Freelance copywriter? Clients to avoid. #1 The Man of Mystery.

As a freelance copywriter I’m fortunate. I have a long list of loyal, long-standing clients whom I love and value. As a result I am able to pretty much pick and choose whom I work for, hopefully nice, professional organisations that will join my list of regular clients. Sadly not all organisations are like that. But, through experience of having worked for some less-than-ideal clients over the decades, I can usually identify a potentially difficult client when I see one. So here is the first of an occasional series on clients to avoid (in no particular order) closely followed by a similar series on dream clients!

Number One: The Man of Mystery

The Man of Mystery plays his cards close to his (or her) chest. His lips are sealed. He is determined to tell you, the copywriter, very little indeed. And whenever you try to probe you get a response like “You should know – you’re the copywriter, that’s what I pay you for”.

Sadly, we copywriters are copywriters and not mind readers. We will never know what a client wants unless he or she tells us. The trouble is, the Man of Mystery doesn’t actually know what he wants which is why he isn’t telling you anything. So you may also get the “I don’t know what I want but I’ll recognise it when I see it” remark.

My advice?

Run a mile because, otherwise, it’ll be like throwing darts at a dartboard blindfold, churning out umpteen versions until it kind of hits the mark.

And, because there’s no way you can charge for all the time you’ve spent trying to work out what he wants, your hourly rate will drop to below the minimum wage.

Or even lower.

My other advice? Make it clear to the Man of Mystery from the start that you are not starting work until you have all the information you need. Also make it clear that if the goalposts are moved in any way or if new information is supplied part-way through the project then you will need to charge extra. And never, ever start work until you are 100% sure in your heart of hearts that you understand exactly what the client wants and you have sufficient information to work with.


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