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Friday, February 27, 2015

Free Advice Friday: Why Your Writing Business is Failing

What's on the iPod: Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford & Sons

After a long, somewhat disjointed week (is it finally Friday?), I'm looking forward to a few days off. On Tuesday afternoon, my newest bookcase arrived, so I spent the afternoon putting it together. This weekend, I intend to fill it strategically. There are books I keep wanting to read, but they're on one of the eight bookcases in the basement. Time to put them in full view.

I was rereading a post by friend and top-notch freelance writer Peter Bowerman. It was a post he'd written for this blog a while ago, and he repeated it on his own blog recently. In it, Peter addresses this attitude of "deserving" a freelance writing career to be handed to us. His way of breaking "deserve" down to market need is worth a read. And a re-read.

It also got me thinking about this mentality, and others, that have a huge impact on the success of our freelance businesses. I won't get into the bad habit of thinking we deserve better (because Peter's post goes over that quite well). Plenty of talented, experienced writers out there are struggling. Why? Maybe it's because they're committing one or more of these career-killing moves:

Accepting the status quo. Lord, it's tempting, isn't it? The work isn't rolling in, and there are so many writers lamenting the conditions. So that underpaid gig comes along and you take it. You have no choice, right? Bullshit. You do. You can change what the hell you're doing -- stop trolling the job boards for work. Stop accepting less because you're afraid it's all you can get.

Staying nice and passive. So the job boards have become a race-to-the-bottom feeding frenzy. Why are you still spending your time there? Where is the actual effort you should be putting into building a respectable clientele? Don't think your time spent cruising through job listings is "effort." It's not. It's wasted energy. Imagine you're trying to learn how to sew. The sewing machine is broken. But instead of fixing it or trying something else, you just keep stuffing that fabric into a broken machine with the same predictable result every time. That's what it's like to rely on job boards as your primary source of clients. Figure out a better way. The money follows the effort you put into your job.

Thinking you're set. You have those top-shelf clients and some of them are paying you retainers. You don't need to market anymore! Wrong. You need to market always. I've said it before on this very blog -- the set-in-stone agreements you have today are too easily turned into sand shifting under your feet tomorrow. It's happened to me and to plenty of other writers. Company needs change, projects end, budgets disappear, people move out of jobs, companies hire marketing teams....all are reasons why you shouldn't ever believe you're in forever. I remember losing three sure things in two weeks. I hadn't planned for it, either. Don't be like that -- always expect the job to be temporary.

Forgetting it's a business you're running. Your fancy degree, your 10 years of experience, and your mounds of talent don't mean shit to people who don't know you. Sure, those things will get you noticed easier, but you have to reach out to people, and you have to focus on what they need, not on how stupid they'd be to pass on you (they may be, but that cocky attitude isn't going to win them over). If you owned an ice cream shop and you wanted to be successful, you'd try to attract customers. You'd send fliers around, mail postcards, put up signs, and maybe show up at local events handing out samples or coupons. The same goes for your writing business. You have to raise awareness, show people you can help them, and make connections. If you can't do that, maybe you're better off being an employee.

Doing what others say they do. Every single freelance writer has his/her own way to run a business and make it work. It's okay to hear how someone else does it. But if you hear this bit of advice and race to the computer to try it, then jump instantly to another bit of advice from someone else, where's the "you" in that? Where's your plan, and how have you modified it to fit your style and your personality? The try-and-fly type of marketing usually means you're not following up and you're not anywhere near consistent with any method. Instead of trying to reinvent a wheel you don't have, get your own wheel. Stay in that circle until you're comfortable enough with yourself to know what works for you and what doesn't. And if you're paying for advice that's all over the Internet for free, that's up to you. But I suggest you insert skepticism in what you read, and do a little research before you follow blindly someone else's advice. I've seen a few pay-per-advice types who change their story to fit the service they're selling. Instead, seek out the company of other writers who are willing to share experiences for free.

Not believing in you. I remember when I started out eons ago that my biggest roadblock was my own fear. I knew I had talent, but there was that doubt that anyone would agree with me. It got in the way, and it caused me to make bad choices that netted me aggravation and low pay. Get used to knowing and owning your skill. The more you work at the job (and the more you advance your own education), the better you'll stand by your rates and your business decisions.

Writers, how do you keep your business healthy?
What were some of the obstacles/bad habits you had to overcome?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

4 Ways to Navigate Project Scope Disagreements

What's on the iPod: Sleep Like a Baby Tonight by U2

What a week. I started by spending what I thought would be ten minutes looking for a hotel room for the upcoming conference at the end of April. That turned into two days of hunting. No luck. I can get a hotel close to the convention center ($1,019 a night) or two miles away ($300 a night) or across a highway and not easy to get to from there ($189 a night).

Or I could stay home.

It's my big push for new client work, this conference. And judging by the number of sold-out hotels, it's going to be well attended. So I'll find a way. Even the B&Bs are sold out. It could be I'll be staying miles away and taking taxis.

Beyond that, I'm working on a number of projects for new/existing clients. I'm getting plenty of interest in my pitches and via referrals, so I'll spend time today and tomorrow trying to get commitment from some of the prospects.

In a client interaction recently, I realized the expectations they had of what I'd be doing weren't just a little off -- they were worlds different. So I had to reiterate what I knew to be the terms of our arrangement and do so in a gentle way.

That's a big deal when you and your writing client aren't on the same page or even in the same book. You agreed to (and priced for) X. They thought they were getting Y.

Time to introduce Z.

Navigating these sticky situations isn't tough, especially if you've left a paper trail. Still, it's one thing to know you're right and wholly another to point that out tactfully to the client who is wrong. Here's how I manage it:

1. Apologize for the confusion. I never assume someone is trying to pull a fast one on me. In most cases, it really is just a misunderstanding. Your client hires a proofreader, yet sends over a ton of unedited work. It could be as simple as they don't understand the difference between the two functions (most likely) or they don't know what they really need. Either way, apologize that there's confusion. Don't take the blame, but do say something like "I'm sorry there's some confusion here. Do you have time for a quick conversation?"

2. Repeat back the terms agreed upon. I've had to say "I must be confused - I thought you needed this....Are you saying you need that....?" No need to do a copy-and-paste of the evidence just yet, but I do refer to specific emails or contract sections in conversation.

3. Offer to revise the terms to include the change in work. I offer this up with a "Happy to take on that part, as well. Let me rework the price estimate and get back to you this afternoon/tomorrow morning." There's no reason why we can't come to terms that are agreeable to us both.

4. Give evidence when there's push-back. I did this once in my career (the client was changing the contract terms in her head), but it isn't something that's usually necessary. I don't like to wave evidence in front of clients. Instead, I give them the chance to save face first (and remember their agreement). If it does come down to someone adamant about what is expected, I would say something like "I looked at the agreement, and here's where I'm seeing our disconnect." (I didn't in that one case because that client was attempting to avoid payment.)

Writers, have you had to clear up any project misunderstandings?
What's your process?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Technology Tuesday: The Word TOC

What I'm reading: The Woman of Andros by Thornton Wilder
What's on the iPod: Numb by The Airborne Toxic Event

So last week we took a look at how to create Styles in Word. This week, we're going to do something with them. If you think you'll have a need to create a table of contents (TOC) in your document, start with creating styles for that document. You may want to get in the habit of using styles in everything so you don't get 300 pages in and suddenly remember you need them. You'll find a style refresher here.

You have your styles. Now let's build a TOC.

Step one:

Between the cover page (and maybe dedication page, if there is one) and the introductory page, insert a new page. This is where the TOC will go.

If you've set up your styles already, you should be able to simply apply the TOC. Here's an example of a document that has styles applied:

For the sake of example, I put a solid line in between these sections to indicate a page break. You're looking at what would be two different pages.

From the blank page where your TOC is going, click on the References tab in Word. Over on the far left, you'll see Table of Contents.

From here, the easiest way to insert a TOC is by choosing one of the preformatted styles. Let's choose the first one.

Here's the result:

Easy, right? 

Ah, but suppose you have some errant styles that show up. What do you do then? Here's what happened when I first created this TOC:

It happens. Styles get applied accidentally (you hit Return without thinking and it applies going forward, etc.). You could just manually remove it from the TOC, but with each update, you'll have to do it. Better to get rid of the problem altogether. Here's how to find/fix them.

Click on the term you want to lose from the TOC. That should highlight the style it's defaulting to. If it's a style you're using for other things, simply assign it a lower-level style, or create a new one. If it's a different style, right click to modify:

Right there under the preview of your wording, you'll see values that are assigned. Here, this one is showing a Level 1 assignment. To change that, click on Format, then choose Paragraph:

From this window, you can see easily the level that's been assigned. Where it says "Outline level", make sure the window reads something other than the levels you have assigned to your TOC. This example shows the subtitle having been given the Level 1 assignment. I simply chose another level (I think level 9) since I knew I wouldn't be using that one. 

Click Okay.

Repeat this for all the errant copy you want to remove.

Now go back to the References tab and click Update Table. Choose Update Entire Table:

Here's your updated table:

You can create your own customized TOC, if you like. 

Writers, have you worked with a TOC? 
What are some of your best tips for writers trying to build a TOC?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Successful Freelancer: Improving Your Client-facing Message

What's on the iPod: Misfits and Lovers by The Wallflowers

It's Thursday already? What happened to my week? I took Monday off for the holiday that everyone else had. Tuesday was a snow day for my daughter and when she's home, I tend to play hooky with her (bad habit, in fact). Yesterday I spent the morning finishing a small project and updating some blog content. Today, I'll continue marketing and get in touch with client prospects and some editors I haven't heard back from yet. Follow-up, to me, is the best part of marketing. You're not reinventing the wheel, but rather reminding them the wheel is turning.

About a year ago, I talked with a potential client about revamping a website. I knew I was in trouble when the initial phone call ran over an hour and I couldn't for the life of me get him to say in one or two sentences what his business was. When he sent over a client article to show me what it was, I was a bit flabbergasted. Shouldn't this be something the owner knows?

I did my best to improve what was there, but it was an impossible task. The client simply didn't know what he wanted, what he was about, or if he even wanted to attract new customers (he said it wasn't his goal).No amount of questioning helped him get to those answers, either.

A no-win situation for any writer.

Yet isn't that exactly how we freelance writers feel when we sit down to create our own client-facing materials? We either apologize for our existence ("Sorry to bother you" / "I don't know if you hire people like me") or we talk incessantly about ourselves ("I love to write, and I have over 10 years of experience in magazines and with clients" / "People tell me they love my work, and I'm in demand, so hurry and book your space with me now!").

Neither way is going to win over many clients. So let's rewrite the message so they'll listen, okay? Here are four ways to get their attention (and keep it):

Show them you know them. 
Probably the best way to get the attention of a new client prospect (and to keep the current clients) is to show them you understand what their goals/concerns/needs are. Here's an example of messaging that doesn't quite cut it:
I don't know if this applies to you directly, but I've helped a number of mid-sized businesses write marketing content. I have handled website copy, blog content, and newsletter copy. Maybe you want something like this?

Right. You lost them at "I don't know if this applies to you..."

Instead, try siding with the potential client:
As I was looking through the latest issue of your newsletter, I noticed.....
When you attend the Cardboard Manufacturers Trade Show in six months, consider revamping your marketing materials to get the most impact.

Both of these approaches show you've done some homework.

Stop talking about yourself.
Here's an example of talking at the client:
I built this business out of my passion to help others. I was a founding partner in the top local consulting firm, where I consulted with over 100 companies of all sizes throughout the country. My 20 years of experience includes serving on the board of a Fortune 500 company and handling marketing and sales for that company.

Asleep yet? You should be. That's all "I, I, I" talk, and it's not showing the client anything about why the hell they should care.

Instead, turn the focus onto them:
If you could easily retrain your entire company staff to put the customer first, why wouldn't you? Give your customers the benefit of a great customer experience every time. Let me help you retool your current business model into one that attracts customers and keeps them loyal -- all within your budget.

You've just appealed to people who want to make more money. Gee, how many do you think that could be?

Simplify the message.
Take this copy, for example:
The purpose of a business is to create and profitably serve loyal customers. We consult with business owners and help them gain clarity about the right things to do to fulfill this purpose and achieve the right results. 

The point is in there, but it's lost in too many ideas. Ironically, this company's message of gaining clarity isn't exactly clear. 

Instead, try this:
Want to improve business results? Start by clarifying your message and purpose. We train you how to get the most from your client interactions by revamping the way you approach your customers.

What's missing? All those ideas that really didn't speak to the customer's needs.

Stop writing laundry lists.
Here's the wrong way to present your talents:

I would love to help with your blog posts. Also, I have written plenty of newsletters, and I'm used to writing case studies. Oh, and I've written articles, which means I can ghostwrite for you, too.

Desperate much? Instead, find a way to say you have a wider range of experience without listing it all:

Whether you need a brochure update or an in-depth, industry white paper, consider the value that professional writing services can add to your next project.

You didn't list everything, but you gave the impression that there's a fairly wide range you can handle.

Writers, what's your favorite way to appeal to clients?
How often do you revisit/revise your messages?
In what ways are you getting your message to clients?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Technology Tuesday: Word Styles

What's on the iPod: Woodpile by Frightened Rabbit

A sad day here in our house -- our goldfish died. Why such a fuss over a fish? Because he was 14 years old. Yes, they live that long and no, by that age they're no longer "gold" but more whitish. He hadn't been "perky" for a month. I suspect when we changed the water yesterday, it was simply too much for him. RIP, Ghillie MacBean.

They also grow into their environment. Fishy started in one of those tiny little bowls, but ended in a 30-gallon tank, which I drained this morning. That meant my work day started a bit later, and this blog post even later still.

Since I had the bulk of my projects in the first two weeks of this month, I decided to spend time getting to know my software a bit better. While I use quite a bit of the functionality built into Word, there's always something new to learn. Let's start with how to use styles.

Styles are a great way to add value to your freelance writer / client relationship. A freelancer who can deliver a document that looks ready to go to print is an asset.

I'm going a little from memory here since the project I used to do a lot of formatting for has gone in-house. Still, knowing how to format your text to make it fit can give you a huge advantage when the client wants a few different fonts, font sizes, margins and columns in the same document.

For this project, let's assume a college course catalog.

In order to create a table of contents (TOC), it's best to get used to using Styles.When you assign styles in your document, you make creation of a TOC infinitely easier (think one click instead of hours of manual building). Styles are those little areas on your Word program's Home tab (if you're using 2010 and above). They're right there under Styles (easy, right?). Here's what you need to know before you set your styles:

  • How many levels of head/subheads you'll need
  • How you'd like to differentiate each of those levels
  • What font you'll use for each/all
Taking our course catalog, we're going to assume the client wants four levels -- chapter heads, which will appear on the TOC, subheads that introduce each new section of the chapter, sub-subheads that detail a list of topics, and sub-sub-subheads that go over one of these topics in slightly more detail. Chances are your client would tell you how they want to see it, so let's assume that situation for this example. Here's the example:

Academic Policies

Graduate Student Policies

Please note that unless indicated below, graduate students are bound by the policies and practices that apply to all students, especially as noted elsewhere in this catalog.

Full-time Status

Graduate students are considered full time if enrolled in at least nine credits per semester, with the exception of students enrolled in the MFA Studio Art program who are considered full time if enrolled in at least 4.5 credits during the fall and spring semesters as per their program requirements. Tuition for part-time graduate students is charged on a per-credit basis.
Student Classification and Course Load
A student’s class status is determined by the number of credits earned, regardless of the number of semesters of enrollment or the student’s standing in his or her major program. Class status is a factor in determining financial aid eligibility and is one indicator of academic progress. Class standing is also used to prioritize scheduling during registration.

What you see here are the four different levels beyond the book title. So how to set each one:
Select the heading you want to work with. Go to the Styles tab and click on the corresponding level. Here, we're working with Heading 1.

To format, right click on the Heading 1 option. From the drop-down menu, choose Modify.

In the next field, you can choose to rename your style, choose your font size, type and other attributes, and even adjust your spacing between paragraphs. Use this window to choose alignment of your text, too.

Also, make sure to click the button on the bottom right that says "Add to the Styles gallery." This makes it easy for you to use the button each time you want that particular heading style. And it makes it easier when you're building your table of contents later. 

You can format right from this window, as well:

Now save your changes by clicking "Ok. "
To create subhead styles, repeat the process. A note: Make sure to differentiate enough between styles so as not to confuse the reader.
Next week, we'll show you how to use those Styles to create your Table of Contents.
Writers, how often do you use Styles?
Have you had to set various styles, or do you go with the default?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Free Advice Friday: This Job, Not That Job

What's on the iPod: Oxford Comma by Vampire Weekend

Friday the 13th -- a superstitious day for a lot of people, and maybe a perfect time for another episode of This Job, Not That Job.

Today's offering comes from Jenn Mattern, who, by the way, scours these job postings to bring you guys some of the more promising listings out there. Check out her All Indie Writers job board.

One that didn't pass muster with Jenn (or with anyone who can read) is this posting:

Blog Article Writers / Part-Time \ PAID

I am in need of several blog article writers who can help me with my work load. They will be general seo articles that will range in topics from A to Z. I will need these articles on a regular basis and will need to have a very quick turn around time of 1-2 days at the most. The articles should be of good quality and I will check them, so they must pass copyscape. The word count will usually range from 400-500 words per article. Please have a paypal account for payment, the frequency of the payment will be determined, either weekly, twice a month or once monthly. The pay rate will start at $1.00 - $2.00 per article, but if all goes well this could increase, as this will be a long term employment opportunity. You will be notified of the pay rate for each article when you receive the assignments. Can make some nice extra cash in your spare time. Please include your resume in the body of the email. Also, please include writing samples or links to your writing samples. Please contact me if you have additional questions or concerns. Thank you.

And thank you for not using a single paragraph break, you putz.

So, beyond the obvious spelling errors (he wants you to pass "copyscape" yet won't use Spell Check -- go figure), there is so much wrong with this ad I don't know where to start. The title -- "part-time" suggests an employer/employee relationship. Clearly, this person isn't running a company, or this mistake, hopefully, wouldn't have been made.

Aside from the bold PAID notice, we see that this person needs "several blog article writers." Red flag -- that means someone is looking for keyword-stuffed nonsense that only barely resembles writing.

"who can help me with my work load." Okay, Jenn pointed this out when she sent the posting over. This is a person who is referring to this "job" as a work load when it's on his shoulders, yet becomes something one can do in one's "spare time" when he's ready to pay for it. But let's read on, for it gets better (by that I mean worse).

They will be general seo articles that will range in topics from A to Z. I will need these articles on a regular basis and will need to have a very quick turn around time of 1-2 days at the most.

Of course they will. You want SEO content on demand and in short order. But wait -- there's more...

The articles should be of good quality and I will check them, so they must pass copyscape.

So let's recap so far -- SEO content, good quality, 1-2 day turnaround, and must not be stolen. So he's not really talking to writers, right?

The pay rate will start at $1.00 - $2.00 per article, 

Wait. Back. The. Truck. Up. Did he just say he wanted a good bit of commitment, original, non-stolen content filled with SEO keywords and delivered quickly, and he's willing to pay up to $2? Per article? Now I know he's not talking to professional writers. That's just crazy talk right there.

but if all goes well this could increase, as this will be a long term employment opportunity. 

Well, I'll just bust my ass to make sure you pick me! Why, I could get the whole way up to five bucks a week! And to think I passed up that chance to work at McDonald's....

You will be notified of the pay rate for each article when you receive the assignments. 

Hold on. You mean I won't know if it's one or two bucks until you give me the assignment? Gee, that seems a bit weird. So if I'm really lucky, you'll double my income? Sign me up!

Can make some nice extra cash in your spare time. 

And here's where I must insert a jolly f--- off. First, no one on the planet has spare time. Extra cash? Nice? Dude, a Starbucks latte would cost me a week's worth of article writing!

Please include your resume in the body of the email. Also, please include writing samples or links to your writing samples.

Yes sir, he wants a resume and writing samples. Why? Because he thinks for the exorbitant amount of money he's laying out per article that his offer will attract serious professionals and have writers swarming to his in box.

Again, refer to my jolly f--- off comment.

So, clearly this is a steaming wad of badness and time-wasting effort (not spare-time-employing work as the ad suggests). Let's look at a better way to employ your spare time:

Freelance Writer / Blogger (Remote)

Scott's Marketplace is looking for witty and entertaining freelance writers to contribute to our B2B blog, The DRIVE (

Writers with small business experienced preferred. You must be able to come up with fresh, relevant topics on a regular basis and write compelling, engaging content targeted toward our audience of small business owners in a conversational tone.

Current topics include: marketing, social media, finance, personal development, and more.

WordPress experience a plus as you will format each blog post, choose keywords, select images, and edit posts to ensure error-free content.

You will also be responsible for promoting each blog post on your personal Twitter/Google + account and through LinkedIn Publishing.

This would be ongoing work of up to 4 blog posts per month. Rate based on experience. Please send 2 relevant writing samples or a link to an online portfolio.

Compensation: $60-$150 per article

You already see an advantage to this job over that other, er, offer, don't you? Why, even if you made just $60 per, it would take you months to make that much at that other gig. This poster is asking for a specific type of post (usually a good sign), limiting the amount of posts to something much more manageable, and giving a link so that you can check out the company before you apply. While it may not pay what many writers would normally charge, it's a much better way to spend your spare time, don't you think?

Writers, what steaming piles of fun have you come across lately? 
What's the worst you've seen? 
Have you ever written to one of these posters in an attempt to enlighten them?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

5 Bad Customer Service Mishaps

What's on the iPod: I See Fire by Ed Sheeran

I'm enjoying the little break in the action this week. I was able to attend a Twitter chat, a webinar, and an online course. I got a bit of work done on the article assignment, and I'll be talking with a potential client today. Plus I got a bit more marketing done than I normally could.

Last week I returned something to a department store. At the service desk, I stood behind another customer. We waited as the clerk talked to a manager on the phone, in a loud voice, about how this customer on the phone wants to talk to a manager "....and I told her I could help her but she wants to talk to a manager so I said I'd have to find one so could you talk to her it's about this return and I told her I didn't think it was possible..."

That's not the worst of it. She then picked up another phone that was lying on the counter and said "The manager will be right with you." No. That person wasn't on hold. She'd heard the entire diatribe. As did we customers.

So I decided to try a different service desk. I went into another department, where the clerk there was helping a woman order something online. No problem. Only...the clerk saw me and said in a curt tone "Why don't you go over there? She's not busy and I'm trying to help this customer order something..." I said "Yes, she is busy."

The customer's friend walked behind me and whispered "This clerk is a little bitcheee...."  and we snickered a little. Then I saw the other clerk ringing up someone else, so I went back over.

Her response when she saw me "You should go over to her. She's not busy and I have to ring this up and I don't know where..."

To which I said, "Oh, forget it" and walked away, muttering about how I just wanted one person to wait on me without bitching about it. I found that one person in a different department. She was happy to help me without pushing me away or acting irritated that I was somehow complicating her life.

That it took three people to get to one who was nice is bad. Very bad. Customers remember that, and they'll avoid that kind of treatment in the future.

So how are you treating your customers? Maybe you're fantastic at that first meeting or that initial draft, but are you losing it when it comes to hiccups in the project or revisions and changes?

Here are some ways you may be losing clients through lousy customer service:

The Silent Treatment. You think the project should have been finished ages ago. That may be true, but you signed up for the entire project, not up to the point where you think they should be happy. Going silent reads like you don't care. You may not, but you're being paid to care. Unless you're trying to lose that client permanently, attempt to answer your emails or phone calls withing 24 hours. I like to send a note that says "Got your note -- I'm in the middle of something now, but I'll get back to you as soon as I can."

The Flip Out. I've known freelance writers who lose it on their clients when they think the project is closed but the client comes back with one more edit. I've known one or two writers who have flipped out when the client sends over the first round of revisions. Fact: Clients will always want revisions. Your job doesn't include telling them how foolish they are or sending them emails bitching about how they're wasting your time. Bite your tongue and remember to factor at least two revisions into your pricing quotes.

The Superior Attitude. You're only as good as the project in front of you. So stop waving all those accolades in front of your client every time they ask for a change. You are not too good for the demands because hey, they're paying you to get it right and you agreed to the terms. Remember, it's their project, their company, and their image. You may not agree with their feedback or revisions, but unless they're about to embarrass themselves publicly, your only concern should be pleasing them, not reminding them that you think you're too good for them.

The Missed Deadline. I'm a fan of under-promising and over-delivering. By giving clients a longer estimate for delivery of a project, I'm able to pleasantly surprise the majority of them by getting it to them faster. The flip-side of that is missing the deadline, whether you set it or the client set it. Yes, most clients have a little wiggle room built into their calendars, but not always. If you miss a deadline, you've just branded yourself as unreliable. I used to work with some pretty great freelance writers who were pathologically late with their copy. That forced me to shorten their deadlines (without telling them) so that I wasn't stuck with a large hole in the magazine content. But not everyone is willing to do that.

The Caustic Response. That client called you what? Doesn't matter. That's no longer your client (or it shouldn't be -- don't work for anyone who treats you with anything but respect). Since it's no longer your client, you shouldn't waste another syllable on that person, not even to defend yourself. I find that letting their nasty words hang out there unanswered is the best option. You know I don't like absolutes, but this is one everyone can espouse -- Never fight with a client. It's not worth your energy. Call them whatever you want in private, but leave it there. Be the bigger person. Hey, I've been called unprofessional (by the world's most unprofessional business woman I've ever met), outrageously expensive (I can live with that), inept (no proof) and unskilled (already proven wrong a million times over). Each time I was furious. Each time I refused to respond and moved on. Each time I bitched in private. Let it go.

Writers, what forms of lousy customer service have you experienced?
How have those experiences tainted your opinion of these companies?
What's the best advice you can give writers who are dealing with difficult clients?
Words on the Page