Do Lowball Clients Make You Want to Quit Freelancing?

Carol Tice

Do lowball clients make you want to quit freelancing? Makealivingwriting.comEver feel like there are only cheapskate clients out there trying to hire freelance writers for pennies?

It can feel that way, if you’re not finding quality prospects.

Recently, I heard from one Freelance Writers Den member whose feelings about quoting rates and finding clients shocked me.

This writer had just come off a stint on a full-time contract gig and was getting her freelancing going again… when up popped a previous client that gave her the creeps:

“I just spoke to a potential client and right away I’m super anxious about quoting and my rates.

I worked with her a bit last year — she’s starting a business and in EXACTLY the same place she was last year. I think she’s in to save money because she mentioned not having a big budget.

I don’t want to waste my time or energy — I would rather spend it looking for clients who can pay good money and have a lot of work every month.

She wants a quote for a newsletter and possibly an ebook, but I’ve noticed she likes to chat on the phone a lot and I can’t deal with unpaid time listening to her.

This is really frustrating. Should I just tell her I’m not taking on smaller clients anymore? Or give her an hourly rate? I just dread going back to where I was last year…. I worked so hard and made so little…. Maybe I’ve answered my own question on what to do here.

I don’t know if I still want to be a freelancer because of situations like this—it’s just so much easier to work for an employer.”

Let’s review why we freelance

Shall we remind ourselves how fun it was to work for a boss?

The set pay. The endless waits for a raise.

The need to cater to their every whim.

The requirement to warm a chair in an office on a set schedule.

The constant job insecurity of knowing that one person has the power to impoverish your family by laying you off whenever they get in the mood.

Being an employee — especially in today’s world of ever-increasing outsourcing — is not fun times.

How to deal with lowball offers

So here’s the thing a lot of freelancers do that can lead them to the sort of despair this writer was feeling, where she was starting to think about hanging it up and getting a job again:

You get an offer — no matter how crappy — and you think you have to seriously entertain this offer.

But you don’t.

Heed the red flags — and run

This prospect described above is red flag city.

She immediately states she doesn’t have a budget for the marketing she wants done.

This means she has a problem, and she’d like to make it your problem instead.

She’s also a high-needs client who needs lots of phone time.

And she’d like a writer for pennies? I don’t think so.

The way to deal with this is to say no — and fast.

The reason you want to quit

If you spend a lot of time thinking about how sad this lowball offer is, it starts to depress you.

Do this with many low offers, and you start to think low pay is all that exists.

Instead, reject these “offers” immediately and move on.

Maybe do some proactive marketing that very same day, to get back on the trail of finding clients that appreciate the value of a professional writer.

Just because someone wants to hire you doesn’t mean you have to say “yes.”

It doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for you to do. Because working for cheapskates drags you down emotionally and sucks up your marketing time.

Instead, stay focused on the type of client you want, market your business to find them, and remember why you want to be a freelancer.

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  1. Jefferson Faudan

    Every now and then we get to encounter lowballers which can be insulting a lot of times… however, i believe that the fact that they were eyeing on you simply means that they have seen your previous work and made a decision to contact you based on background checking. A client may often start to lowball which you often just need to shake off and pitch your side; if they feel that they are not capable to compete with the rates you have, it’s best that you leave a good air and move one. After all, that client still is a potential client in the near future and will contact you again whenever they can bargain in a rate that you may possibly adjust with.

  2. Lucy Smith

    Yup, clients that think you can knock off a website in a couple of hours for a few dollars either a) don’t understand what you do, and b) don’t respect what you do. In either case, they’re not worth the effort. You may as well not get those few dollars and save yourself the aggravation…then go out and fine someone who DOES respect what you do and DOES understand what’s involved.

    • Carol Tice

      I just find that any time I say no to a job that smells like overwork and underpay or an unpleasant client, it seems like another, better opportunity appears almost immediately. Like, within the week. It’s like the universe can sense the vacuum you’ve created, and it sucks better work toward you. You’ve told the world you don’t want to work for peanuts, and it responds. It’s kind of magical. I know lots of other writers who’ve said the same thing happens to them.

      But you have to have that courage to turn it down and trust that you deserve better work, and it’s coming.

  3. Jaime

    I hate to make this generalization but I’ve noticed that writers that low-ball themselves not only hurt their earnings but their own industry. I have noticed that clients that want the cheapest prices possible tend to be people that will work you to the bone. Don’t fall for it. Try to find a way to end the relationship diplomatically.

    Basically if you’re conscience/intuition in any way tells you something is “off” or “wrong” about a certain client then listen to it. Because listening to it has saved me on a number of occasions.

  4. Terri H

    This situation sounds all too familiar. Except in my case I often feel bad saying no to people that I have built a relationship with and are truly very nice individuals. I guess it’s similar to a job you know you should quit but the friendly staff makes you feel bad about doing it so you just end up hindering your own progress but not quitting.

    • Carol Tice

      Exactly! I think so many of us writers are born people-pleasers. We’re out for everybody but ourselves. But that’s an attitude that can impoverish our families.

  5. Nick (Macheesmo)

    Huh… I just talked to a local paper today that maybe wanted to work with me… their budget… $0.

    I might write one piece just for a byline, but nothing long term…

    • Carol Tice

      Good thinking, Nick. Newspaper clips give you cred…but if they’re nonpaying obviously you don’t want to stick around.

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