No matter how a prospective client finds you (personal referral, search engine, networking event, etc.) it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re a good match. The biggest rule in freelancing—and one newbies often break—is “trust your gut.” You don’t want to end up with a problem client, and take it from me: they’re out there.
While sometimes it can’t be prevented—even the most heavily vetted clients can turn sour—you’ll want to do everything you can to avoid a client from hell.
In my eight years of running a freelance editorial business, I’ve accrued a long list of what I call “red-flag phrases” to watch for when I first meet a client. Here are the top 10 that I see fairly often:
10 RED-FLAG PHRASES
- “I don’t have time to answer the questions on your contact form.”
- “I’m notoriously late—I really struggle with deadlines. If I need a few extra days, will you be able to turn the edit around faster so I can submit it on time?”
- “Call me ASAP.”
- “I googled ‘developmental editing,’ and you seem to use a different process than another editor I found. You should think about changing it.”
- “My friend got ripped off by a copyeditor a few years ago. I’ll need to speak to a few of your former clients, to make sure you’re not scamming me.”
- “Did you get the email I sent at 10pm last night? It’s now 7am, and I still haven’t heard from you.”
- “Can we do the editing process over the phone? You tell me what changes to make, and I’ll make them? That would be easier for me.”
- “I don’t really want someone ‘messing with’ my writing. I just want someone to find the typos. If you touch anything else, I’ll want my money back.”
- “Are you going to be available on evenings and weekends? I do my best work then.”
- “No, I don’t want to pay a deposit. I’ll only pay you after I receive the finished product.”
These are all real things that clients have emailed or said to me, with some wordings changed to protect identities. If a client approaches you with one of these lines, run away! Wish them the best of luck, and be happy you dodged a bullet.
This article was originally posted to Copyediting.com on 11/20/18.
Header photo by Danae Callister on Unsplash.