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Should you charge a ‘PITA tax’ for difficult clients?

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There are multiple reasons clients become problems for writers. Is it worth charging a “PITA tax” for difficult clients?

We’ve all had difficult clients. They want way more than their budget allows, or they refuse to pay invoices on time. Some will be sketchy about what they want, and then complain when you don’t deliver exactly what they had in mind. Or you ask them multiple times to send something so you can do your work, and then they complain when projects are delayed because they haven’t bothered to send it.

I call these difficult clients “PITA clients.” The “PITA” stands for “pain in the arse.” They tend to be the nightmare clients who want the world as cheap as possible.

I will admit that I’ve not had to deal with that many of them since leaving the likes of Fiverr. Finding my own clients has helped to weed out the problems, especially since I don’t need to take a project if I don’t want to. However, that doesn’t stop all the problems.

What is a “PITA tax?”

Before you decide on whether to charge a PITA tax, you need to know what one is. This isn’t anything official. It’s simply a term that I came up with when describing to a friend how to deal with PITA clients.

The “tax” is added to the project costs. It isn’t visible in any way as a tax. I just bump up my prices a set percentage to make the client worth dealing with. Really, all I’m doing is increasing my writer rate for this specific client that is causing a problem.

If I get a sense that a potential client could become one of the difficult clients, I’ll quote high in the first place. I often get this idea based on the initial conversation or the project specifications. Sometimes, you don’t realize a client is a problem until they become a client. Then what do you do?

The Essential Guide to Freelance Writing: How to Write, Work, and Thrive on Your Own Terms ($)

Raising your rates for difficult clients

I hope you have contracts, and that your contracts have a set time that they expire. Most of my contracts are 90-day contracts. This is great for both me and the client. We have time to get to work and start seeing some results. I also get time to see what a client is actually like working with.

If the client turns out to be a problem, I can choose one of two main options at the end of the 90 days. I either decide to say I don’t want to work with them anymore, or I add on the PITA tax. To do this, I explain that my rates need to go up.

Raising your rates can be tricky. After all, why would rates go up after just 90 days? It could be that the project is requiring more work than initially set out in the beginning. The change in requirements means that there’s a change in price. It’s just business.

Not all clients are going to want to pay the increase. They may decide that they want to cancel the job. You’ll need to decide if that’s what you want. To be honest, if I’m adding extra costs, especially high ones, I’m expecting a client to say they’re walking.

This isn’t the same as my increases now and then. I have clients that I’ve had for years and never raised their rates, so I’ll raise them now and then just to help with inflation. I try to keep my increases to a minimum for good clients, but sometimes, needs must. That’s part of business, and good clients will understand that.

Should you charge the PITA tax?

So, is this tax for you? At the end of the day, it’s up to you how you do business.

When you charge the PITA tax, you need to be ready for difficult clients to walk. Not all of them are going to want to pay the extra costs. This is okay with me. It’s part of the reason I increase the costs. I’m looking for them to walk but want to make it their choice.

If you’re worried about losing the client, you’ll need to rethink your options. Sometimes, a PITA client is worth keeping around. They might not be that problematic or you might have found a way around some of the problems they create. In this case, you don’t want to lose the income they bring in until you replace it.

It also depends on the reason clients are difficult. If they’re not paying invoices, the PITA tax does nothing to help. They’re just not going to pay the increase, either.

MORE: Why to avoid sites like Fiverr when looking for writing clients

The PITA tax can be a good way to deal with difficult clients. Will it be the way for you to deal with problems?

What problems do you have when it comes to private clients? Let me know and let’s get your freelance writing career off the ground.