When Writing Clients Create Crises

Carol Tice

Crisis Writing Clients Need to Pay MoreI got a new client recently that I was very excited about. It was an ongoing account for eight short articles a month, from a decent-sized, established company. They had a big list of topics ready to go. I thought it sounded just great.

Then I started trying to work on the account, and everything changed. This client turned out to be a crisis-creator. And even though it represented more than $1,500 a month in income, I dropped them.

It turned out the client didn’t really want short blog-type pieces, they wanted full-blown reported articles. They also wanted me to interview their experts and ghost some of the entries for them (a fact they hadn’t mentioned up front). Their experts weren’t very readily available, I’d have to try and try to reach them before finally getting an interview time, so deadline panic became the norm.

It quickly became clear that this client was a massive pain in the butt. Also, the services they really wanted I would have billed at three to four times the rate I’d quoted them for the “quick blog pieces” they originally claimed to want.

Some writing clients are really dysfunctional and tend to create crises in your schedule. If you end up with a crisis client, you have to decide if it’s worth hanging onto them or not.

I have another crisis client right now. They pick their topics v e r y   s l o w l y…then they take forever to OK a story outline. Then…the minute they approve it, it’s due in one week flat. Kinda crazy.

But they’re paying me $1 a word, and I’ve decided they’re worth it. Which brings me to my main rule of crisis clients: They need to pay a lot.

Often, you get the deadly combination of crisis-creating client AND they pay sorta crummy. Those two do NOT go together!

When I worked as an entertainment-industry secretary back half a lifetime ago, I saw that the production office often had a sign posted on the wall. It was a triangle with the corners labeled “Good,” “Fast,” and “Cheap.” Below it would say: “Pick any two.”

Clients who want good work done fast because of their crisis-creating proclivities need to pay top dollar. Otherwise, you’re letting them turn their crisis into your crisis.

Don’t let that happen! My philosophy is that your crisis is my opportunity. I happen to have the ability to turn around complex stories fast — if you need that, pay the freight.

Photo via Flickr user alancleaver_2000

9 Comments

  1. Issamar Ginzberg

    Carol,

    Fantastic Post! The triangle image also made a bell ring in my head… going to make one up now!

    Issamar

  2. Richard

    Carol,

    I enjoy all of your posts but this was one especially great. One of my teachers in ad school about a hundred years ago told me the "Pick any two" story and I've had more than one occasion to use it with a client. I've never been able to give clients anything but good work, so I always try to get a reasonable amount of time, good money, or both. Kind of tough in this economy, but I'm trying to stick to my guns. I have a couple of quotes on a yellow post it note on my computer. One says, "If you charge more, people will respect your work." The second is "Under promise and over deliver, but never under price it."

  3. Charles

    Good points all, Carol. Do you do anything specific with the crisis-client that you're keeping to try to reform their ways?

    • Carol Tice

      As I think I've said above….just set healthy boundaries. You know how they're going to behave, so anticipate the problems, and just don't let their problems become your problems. They have a crisis and suddenly need it tomorrow? It's gonna cost more.

  4. Lee Lefton

    Carol,

    I enjoy all of your posts but this was one especially great. One of my teachers in ad school about a hundred years ago told me the "Pick any two" story and I've had more than one occasion to use it with a client. I've never been able to give clients anything but good work, so I always try to get a reasonable amount of time, good money, or both. Kind of tough in this economy, but I'm trying to stick to my guns. I have a couple of quotes on a yellow post it note on my computer. One says, "If you charge more, people will respect your work." The second is "Under promise and over deliver, but never under price it."

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