How to avoid being the ‘difficult client’ (video)

Viewing time: 4 mins. 49 secs.

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question looks at how to avoid being the difficult client. If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me,  tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question. 


How do you avoid being the difficult client? That’s the topic I’m addressing today in The Write Question. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant, the Publication Coach, still in pandemic mode. 

I have a question from Mark Berka, a businessman based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Here’s what he’s asked by email… 

Do you have any advice on how to avoid being a “difficult client” when hiring freelance writers? I recently launched an informational website, I work with freelancers very often and I’d like to make sure I’m not scaring any candidates away. I’d appreciate your point of view.

Thanks for your question, Mark. How refreshing it is to hear from a business person who wants to do the right thing for freelancers. 

Here are six steps to take if you want to be the opposite of a difficult client: 

1-Communicate comprehensively 

Difficult clients expect freelancers to be mind-readers. Instead, be profligate with your communication. Tell them everything you think they need to know…. and more. This includes giving them samples of the type of work you want. You know the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words?” The same thing applies to writing jobs. If you can show freelancers an example of what you want done, voilà, you’ve just made the job easier for them — and you’ve increased your own chances of getting what you want. 

2-Accept feedback from the freelancers 

To explain this point, let me tell you about a client of mine who once asked me to write a 600-word article for a website. The word count was nailed in stone. But the client asked me to interview 10 people. I told them this was an impossible assignment. Think about it: that would be only 60 words per source. I couldn’t do it. Fortunately, when I explained to the client that three was the maximum number of people I could interview for a 600-word article, she accepted my advice. Sometimes, the freelancer understands limitations that the client doesn’t. 

3-Provide a contract 

Freelancers often work without contracts. This is bad news for the freelancer and bad news for you, the business. You will both be better protected if you have a written agreement specifying word counts, deadlines, rates of pay and other important details. 

4-Be responsive to their questions 

Freelancers often feel as though they are stuck in a black hole. They accept a piece of work from a company and then no one from the company will answer the phone from them. If you don’t have time to provide this sort of support, then assign someone else to do it. The freelancers may need your company’s help with a whole host of issues, from persuading unwilling sources to actually speak, to getting greater detail about the story your company needs. If someone answers their questions relatively quickly, the freelancer is going to do a better job for you. 

5-Review their work promptly 

Nothing is worse to a freelancer than knocking themselves out to submit a story on time and then having to wait three weeks until the client gives them any feedback. Your contract should specify not just the freelancer’s deadline but also by when YOU will  respond to the first draft. It’s imperative that you meet this deadline. 

6-Pay on time 

It’s surprising how many freelancers have to wait many months to be paid. When I worked as a freelance book editor, I’ll never forget the time I had to wait more than nine months to receive a $600 expenses cheque from a publisher. Don’t make your freelancers wait any longer than 30 days. 

I think many of these points are probably going to be pretty obvious to you, Mark, but just remember that freelancers are workers just like your regular employees only they have less job security. 

Finally, let me wrap up with a quote from the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” 

In helping others, Mark, you will also be helping yourself. Freelancers are often so badly treated that they will be thrilled  to work for someone who treats them with respect.


If you’d like to learn more about how to make writing a happier and more rewarding process, check out my latest book Your Happy First Draft. I don’t sell it in bookstores or via Amazon. The only place to buy it is on my website, link on the screen below and in the show notes.  


Your Happy First Draft

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