them altogether but expected the content to be delivered on time. Instead of working with me on the editing the content was being used in a newsletter that went out on Sunday mornings and he would wait till the last minute and then use parts of it leaving out in some cases the context that made the articles work, making us all look like we missed English class. And he wanted after we had an agreement to pick and choose what he would and would not pay for. A fact I learned only after the work had begun and he had acquired a bill. I was torn, I wanted to date this looser because I had the hots for his friends and if I dumped him I was afraid of losing my chances with the buddies. But this story has a happy ending. I wrote an over the top professional letter informing him that I could no longer write for him, he was impressed by the professionalism paid his bill let the break up happen smoothly and now I am working on dating (contracting) with the buddies instead. For more money no less!
    My question to you in this, since I was brought to this site by the article on how much to charge for blogging, is what does a good contract look like on paper. Not what to put into the contract as you covered that in the other article but do you have a contract template that you use? Do you make up your own word document for each client? How do you actually put down on paper the client/writer commitment?
    Thanks for taking the time to write something a little dirty to help us all get clean!
    Oh yea as for the bad dating, just because everyone might get a kick out of this, can you guess what my blind date did on our very first meeting? Showed me pictures of other girls on his phone. Why is that bad? Some of them were missing something very important. No not their teeth…..their clothes!!!!!!!!!! All time dating low I think! Don’t worry, he did not get a second one!
    Thanks again!

    • Carol Tice on

      It sounds like you learned one of the interesting paradoxes of freelancing — low-paying clients are often more dysfunctional clients, too.

      The ones who don’t know what they want…help! They’re the worst. I’m sort of obsessed with asking lots of questions and getting a REAL clear sense of scope and what they want, and if I can’t get that, we don’t start working.

      Everybody has these experiences early on — all you can do is learn and do better next time.

  11. Janey on

    I agree. Individual prospecting and client development is the way to go. Where to find those clients to prospect and develop is the kicker…why I’m here at the den! So that was my thinking behind the service – not to get jobs so much as to introduce talent to those who need talent and introduce those who utilize talent to the talented.

    I think of Elance as more of an online shopping experience, which may be similar to the reality of online dating services. I’ve only seen dating services represented in movies. My impression may be wholly incorrect.

    I had a more tailored, exclusive introduction experience in mind, not bidding on a specific job. The profile information I listed (scope, requirements, timeline, length, fee) is to match talent to the type of work and fee structure of the ongoing business the client has to offer, not a one time gig. I can see where that would have been unclear. The client may have enough business that he is looking for a pool of talent, or he/she may have sporadic work that one person could likely handle.

    Once applicants fill out the profile, they don’t have access to the entire database to go thrift shopping. Applicants are sent a limited list of potential matches generated from the profiles they completed. Matches are ranked according to relevance. Applicants receive the matches in order of descending relevance. They pay based on how many matches they want.

    For the client looking for talent: 1 match (the most relevant) would be $20, 5 matches would be $60, unlimited matches would be $100 (obviously pulling numbers out of my ear!).

    The pricing structure would look different for the talent pool, but the philosophy of limiting access to potential matches based on their profiles would still be present.

    Noone would get unlimited/unrestricted access to the data base. There could certainly still be a race to the lowest price, but I think it would be somewhat less likely with this set up. Probably irrelevant, but I dislike being unclear 🙂 Appreciate the opportunity to dialogue.

    • Carol Tice on

      How would you get companies to pay a fee for that, when they can place free ads, would be my question.

      But if you think there’s a demand on both sides of that equation, you feel free to launch that business. I have definitely got enough on my plate right now!

      • Janey on

        I think it would have to be started by someone who already had contacts and a stellar reputation. Not suggesting you do it. Not at all sure it is viable. Just brainstorming. Never know when someone might click with an idea for the benefit of the masses 🙂

  12. Janey on

    You perfectly summed up the “trick”! That’s a million dollar book or course!
    Perhaps a million dollar service…

    The Writer’s Service: Finding Your Perfect Match
    similar to a dating service, but not for romantic hook-ups.

    Instead of male and female applicants completing profiles,
    writers and those needing writing services complete profiles.

    Profiles include:
    types of services writers provide
    scope of project to be completed (fiction ghostwrite vs corporate business writing)
    additional project requirements (interviews, research, marketing, proposal)
    writing skills possessed by writers
    writing skills required for projects
    project timeline/deadline
    length of project
    writers’ fees or project budget

    Instead of providing applicants emotionally compatible profiles to pursue for romantic relationships,
    applicants receive profiles that represent high professional compatibility for current projects and available writers.

    Not sure how viable it would be, but it would be cool to have that kind of data base. Thanks for the opportunity to exercise the creative entrepreneurial side of my brain 🙂

    • Janey on

      Not sure what happened. This was supposed to be a reply to your comment on Sharon’s comment (May 7 8/9am -ish). That should help the first sentence make more sense!

    • Carol Tice on

      I think they call it Elance…but the problem is matching ‘services’ like these are all about a race to the bottom on price.

      You usually craft good relationships with great-paying clients by doing your own prospecting and client development, in my view.

  13. Chenchen on

    The 30-minute rule and asking for clear definition of the projects are surefire ways of knowing that you are dealing with a good potential client.

  14. Howard Baldwin on

    I have a client — well, ex-client — who only seems to call me when he’s dealing with *his* most psychotic and demanding clients. I could tell within the first 24 hours that there were going to be problems, so I stepped back from a potential $7000 project just because it was reminding me of the previous nightmare with this same client. My gut told me to walk away and I’m so glad I did.

  15. Leslie on

    I don’t know which is better, the headline and the post or everyone’s comments. Somehow, after three years as a freelancer I have never had this kind of thing happen. However, if it ever does now I’ll know just what to do…

  16. Anne on

    This is frank and to the point. I have to train myself to be able to do this. I always have romantic thoughts in my head and end up doing work for pittance. No other professional is expected to work for peanuts. Why should I, just because I’m a writer!

  17. Janey on

    I was the sucker born for my minute. After reading this post, I can clearly see how that plays out in attracting freelance clients.

    I enjoy learning about people. I get fulfillment from helping people. I love writing/editing. It’s who I am and what I do, whether I want to or not. I can’t turn it off. It just happens. I stumbled into writing/editing as a profession. Early on, getting paid was just a perk. Actually, I still remember the very first time someone offered to pay me for a piece because it surprised me! Surreal. People pay me to do something I love!

    Altering my mindset to approach writing/editing as a business is an ongoing challenge.

    Obstacles are plentiful and mostly (exclusively?) within my control.

    Obstacle One: I’m one of “those” people. Out of the blue, people share their life stories with me: in the cashier line at WalMart, waiting for a Grease Monkey oil change, in a public restroom. My husband and children marvel at the life stories I amass just running errands. On the upside, I’ve pitched (and sold) some unique articles from these encounters!

    Obstacle Two: I’m a girl. I like to talk. Since I homeschool four kids, most of my conversations are with humans whose prefrontal cortexes are incomplete. Get me an audience with a mature prefrontal cortex and I’m giddy with chatter – listening to theirs even more than offering mine. I need to be careful time doesn’t get away from me.

    Obstacle Three: Well-bred northern rearing instilled in me NOT to interrupt when someone is speaking. I cringe at the thought of offending a potential client if I cut them off to redirect a flighty conversation. However, as Ed pointed out on the call last week, some of those dreaded uncomfortable situations can be red flags for nightmare clients. If a client is annoyed that you kept her on point, what does that say about her professionalism and personality?

    That’s enough dirty laundry for now. Bottom line: Thank you for providing concrete guidelines to put in place with future meetings: limiting the time, defining the project, assigning a fee, and offering to consult for a fee. Simple and profound, especially that last one. I’m bad about giving my time away. I’m not sure any of them are new concepts, but I’ve never felt like I had permission to use them. I’m not sure why (and I certainly hope I’m not alone!), but somehow your post today feels like a permission slip to treat clients like accountable professionals instead of coddle their egos.

    Thanks for the infusion!

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Janey —

      My husband, too! He’s a story collector like you can’t believe. Everyone else gets small talk at a party, and he gets some old-timer who sidles up to him and tells him how he survived the Battle of Bulge or something. For hours.

      When I was a staff writer at a business journal, and they used to come around with their paychecks, I’d take mine and say, “All this and a paycheck too!” It truly is an amazing gift to be paid for something we enjoy doing so much. The thrill has really never worn off for me.

      There definitely is an art to interrupting gracefully. I have a background in broadcast radio, and I listen for a breath — and then I’m in with my redirect. Though I will talk over them if need be. 😉

      Nothing wrong with donating some of our time, but it should be when we want and on our schedule, not by getting hijacked by some blowhard maybe-client.

      Glad you found this helpful!

      • Janey on

        Great advice. I’ll start listening for breaths!
        And, excellent point. I should direct my donations. When I decide to give clothes to GoodWill, I don’t invite a worker to come to my home and take their choice of clothes from my closets and dresser drawers. But that is exactly what I’m doing when I allow a writing client to hijack a conversation and siphon my time.
        Thanks for a light bulb moment!

        • Carol Tice on

          My pleasure. In the Talmud, being late to an appointment is viewed as theft — theft of someone’s time.

          By the same token, when you let a client go on and on, they’re stealing productive time away from your schedule. You just gotta draw some boundaries and not let it happen.

  18. Di Mace on

    I love this post Carol – I was ‘sort-of’ pregnant earlier this year after a romance of about 9months….
    My TW (time waster as I call them) keep making dates to discuss his plans and illusions of grandeaur, and I fell for them 3 times. But it was lucky strike out for him from then. I figured I may ‘eventually ‘ get something out of him – but I’d never recoup the lost gestation time. So I moved on.

    Shame really, his was lovely guy and a genuine soul – but I don’t think he had considered it from my side at all…I think he thought HE was too good an opportunity for me to miss out on. I got news for him 🙂

    • Carol Tice on

      Just so people don’t think this never happens to me, I actually found myself in a scene with a prospect like this recently.

      It’s a potential six-figure book ghosting deal, which is why I was willing to invest a bit more time than usual. But I quickly found out why this guy hasn’t gotten his book written yet — he can’t follow one train of thought for five minutes! After two long, rambling sessions with him, I sent him a proposal of what I’d like to continue working with him on trying to create a book outline and proposal we could sell, based on the speed I’d seen at which he could formulate his plan — $2000.

      He’s been in touch…but he hasn’t wasted any more of my time. If and when he gets it together, I’ll be happy to work with him…but I had to disabuse him of the notion that his book gig was so exciting that I would spend hour after hour just rapping with him about it, with no contract, up-front payment, or commitment from him, just totally on spec.

      Was glad I cut him loose, as another book offer came along soon after that I’m working on now. Not as much money, but they sent a real contract and committed to a payment, so I’m on it. You can’t find the nice guys if you’re busy dating the losers…

        • Carol Tice on

          Nah, we were on Skype. It helps if you set up call time with these type of folks 1 hour before you have another call set, so you just have to wrap it up and get off…and it lets them know you’re not sitting around waiting to hear from them.

  19. Sherri on

    I saw this headline in my email and almost sent it to spam. Aside from the headline, the info is very good.

    • Carol Tice on

      Well, you seem in the minority there…consensus was it was a must-click headline. I personally loved the idea, because getting clients IS so much like dating.

  20. Rachel on

    Boy is this timely – I’m in the middle of this now. Too much time spent on consulting, the client keeps changing his mind about what he wants (YouTube video scripts?blog posts? guest posts?) and I’m starting to feel like a contestant on The Price Is Right.

    Except he still hasn’t gotten down to a price.

    I keep thinking it will work out somehow – I’m new to freelance writing, although I’ve had my own blog for a while – because I’d like to get into the business.

    Seeing this article can’t be coincidence; thanks for giving me the “hint” I need to move on – even if he can’t seem to…

  21. Ali on

    Hahaha “You’ll be amazed how quickly this news concentrates the minds of most business owners and enables them to figure out what they want”

    That’s so true, Carol!

  22. Julie on

    Wonderful analogy and advice.

    Thanks for the laugh and the reminder – because, like all freelance writers, I’ve been in bed with the wrong client too many times to count.

  23. edna on

    Carol, I echo what everyone else is saying! Great headline and great post! I couldn’t not click on the title.

    Yes I’ve been in this position several times, especially where people really don’t know what they want from a writer or what their project really is. I’ve partnered up with a website designer and some of our prospective clients get stalled after we give them a proposal. It’s usually about price or them seem suprised when they get the proposal :).

    The consulting idea is great to help people get clear on what they want. We’ll have to try that technique.

  24. Patti Hale on

    LOL! This is so right on the mark and so true! Wish I had read this when I first began since I spent so much of my time being “knocked up”. FINALLY, I wised up. You definitely seem to have to kiss a bunch of frogs to finally find your prince. Still looking, however, ;-).

  25. Jan Hill on

    Wow what a great headline!

    This scenario has happened to me too. A couple of local bankers contacted me a while back and wanted me to write basically the story of their bank. But after a series of lengthy meetings I still couldn’t pin them down to what exactly they wanted. They agreed to $50 an hour, but asked me if I knew anyone cheaper who could do the research and interviews. Finally the whole thing just fizzled out, and I ended up making maybe $500. Live and learn – and listen to Carol!

    • Carol Tice on

      When a prospect is asking YOU to find them someone who’s less expensive than YOU…you know it’s time to run!

      This unwanted pregnancy thing really is too common…hopefully this post will serve as some needed birth control for some 😉

  26. Sharon on

    I left the world of freelance writing some years ago and am now getting back into it. This post represents a small part of why I left it in the first place. People don’t seem to value “writing” as a professional service. Consequently if you’re not careful, prospects spend a lot of time milking your brain while being unwilling to pay for your expertise. There is a demand for good writing. The challenge is to find the work you as a freelance writer are most qualified to do. Your post gives some great guidelines for managing your time when talking to prospects. And the headline is fabulous! Who wouldn’t want to read this? Great post. Thanks

  27. Terr on

    As a single woman, I got such a kick out of this post! It never ceases to amaze me how often the rules of business apply to romance, and vice versa.

    Saying this, it’s amazing how you can see the red flags, the warnings, and still feel a stubborn need to hold on to people or projects because you’re already mentally and emotionally invested and gosh darn it, things are going to turn out right if you just hang in there long enough!

    Of course things don’t work out, and you’re wind up hurt and bitter. You’ve wasted time and energy and you’ve been made a fool out of. In this case its worse, because your money is affected.

    I was glad to read this. This will save me from wasted time and regret down the line. Just like the right man, the right business partner will come to me with their “stuff” together, ready to engage.

    • Carol Tice on

      Have to say I am feeling pretty stoked about this hed! Once I thought of it I couldn’t wait to write it up. It’s worth the extra amount of porn-related spam I’m having to delete this morning. 😉

      But tune in next Monday, when I believe I will top it.

  28. Debra Stang on

    OMG Carol, I’ve let this happen to me more than once. As soon as someone starts in on a hard luck story, my social worker gene pops out, and the next thing you know I’m providing counseling and case management (pro bono, of course) as well as the writing project (for a much-reduced fee).

    Thanks for your very graphic analogy about letting sleazebags get you pregnant. It will help me remember that writing–and getting paid for it–is now how I make my living!


    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Debra —

      With your background, I think you’re probably highly susceptible to this sort of thing.

      And yeah, the thing about your writing business is no one else is going to keep it foremost in mind. That’s up to you. Everybody else is thinking about THEIR business. 😉

  29. Madeleine Kolb on

    Hey, Carol, the headline worked like a charm. I couldn’t not read this!

    These are all good suggestions, and I really liked the idea of offering to consult–for a reasonable fee, of course.

  30. Holly on

    Such a true post, Carol. It’s tough to be firm off the bat, because you want the client to get comfortable. I’ve found when I start talking rates and working agreements right away, potential clients tend to get cold feet. In most cases, though, those clients probably wouldn’t have been worth my time.

    This is definitely a post worth bookmarking. Next time I’m on a “15-minute” conference call that’s clocking in at over an hour, I’ll think twice.

    Thanks again,


    • Carol Tice on

      You nailed it, Holly. If they start looking at the ground and shuffling their feet around when you get to, “Hey, what exactly do you want me to write, by when, and for how much?” they’re probably not solid prospects — they’re just looking to get a writer to help them mull their options. Run!

      • Kathleen on

        This is the first place I’ve been advised to RUN when a client avoids any discussion of rates and “project scope”… and yet my personal circle of advisers have given me grief every time I’ve gotten “pregnant” with one of my no-account clients.

        Each time, I learn from it, but each time the bar is raised. Last year I allowed myself to be talked into a “joint-venture” endeavor where I did all the work, all the interviews (60 of them) all the writing (60 stories) and was paid less than I would have made if I were working at Burger King. My partner…made out like Midas.

        Don’t ever let someone else do your negotiations for you. Get EVERYTHING in writing if you do.

        It was an amazing experience, but I paid a heavy price for that experience.

        Figure out what you’re worth, and then stand by that price. If someone isn’t willing to pay it, you really and truly do NOT want to work with them.



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