10 Things Freelance Writers Hate About Clients

Most freelance writers know how to connect with the right people and land great freelance writing gigs. Likewise, many clients are reasonable and generally treat us with respect.

Unfortunately, we have all dealt with a nightmare client at one point or another. This post is to help newcomers stay alert and avoid certain client habits like the plague.

1: Write for Exposure!

This is a common, bullshit tactic prospects use when they have absolutely no budget for freelancers but want us to contribute anyway. It’s one thing if the prospect’s website is already somewhat established, as this could potentially bring us some benefits and even a lot of money indirectly.

Sadly, more often than not, the website is merely one week old and he is tricking you into thinking that your name will actually be exposed to the masses.

2: Write a Free Trial Article

Writing a paid trial article is one thing, but when a potential client wants you to write a free article to “determine” your skills, he might as well be shaking your hand while giving you the middle finger simultaneously.

Your existing portfolio, outstanding resume and impeccable cover letter should be more than enough. Any client that wants more than that can (and should) go f*ck himself.

3: Work Cheap, More Work in the Future

Some people will want you to write for peanuts because there will be ongoing work for a while.

Yeah, that’s nice…

Should I also work for $3 an hour because the money will eventually add up over the course of 5 years?

4: No Payment Specified in the Job Listing

Many prospects want you to jump through hoops when applying for a writing gig. You have to explain why you’re fit for the job, paste an endless amount of writing samples, complete a job survey and much more.

This is all fine and dandy, except when they finally reveal their “competitive” rate of 1 cent per word or some payment scheme you don’t agree with.

Employers: Unless you are 100% sure that every writer under the sun will be satisfied with your rates, do us all a favor and disclose how much you are willing to pay right away (or even just an estimated amount to give us some idea). It saves us a lot of time and frustration.

5: Instructions Longer than the Article Itself

This one is very common among mass-content websites or content mills like TextBroker. You click to expand a project and your jaw drops when you see the wall of instructions provided by the client.

If the pay is appropriate for the gig, then great. Otherwise, I think the client should simply write the article if his instructions are as complicated as the task itself.

6: Vague Instructions

This is the opposite of the above, and it happens all too frequently (with new and experienced clients).

It’s like being on a bad date with someone you have absolutely no chemistry with.

You have to fish every detail out of them because otherwise you will get no important information whatsoever. I have dealt with a few of this type, so I learned to write every possible question in numbered bullet points to ensure that he or she answers everything in one reply.

7: Changing Things Up

Sometimes, once your article is 100% done and ready to go, the client may change his mind about the approach you two had initially agreed upon. Maybe he came up with one or two new ideas or simply saw another article he liked better elsewhere.

I get it – a quick change here and there is expected and no freelance writer should have a problem with it. Sadly, sometimes these changes require you to update over 50% of the content you had already brainstormed, researched and written. I don’t care how much I get paid for the article; that type of crap is unacceptable.

8: Chasing them for the Money

A client agrees to pay you on a weekly basis or upon article completion, but then the payment date goes by and your bank account is still empty. You are forced to remind them about the agreement, and the client promises to pay within the next 24-48 hours.

Honestly, I am usually laid back and don’t mind receiving a late payment here and there, especially if the client is trustworthy. But when chasing after them becomes a habit, it’s hard to remain patient and not go Postal. The best you can do is have a contract ready, and/or ask for (at least) 50% of the money before you start writing.

9: Redundant Requirements

Believe it or not, there are still many clients out there that place more focus on “high pagerank” and keyword stuffing than anything else. I’d be happy to insert some keywords 10 times in an article and publish it on a PR 6 property, but sadly, it’s not 2007 anymore.

10: Expectation Vs. Reality

Lastly, this typically applies to large content mills and marketing firms. This image shows what your life will supposedly be like once you apply with them:

You will work comfortably, feel oddly happy all day, and then turn into a super model in the process.

Let’s cut the crap, guys…

We all know the realities of life, don’t we?

I’m all for marketing and setting a good image, but sometimes a more realistic approach goes a long way:


You may check out this other post about expectation vs. reality when working from home.

What are some painfully hilarious things you have gone through as a freelance writer?