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5 red flags of any potential writing client

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I’ve come across a number of PITA clients. Here are the top writing client red flags you need to look out for.

I call difficult clients PITA clients. That stands for “pain in the ass.” And yes, I’ve had my fair share of them.

Sometimes, the clients are just a pain because they don’t quite understand what they want. Or if could be that they’re more of a middle man for the actual work you’re doing. They’re not ones to completely avoid, but I do sometimes charge a little more than I would for others.

Then there are others you want to completely avoid. These clients come with walking red flags from the very beginning. If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to keep an eye out for these writing client red flags, so you don’t have to put up with the worst of the worst.

They make it known they have a low budget

Let’s start with the potential clients who come in with their budgets. This can sometimes be a good thing. You can see if you can work with this client’s budget or not. However, it can also be a red flag.

I’ve had potential clients give me a really low budget, or they’ve made it clear they expect the world for the minimum. It did happen a lot of Fiverr, which was the main reason I got off that site, but I see it a lot in other places.

PITA clients want everything without spending much. And they will want revision after revision without paying extra. Look out for signs that this is the case in the initial pitch. If they don’t initially share their budget, pay close attention to what they say to your quote.

You’ll get some that say “I just can’t afford that right now” and that’s it. They’re fine. The PITAs will try to get you to lower your budget or they’ll say that there are people willing to do it for less. My answer to that is “well, you can go with the people offering to do it for less then.”

Watch out for the writing client red flags involving more work

You’ll get some who say they can’t afford your budget this time, but that they’ll have more work for you in the future. Or they’ll promise to refer you to others in the business so they can get a discount for that. I’ve even had someone say they’ll pay my quote but then expect a cut of profits for anyone they refer.

Potential clients who offer “future work” usually don’t have anything planned. I can tell when someone is just starting out and hopes to have future work compared to someone who is only saying they’ll have future work so they get a lower quote. It’s all in the wording about how they’ll pay more for the next project, or that they deserve a discount for all the work they’ll bring your way.

I don’t work on future offerings. I work on what I have today. You should do the same.

They complain about other writers

Look out for people who complain about what other writers have offered to them. I’ve had to deal with this before. One of the walking writing client red flags is badmouthing the person they got to do their content in the past. More often than not, there is nothing wrong with that content. The relationship went south because the client was demanding too much.

This is what’s going to happen to you. If you end up taking on this client, things will go south and they’ll end up badmouthing you. You just don’t want to have to deal with it.

If it’s not writers, they complain about people in other trades. It could be in social media marketing or in image design. Too many times I’ve seen a potential client claim they could have done a better job. Well, go do the job yourself, then!

Writing client red flags involve unreasonable expectations

The most problematic clients I’ve come across are those that send detailed proposals. This should be a good thing, right? Well, it turns out that these proposals usually include unrealistic expectations. Think short deadlines, expectations of unlimited revisions, and work that you don’t even offer.

I had a client who expected me to go out and take photos to go with the blog posts. I’m not a photographer and I don’t have the time to do something like that. I’ve had others who expect a turnaround time of 24 hours. That’s not going to work considering I plan a week out in advance. Sometimes, I’m able to play out a lot more.

Some people newer to the business may not realize what they have is unreasonable. I do spend some time initially explaining that. If I get a “well, my previous writer did it. Why can’t you?” response or something that makes me think they don’t respect the service I offer, I know they’re going to be a PITA client.

They’re not willing to sign a contract

I have contracts for every client to sign. One of the biggest writing client red flags I’ve come across is people not willing to sign a contract.

My contract lays out payment terms, delivery dates, how to send me the work, etc. It includes things about revisions and late payment fees. If someone isn’t willing to sign one of my contracts, I’m not about to work with them. I’ve been burned a lot in the past because of this.

I also don’t sign other people’s contracts. I’m not being hired by them. They’re ordering my services. If they have a problem with that, then I make it clear that they can find another writer. It just gives me bad vibes.

MORE: Why you need to avoid bidding sites like the plague

Are you struggling to find private clients? What red flags have you spotted so far? Share your thoughts in the comments below.