The Top 7 Lies Prospective Freelance Clients Tell — Don’t Fall for These

Carol Tice

Man lies and his nose grows like PinocchioLet’s take a quick poll, writers: Hands up, who’s gotten screwed by a client?

Yeah, I figured.

There are a lot of shady businesses out there that take advantage of freelance writers, particularly Internet startups.

If you don’t watch out, you could put in a lot of work for a client and find yourself without a paycheck. Often, these lowballers turn out to be nightmare clients, too, who are annoying and never satisfied.

What are some of the typical b.s. lines you should watch out for (besides the classic “Your check is in the mail”)?

Here are seven of my favorite tall tales clients tell:

1. Do this project cheap and we’ll have more work for you

Ah, the lure of ongoing work. It’s been used to drive down prices for so many freelance projects!

If you hear this, ask for details. What sorts of work do they have coming down the pipeline, and what rates might they pay for those assignments?

If they can’t provide any specifics, this is likely just a line to get you to drop your rates.

Even if it isn’t, try to tie your low-priced project to a firm commitment for additional work. Otherwise, you may well be giving up income for no real gain.

2. If we like your early work, we’ll raise you later

When you get this one, see if you can make them define when that “later” will come.

A better scenario is for you to say, “I’m doing this project at a discount rate because I want to work with you and get in the door. But I expect to review my rates and raise them to my more normal levels after this project.”

If the client is vague on when exactly it might be possible to earn more with them, assume it’s an empty promise.

3. We’ll do a contract later

Stalling on signing a contract usually means none will be forthcoming.

The dodge here is to get you working and pregnant with the project, usually under the guise of the project’s being a big, urgent rush job: “No time for paperwork, we need you to start writing immediately!”

Once you start writing without a contract, they’ve got you where they want you.

You keep writing in hopes of getting paid, and they wiggle out of having to define important stuff like how long they have to cut you a check after you turn in your work.

4. We don’t need a contract — we’re friends

You never need a contract more than when you work for a friend!

Defining the terms of the working relationship will make sure you don’t end up losing a friend if there’s a problem down the line.

5. This sample will be paid if we use it

Requests for free samples are often a flat-out scam. Next of kin to that is the promise that if they decide to use it they’ll throw you a little cash. It’s not worth the risk unless you’re writing for a very well-respected publication or business.

Be sure to know or negotiate the rate at which it will be paid if used, too. I’ve had writers email me all excited because they heard their piece was accepted, and then ask, “How much should I bill them for?” If you don’t know the answer, it’s never going to turn out to be a good rate. You don’t have much negotiating leverage after the fact.

If the client tells you they decided to pass, set up a Google Alert to scan for key phrases in the story on their site — often, you’ll find the piece pops up as published anyway. In which case, send an invoice.

6. This will be a great opportunity for exposure

This is usually code for “there isn’t any pay” — and the vast majority of sites that make this pitch in fact don’t have a ton of traffic. Be sure to check on Alexa or similar Web-traffic ranking tools and find out.

There are plenty of websites that pay for blog posts. Concentrate on pitching those and getting exposure while you earn.

If you do an ‘exposure’ gig, be sure you’re clear on what exposure you’ll get — how many links are you allowed? Will they let you build an author page on their site? Could you do a series of posts, which would help build more recognition?

I once had a writer come to me all excited because she placed an article on Salon, which has a great reputation for quality, but pays little.

At the time, she had yet to put up a writer website! She had no other online presence where Salon readers could find out more about her and easily contact or hire her.

I’d submit that this means the Salon piece was not good exposure. It was a waste of time. First, put up a writer website — then, you’ve got somewhere to send those readers you get exposed to, and they can get in touch.

Also, ask yourself, “Exposure to what?” Does this site’s audience fit well with the people you would like to attract? If not, take a pass.

7. If it works for me, this will get you lots of great clients

This one isn’t exactly a lie, just a dodge used to pay you less.

“You’ll be getting a great clip from me, so I shouldn’t have to pay you!” is the rationale.

To sum up, treat what prospects tell you skeptically.

Does it sound like it might be bogus?

Trust your gut. It probably is.

What lies have clients told you? Leave a comment and add to my list.


  1. Kevin Carlton

    Another popular one that Pinocchio clients love to try is the ‘But this will be good experience for you’ trick.

    You can never have enough experience. So if we all fell for this one, we’d never ever earn any money.

    This was the post I’ve been waiting for, Carol. And it did not disappoint.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Kevin —

      Do you just love lies? 😉

      Thanks for adding another good one —

      • Kevin Carlton

        Not sure if I like lies as such Carol.

        Nevertheless, I do find some of the tell-tale signs rather amusing.

        For instance, whenever a client feels compelled to say ‘You know you can trust me’ it is a clear signal that you can’t trust them in the slightest.

    • Karen

      Kevin, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this one, too! I have to bite my tongue (hard) to keep from saying something equally foolish or rude back.

  2. Willi Morris

    This is great Carol! I think I found an accountability buddy in the Den, and I’m going to show her this, because I think she is trapped in a content mill. These are all normally signs of them. I have been “sample” scammed before but it was for a virtual assistant “client”.

  3. Peter D. Mallett

    This would be a good article to wallpaper your work space with. I like that not only did you mention the things to look out for, but that you also mentioned some of the ways you can answer them when you hear them.

    Funny when I got to this article, it didn’t have any comments and I thought I’ve never seen that before. I could be first comment, but by the time I finished reading the article a couple people had already commented. 🙂

    • Carol Tice

      The competition is tough around here to be the first commenter! The RSS goes at 3 am PDT, so advantage New York. 😉

  4. Jacob Arvin

    They should really post this type of warning on the main job boards sites. It’s a shame that many freelance writers spend time and energy working on “samples,” all out of the hope that it will somehow turn into paid writing jobs later on.

    Only work for clients where the money that you deserve will paid upon completion of the work you submit. For this reason, I even avoid hourly writing assignments on the job boards–I want to know in advance of the writing project itself exactly how much I’m going to be paid, and I will not begin until the escrow is funded.

    • Carol Tice

      Or…just avoid online job ads and bid sites. Lot of lowball stuff going on there.

  5. Young Work At Home Moms

    I have also heard, “This is a super easy assignment it should only take five minutes at the most to do”. Great list by the way.

    • Amel

      I sometimes hear this from my editing and translation clients, and it usually means that the document is a mess and will take hours of my time.

    • Carol Tice

      Oh, I love that one — thanks for adding it to the list!

      If it REALLY only took 5 minutes I bet the client would have already done it…

  6. Sophie Lizard

    The best one I’ve heard was: “We’re a big business with millions in investment funding, so of course we don’t need to pay a deposit – you should trust us because we’ve got a big budget.” This from a tiny startup with a shifty CEO…

    A few minutes’ research showed me the prospect was using several pseudonyms to deal with freelancers online. Definitely not the kind of business I want to work with!

    • Olatunji Femi

      Hey Sophie, cool that you did that but some start-up freelance writers will just quickly fall for such and will not consider doing any form of researches to hack out such flaws. Experience counts a lot…………….and really ones due diligence can be utilized as well too.

    • Carol Tice

      Wow, good for you taking the time to do a little Googling around.

      One of my favorites is to Google “X company sucks” and see what comes up. Sometimes quite eye-opening…

  7. Coco

    I’m still kicking myself for writing a sample for a well-known and very successful person who found me via a content mill. (And yes, I’m still kicking myself for wasting my time there, too!) He was El Cheapo and I was blinded by his name and fame.

    He led me to believe that he just wanted to see my work, to be sure it was what he wanted, that he was very particular. I’d sent plenty of samples and that should have been enough and I should have had the confidence to say No, that I was not writing “on spec” for him. I knew better, but needed the job- and really wanted to trust him.

    After putting together a really nice piece that had a lot of zing, he informed me that he’d found another writer to go with. Which meant that he’d strung along more writers than myself.

    Looking back, it was not my writing, but my price that he didn’t like, as that was what had him hemming and hawing all along. I concluded that the writer he finally got was cheaper. In looking at this list, I think this El Cheapo was hitting five out of these seven points, so yeah, don’t fall for these pick-up lines, even from a good-looking, well-dressed suitor.

  8. Olatunji Femi

    Hello Carol,

    This a lovely post as usual but you really have to know that all you’ve listed here are just a precautionary way not to FALL for such gimmicks.

    But seriously some writers will still go ahead and fall for some of this gimmicks all in the name of being desperate about not getting a gigs, that is where my concern lies.

    Although a word is always enough for the wise.

  9. Piper

    I’m just getting started in freelancing and I’ve already encountered fishy requests. Here are two that make me very suspicious.

    1. The test. “We will send you three written pieces to edit so we can evaluate whether you’re right for the job.” The test pieces could very well be the work they want edited and they can get it done free under the guise of evaluating the freelance writer.

    2. Idea farming. “Send us three ideas for blogs you would write for us.” They say this is how they’ll evaluate your creativity, but if ten writers apply and comply, the prospective client has managed to amass thirty ideas for future blogs–ideas they can then assign in-house or to writers already on their payroll.

    • Tony Nguyen

      This is excatly what I have experienced when I was a freelancer writer, and unfortunately, many clients try to use those tricks such as a test of writing skills and asking for blog samples. For many freelancer writes, at the beggining stage, it is hard to deny such request. However, as time move on and they gain experience, freelancer writer should avoid all unreasonable request like this.

      • Piper

        I think you and Olatunji Femi make the sad point all too well. Writers living on the financial edge have few options so they’re the ones most likely to fall prey to scams like this. They–and new writers just starting out–are also the ones most likely to reduce their pricing. That hurts writers as a group and I’ve seen some of these writers take some serious incoming on discussions boards. But desperate people with few or no options do what they have to do.

        • Carol Tice

          I think it hurts desperate people the most, Piper — they REALLY needed the money, and instead just get screwed over, and then they’re even more broke and desperate next time.

          It starts a real cycle of victimization. Gotta steer clear of scams or you’ll end up just needing to give up and get a day job because you’ve run out of money and time to ramp a freelance business and make it work.

      • D Kendra Francesco

        I apologize if this sounds irreverent, but your spelling “beggining” looks like you’ve done what I’ve done before: put two words together and come up with a different one altogether because the brain can’t make up its mind which word it wants. This looks like both begging and beginning – and either word works for what you’re saying. Hey, you created a new word!

        • Carol Tice

          Not on purpose…but writing for writers I know that someone will always come along to point out any errors I make!

          • D Kendra Francesco

            LOL Sorry for the misunderstanding, Carol. My comment was supposed to go under Tony’s comment. But, still, I know how it goes.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Piper —

      Absolutely, with #1 it’s more of the ‘free sample’ stuff that’s supposedly an audition, but likely instead is the actual work they want done.

      And I agree on #2 as well, think there’s plenty of that sort of free idea generation going on.

  10. D Kendra Francesco

    I address the “sample” request in my FAQs – especially the “25-page mini report.” I figure my samples are on my site, so read them and figure out if you like my style. If not, then I’m not the writer you want.

    I may be new to copywriting, but I’m a long-time general writer. I’m also a darn quick study once I make up my mind to do something.

    • Carol Tice

      The thing is, sometimes legit clients ask you to do a free sample, too.

      I had one recently and I just said no — there is a TON of past work on my site, look it over and decide if you want to work with me.

      And they did, and they hired me! Some people just need to see where the boundaries are. I told them I was at a point in my career where I just don’t do free tryouts for people anymore. If you’d like to work with someone at my level, read my portfolio and decide.

      I think being strong on this really saves you a lot of time, and interestingly does NOT put you out of the running if it’s a real client, but just one that’s seeing what they can get from you.

  11. Alex Sheehan

    I love the tip to set up a Google Alert for your “sample piece.” Personally, I never send trial samples, only samples of previous publications and works. However, that is a great tip for someone who may find themselves in this situation. Also love the tip about checking the website on Alexa. The only time I will write for exposure as my pay-off is if I contacted the editor of a reputable website/blog myself as a source of marketing for myself.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m always amazed at the number of pitches for “exposure” I get that when I check them, they have less traffic than I do…

  12. Anthony

    Yup, I heard all of these before! LOL. It seems like the common thread is all of these conversational gambits are intended to get writers working and keep them distracted from the fact that the particular gig/client is showing all the signs of being a BIG problem. If clients won’t sign a contract or can’t pay professional rates, we should steer clear. There are plenty of desperate writers out there that will take the gig.

  13. Mishael Austin Witty

    Wow! I had a nightmare editing client who didn’t even tell me ANY of these things. We had a contract (which she didn’t stick to). She wasn’t happy with my work (something to do with the spacing, which I think might have been a document transmission problem because I didn’t see any of the stated issues on my end), and when I tried to clarify, she got all huffy and offended, thinking that I was calling her stupid and being “very unprofessional” (which I didn’t think I was), but I apologized for offending her, anyway.

    She said she accepted the apology, but when it came time to pay up the $100 she still owed me, she told me she’d hired another editor (because of MY unprofessional attitude) and was deducting the $100 she was paying THAT editor from what she owed me. How nice! I didn’t fight it because it was only $100, and legal costs would eat up all of that and more, but it certainly has left me with a very bad taste in my mouth and a complete unwillingness to accept anything less than full payment before I complete ANY project, and many clients just aren’t willing to do that.

    • Carol Tice

      Sounds like you need to focus on finding better-quality clients and stay away from the flakes.

      I’ve never had a 100% upfront client, though I know writers who have. But it’s rare.

      But if you’re researching and qualifying prospects before you jump in and start working, you shouldn’t have a problem. I’ve never had a client stiff me yet.

      I hear you on the legal avenue not being worth it.

      But also realize that once you piss a client off, it’s probably time to move on, even if they ‘say’ it’s OK…think this sort of brush-off happens pretty often once the relationship has soured.

  14. clara Mathews

    I think I have every one of these excuses at one time or another. I also get this one: “The budget for this job is low, but our ‘other projects’ are usually much higher.”

    • Carol Tice

      I file that one under, “If you do this project at the low rate, we’ll have more pay (or work) for you later.”

  15. Anthony

    Another stellar post Carol!
    This one’s really a ‘Hit’ to me.

    Anyway, a line from lie #2. If we like your early work, we’ll raise you later — struck me the most. It’s this:

    “When you get this one, see if you can make them define when that “later” will come.”

    => I just got a new client. When we were in the negotiating table, I’ve pushed for a bigger rate. When she did not respond right away — I did the most stupid thing–I lowered my rate.

    She hired me and told me she will raise my rate later. ‘Til now I haven’t ask when her “later” will happen.

    My next email will ask her “when?”.

    Thanks for always coming up with invaluable posts like this Carol.

    I’m awed by your consistency.

    • Carol Tice

      Anthony, the bad news is vague assurances of a raise “later” usually don’t go anywhere.

      And asking after the fact is probably too late…but definitely try.

      If you don’t have a written contract that defines WHEN your rate will be reconsidered, you pretty much don’t have anything you can count on there.

      That’s why I love 60-90-day initial contracts, as they provide a natural review point for a raise fairly quickly.

  16. Erica

    I. Love. This. Post. Not only have I heard all of those before, I’ve also heard:

    1. “Can I pay you half now and the rest when I’m profitable?”
    Answer: That payment schedule is not on my menu.

    2. “What would you say here instead?” (during a consultation)
    Answer: I like to put some thought behind my suggestions, so as soon as we wrap up the contract and deposit, I’ll be happy to provide some options.

    3. “Why aren’t you giving me what I want? I thought you were a pro.” (puny attempt to make me feel inadequate)
    Answer: “Freelance does mean free. If you’ve actually worked with pros, you’d know that.” (yes, I got snarky; I was just plain fed up with being barked at.)

    • Carol Tice

      I love #1. I say, “Sure, if you can convince my mortgage lender to wait until then.”

      And #2 — the ‘let’s milk you for free consulting’ gambit is incredibly common. I’m willing to throw out a couple ideas, and then I mention I’m happy to help them concept for $100 an hour…usually can move us right to defining the project and doing the contract.

  17. Darnell Jackson

    Yeah people get took all the time because they don’t know what is being negotiated.

    It’s simple really.

    No money no honey.

    If you fall for this you may as well go work for minimum wage.

  18. Katherine Swarts

    How about this one (I’ve heard from more than one person who got it from a nonprofit or a save-the-world-with-my-writing type, AFTER the contract was formally signed and the project nearly finished): “I was sure that once you saw how worthy our cause was, you’d decide on your own volition to make your work gratis.” Variation on Erica’s “I thought you were a pro,” trying to make the other party feel guilty about YOUR lack of personal responsibility.

    Closely related (also to the suggestion to watch and make sure they don’t use your “rejected” sample anyway) is this line to writers who complain about having their work copied online without permission: “Well, we’ll take it down if you insist [sniff at the author’s unreasonable attitude], but MOST people are glad for the exposure.” (This isn’t always from someone who actually discussed hiring you–it might well be someone you never had previous contact with. Some people think everything online is public domain just because it’s so easily copied.)

    • Carol Tice

      OMG, I’ve heard that second one so much. “We’re just such a fan of your writing, we thought you’d be flattered by our copyright infringement.” Or “Is that not OK? I didn’t know! Just really wanted to share it with our readers as it was so great…”

      Flattery will get you…still banned off the Internet.

      I’m scraped a ton, especially off my Freelance Switch posts. I ask them once to take it down if I can find an address and then forward to their legal dept.

      And everyone who works with small charities seems to have heard that first one…

      • D Kendra Francesco

        And sometimes even from the bigger charities…

  19. Robert Jennings

    I’ve been suckered into the free sample scam before. I learned pretty quickly to send the contract before the sample, with a clause in the contract that specifies sample articles should be paid for before use.

  20. Michael

    These are good to watch out for. Thankfully I have been pretty lucky. I have had almost everyone pay for work I’ve done, and I was able to feel out all the jokers first and realize they were pulling my chain.

    For instance, I have had an owner of a sales training company ask me to write a long-form salesletter for $100. I have had a client tell me they have a great idea, all I have to do is build the website, and create the content based on their idea, and they will split the profits with me 50/50. I have also had someone say “Your work on our site will make you look like an expert, so we will accept your guest post for $150.” I will gladly do a guest post on a site for free, but I won’t pay to have it published.

    • Katherine Swarts

      Boy, THAT one takes a prize for nerve and egoism. Maybe they’d like to walk into their neighborhood grocery store and see how far they’d get telling the manager, “I’ll recommend you to my whole social network for $50 and a cartful of groceries–it’ll be great exposure for you.”

  21. Rob S

    He wasn’t exactly lying, but one client I wrote most of a book for (and edited what I didn’t write) tried to bait me into writing all his letters to prospective agents for him and blogging for him to promote sales on Amazon for free. I told him it wasn’t in our contract, but he kept bugging me until I finally had to get really rude and threaten to take him off my email list.

  22. Kimberly Jones

    How about this one: “The check is in the mail.”

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah, it’s in the post intro…so ubiquitous I didn’t want to count it. 😉

  23. Kristen

    I think I’ve encountered outright lies less than cases of just not stating the full expectations upfront.

    You know, we’ll pay you a set amount for this specific project – but by the way, we’re gonna want to you to come in for a meeting on a Sunday to go over the finished product with us that will somehow last 6 hours, and we’re gonna give you a hard time when you insist on leaving at 10 pm (true story!)

    This was one of those startups where everyone involved was really excited about hitting it big in 1-3 years and happy to work long hours for future potential profit – that mindset does not work if you’re just a temporary contractor who needs to get paid now. This was in my first couple months of freelancing before I started to get a thicker skin for standing up for myself.

    • Carol Tice

      I’m ALL about defining the project. And I’m SO unavailable for meetings, especially on weekends!

  24. Shane Watson

    And not to forget the one about making it easy for your client so he makes it easier for you to join the company as a permanent copy writer.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, most of my readers aren’t looking for a permanent job, but if you mean a long-running, ongoing freelance client, definitely yes.

      • Shane Watson

        Yes that is what I meant 🙂

  25. Jen

    I’ve gotten sucked into this before when I was just starting out with my business. I take responsibility because I allowed it to happen. The client sucked me dry. They balked when I tried to bill them for the true amount of time I was actually spending on their projects. They were getting the work, even when I was billing them for all the hours I worked, at a fraction of what they would have paid someone else for the same thing. I’ve since run everything as a business without being wishy washy. Makes a huge difference.

  26. Francesca StaAna

    I once fell for number #5 when I was starting out. The client told me that they would pay me if the sample was accepted, but they suddenly stopped responding to my messages once they received it.

    Since then I made it a point to ask for 50% of my fee upfront. (That includes unlimited revisions and I’ll even issue a refund if they’re not satisfied.)

    Then this morning, I was talking to a potential client about how my process works, and when I told her about the 50% upfront fee, she responded with “Unfortunately, we can’t pay you before we see a product.”

    So I respectfully told her that we should part ways, good luck with their startup, and I hope they find the right person.

    • Carol Tice

      Francesca, I’m with you — I find the 50% upfront is a great litmus test. If they freak out at that, they’ve never worked with contractors before…or were planning to stiff you.

      Quality clients never blink at that, they know it’s a standard practice. My motto is “Your deposit check starts me writing.” And I really DO NOT start working on their project until it comes.

    • D Kendra Francesco

      Francesca, that one was a hard lesson for me two years ago. It was my first job and I proposed it (re-writing the copy for her Aweber emails so that they were more enticing to readers).

      The woman (in Canada) told me that they didn’t pay ahead of time and required a combination NDA/NCA (don’t even get me started on THAT) without allowing MY contract into the negotiations. Then, she changed the scope of the work on me twice (I went from emails to editing her book, and then she told me I was only a compiler and not qualified or professional enough to edit anything), complained it wasn’t what we agreed on, turned around and used what I wrote for her in her ensuing emails AND book – and still didn’t pay me. She moved to Mexico or some such place and I knew I couldn’t reach her.

      I was so afraid that other companies were like this that I didn’t begin writing again until a couple of months ago.

      • Francesca StaAna

        What a nightmare client! But definitely a lesson learned, right? Clients like the one you described can really teach us to become smarter entrepreneurs, negotiators, and overall service providers.

        BTW, I’m glad you decided to start writing again. 🙂

        • D Kendra Francesco

          Thank you; me too. 😀 It helps that REAL writers are available – AND human – to email and talk to and receive encouragement from.

      • Carol Tice

        Ugh! Users are out there, D Kendra…and it’s our job to stay away from them.

  27. Hermine

    Oh, here’s a good one “I can’t afford your rates. I’m just a small business starting out, you know how hard that is…”

    Hmmm, why yes – as a matter of fact I do, which is why I can’t budge on my rates.

    Then about a month later “just purchased a new location with a saltwater pool and my interior designer is getting it set up”

    Really? Well in that case my rates just went up 20%!

    • Carol Tice

      Marketers have taught me never to believe clients who say they have no money.

      I actually just had one writer send me a long string of emails about how she was so broke she couldn’t afford to join Freelance Writers Den for $25. Couldn’t I let her in now and have her pay in a few months? No.

      “Oh,” she said. “Then I guess I can swing it — I’ll buy less jewelry-making supplies this month.”

      Oh please! If you’re talking people in First World countries, it’s rare they don’t have access to capital if not capital — they have credit cards, a line of credit…they have a way to pay for it if they really want it. It’s more a question of whether they want a pro writer or don’t care about the quality of their content. You just have to keep looking for the ones where quality is vitally important.

  28. Darren Baguley

    I do give my regular copywriting clients a discount but someone who asks for one upfront is usually just trying to screw you. One counter I’ve used is to stick to my standard rate but offer a rebate on subsequent jobs.

  29. Katherine Swarts

    The world is full of “not enough” issues, with time as well as money. (I’ve had several “clients” who contracted for projects and did put up the payment, then proceeded to forget about me AND the project.) I suspect a lot of “liars” are deceiving themselves as much as anyone: convinced on one side that they can’t live without their morning Starbucks or that new car, and on the other that good writing is cheap and easy and that the freelancers charging high rates are trying to stiff THEM (probably making a passive fortune in book royalties so don’t really need any more money).

    Not much question that a privileged society extracts a price in the work of picking and choosing priorities: as the old quote goes, “The good is the enemy of the best.” So if you really think a saltwater pool or extra jewelry-making supplies is more important than a well-written project, that’s your privilege. But if you have it in your head that you deserve both, I am no more obligated to ensure you can fill that double desire than is your pool contractor, crafts shop clerk, or whoever decides your own current income.

    • Carol Tice

      I so agree, Katherine.

      You want to find the clients who’re focused on investing in their business and understand the value of that. If they’re living large and want to get everything on the cheap for their business, they’re not your ideal client. Simple as that.

      When I used to work in TV and film as a secretary, I observed that the film editing departments usually had a sign up with a triangle. At each corner of the triangle sat the words Good, Fast, and Cheap. In the middle it said, “Pick any two.”

      I’ve always considered this my guide in pricing. You want it to be good and you’re in a hurry? Not going to be cheap.

  30. Jan Pedersen

    I was surprised not to see this one:

    “This is going to be a very profitable product…so if you’ll cut your hourly rates, I’ll cut you in for x% of the profits…”

    When I stood my ground, the guy appeared offended that I wouldn’t “trust” his word, and told me I was being “stupid and short-sighted.”

    Pissed me off.

    • Carol Tice

      Jan, if you have a contract for that and it’s copywriting, I wouldn’t count that out. That is exactly how all the big copywriters end up making a fortune, on royalty participation.

      But you have to feel the company is legit and your contract will hold water. It could be a scam, or could be a cash cow you could retire on.

    • D Kendra

      Jan, several years ago, I inherited just under $200K. I had a few “friends” who asked me to join them in a venture or two. When I told them to make a go at it first, and then I’d invest in it if I liked it, they told me I was “stupid for not getting in the ground floor of a good deal.”

      Know what? They still haven’t made a go at it (although they still think I was stupid for not doing it when I had the money).

      • Carol Tice

        I think being a venture investor is a very different situation than taking a royalty cut in a copywriting sales job, D Kendra. Investing is a high-risk adventure. If you have confidence in your ability to write copy that converts, the latter could be a real cash cow. You have to trust the company to be transparent in sharing their metrics on how your campaign did…but as I said, a lot of the six-figure copywriters make big money on royalty participation deals.

  31. Desdemona

    When I was first starting out, I competed with a bunch of writers for an internship at a music website. I was so happy when I won! After that, the site owner made a big deal about the opportunity to be promoted to staff writer.

    I ended at the top of the intern heap and got the promotion first, which only meant I was the first to learn the staff position was…unpaid. I quit immediately. The sad thing is I would have happily continued interning just for the perks (very valuable concert tix, VIP passes, etc.) but the dishonesty turned me off.

    The editor had the nerve to complain I hadn’t given them two weeks notice :-/

  32. Kimberly

    I’ll give you a by line and we will share the article; two authors….

    • D Kendra

      Share the article but not the money… yeesh!

  33. Bruce Hoag, PhD

    I don’t know about you, but I have hundreds of filters for my email. It not only helps me to keep my InBox under control, but it also puts messages about the same topics all in one place.

    And that’s how I came to read this particular one. I having a strategy morning on my writing business.

    I thought that the tips your provided were especially good, and I wanted to tell you that. Writers, like all creative people, need positive feedback. So take this message as a virtual pat on the back. 😉

    Cheers, Bruce

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks Bruce!

  34. PowerLancer

    Oh boy, I heard all these lies in my freelancer life. Another good one comes after you finished the job: “I am currently waiting for another project to close and then I can pay you”.


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