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10 Reasons to Turn Down a Copywriting Project

Copywriters, Look for These Red Flags


copywriting clients

Choose to work with copywriting clients who appreciate your work and make you happy.

Most professional copywriters would agree: the most challenging part of being a freelance copywriter is getting clients. So why would any copywriter consider turning down a copywriting project?

The objective is not to get every project but rather to be selective and choose clients you like who value your expertise and appreciate your work.

While it’s not always possible to determine which clients will be a pleasure to service and which ones are likely to give you chronic acid reflux, you can look for these 10 red flags.

  1. The client is focused wholly on price.  Rare is the client who doesn’t care about costs. However, a good client understands you are a professional who’s worked for years to hone your talent and you deserve to make a wage commensurate with your expertise. If the client begins hassling you about price from the onset and doesn’t seem all that interested in the quality of work, walk away.
  2. The client is argumentative or offensive.  Sometimes you hit it off with someone new. But occasionally, you meet that person who rubs you the wrong way right from the start. Maybe their tone of voice or word selection strikes you as mean-spirited or condescending. Or perhaps they choose to challenge you on every statement you make. If you don’t like the client, walk away.
  3. The project is promoting something you can’t morally support. We all have opinions whether the issues are religious, political or social. If you’re faced with a project that goes against your moral compass, you’ll struggle to do a good job. Maybe it’s a copywriting project for a pornography website or perhaps it’s a pro-choice abortion brochure. If it doesn’t feel right to you, turn down the project and walk away.
  4. The client can’t make a decision.  Some clients are wishy-washy about what they need. That’s fine if you can guide them in choosing a direction. But if they keep changing their mind when describing the project, you’ll be met with a struggle in getting them to approve your copy. They’ll want to see multiple variations and seek input from everyone they know. If your client personifies analysis paralysis, walk away.
  5. The client has unrealistic expectations.  Good copywriting can make or break a marketing campaign. However, it’s not the only factor that contributes to the success or failure of a product. If the client is overly optimistic and expects your copy to generate loads of sales, he’ll be disappointed if you don’t deliver outstanding results. Before the project begins, determine the client’s expectations. If you’re not confident you can meet them, walk away.
  6. The client promises future work and riches.  Clients sometimes ask for a discount on their first project. They say once sales roll in, they’ll be able to give you future work and higher pay. While the client may have the best of intentions, there’s certainly no guarantee he’ll come through with more work down the road. Most likely if he does come back, he’ll want the same low price, as you’ll have already set that precedent. Therefore, resist the pressure to give a discount to land a project. Set your price and stick to your guns. If the client has a problem with your quote, he’s not a fit, and you should walk away.
  7. The client doesn’t treat you with respect.  Unfortunately, some clients treat vendors as second-class citizens. They’re late to meetings, interrupt when you speak, don’t follow through on promises, take their time paying bills and are quick to criticize. These types of clients will cause you more grief than they’re worth. If a client doesn’t treat you right, have enough self-confidence and self-respect to walk away.
  8. The client is shopping around.  Some clients will let you know they’re getting proposals from other copywriters. In most cases, this means they’re focused on price. They’re looking for the best deal. You don’t want to be the cheapest copywriter. It’s too easy for someone to match your price or underbid you by a few dollars. And it’s not the way to build a business of loyal, appreciative clients. If the client tells you he’s shopping around, wish him well and walk away.
  9. The client insists you do spec work as a test.  Spec work (short for speculative) is a job the client expects you to do before agreeing to pay your fee. Unless you’re just beginning your career as a freelance copywriter, you’ll have a portfolio of samples the client can review. Those samples will be representative of your skill level and style. A client who insists you do work before signing your contract and paying your deposit is likely to take advantage of you. Either he’ll use your ideas without paying for them or offer you a discounted rate, knowing you’ll want something rather than nothing for your efforts. Don’t write in hopes you’ll get paid. If a client demands spec work, walk away.
  10. The client won’t pay a deposit or sign a contract.  Most copywriters ask for 50% up front on projects with new clients. They also want a signature on a contract that spells out the project parameters. Once the client becomes an ongoing account, they may relax the requirements. But in the beginning, that deposit and signed contract are critical to establishing trust. Therefore, if a client hesitates, declines or doesn’t follow through on his end of the bargain, walk away.

With time and experience you’ll get better at weeding out the problem clients and attracting the good ones who have meaty projects and the budgets to pay for them. Much of your success will depend on your self confidence. Attitude is everything.

While you don’t want to sound cocky, you should remind yourself that clients need you as much or more as you need them. You become their partner, providing a valuable service that is critical to building their business.

Be selective in the projects and clients you take on, and you’ll enjoy a much more profitable and satisfying career.

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