A Writer’s Right of Refusal

Not What I Expected!Every single fucking day one of you idiots is trying very hard to make a problem client turn into a profitable one.  Every single fucking day.  I see you begging for advice in the copywriter forums, and as much as I feel for you, I also think you’re kind of stupid for beating that dead horse into a pulp.  The first rule of business, any business, is that you must make money.  Otherwise you’re just screwing around.

So, that being said, let’s talk about a writer’s right of refusal.  Like any business, you get to pick and choose who you work with — crazy shit, right?  If you don’t like the cut of somebody’s jib, you hate their project or you’re just so fucking booked up that the work never ends, you get to say no.  Let me repeat that.  You. Get. To. Say. No.

The N Word and Other Client-Based Sins

You get to say no, I think I said that.  But do you ever say no?  Do you instead get a fucking deer in the headlights look when someone offers you work and blubber like an idiot?  I think that’s what most people do, because here’s what I see ALL THE TIME:

Writer A is struggling to make Client 1 pay out because, for fuck’s sake, the general intake and assessment of their project took hours and hours to complete.  Or maybe Client 1 doesn’t really know what they want, so their project parameters keep changing.  Or maybe Client 1 is just such a cunt that they’re intolerable to work with and communication is breaking down.

Whatever the reason, this situation is clearly not working out.  What’s Writer A to do?  Writer A needs to tell Client 1 to go fuck themselves.  This can be accomplished in one of several ways, depending on your ultimate goals:

Politely, but forcefully.  Saves face, but makes it clear that you’re done wasting time.  “I’m sorry, Client 1, but I don’t believe I can meet your needs.  Good luck in your future endeavors.”

Forcefully, but kindly.  Gets the client away, may burn a bridge, but probably not.  “Client 1, there’s no way I can afford to continue to discuss this project.  Please organize your notes and once you’ve got the parameters defined, I’d be happy to give you a free 30 minute consultation.  My rate is X dollars per hour after that.”

Angrily.  You’re a firestarter, a twisted firestarter.  “Client 1, I can’t continue to fuck around with this project.  I’ve got no more time for you, please fall off the face of the Earth today.  If you email me again, I’ll consider it an act of aggression and declare war on your person and pelt you with flaming arrows.”

So, that’s how you do that.  Stop spinning your wheels with people who are wasting your time.  Be polite if you must, but be firm.  Get rid of those fuckers ASAP.  That’s what you do when you realize too late that someone is a time suck.  Just like that.

What if Your Client’s Not a Flaming Cunt?

Firing a client who is a decent human being is a much harder proposition, but remember, you’re a business.  You’re not in this to make friends, you’re here to make money.  You’ve got to believe that your time is worth your price tag.  You’ve got to know you’re in it to win it.  Copywriting is not a fucking game, it’s a fucking job.

That being said, when you fire someone who isn’t wasting your time up front, but is a problem for some other reason, you should be a little more gentle about it.  After all, they might be a source of referrals, and those are pretty awesome.  So… if your clients are nice, give them a very decent note and a chance to correct their problems.

For example, if Client X has been at $15 per post for years and you’re now charging $50 per post, a simple “I’ve raised my fees across the board” memo should do.  Let them know they’re not immune and they’ll have to pay to play.  Recommend a young writer with promise if you really like them — after all, you’d hate to leave them in the lurch.

Or, if Client X has suddenly taken to demanding three rewrites where they used to love your work, ask them what’s going on.  How have their needs changed?  If it’s a change in philosophy, note it and change the way you’re writing.  If it’s a change in reviewers, tell the client that you didn’t have that many rewrites built into the fee and price are going to increase.  Let them know they get that one rewrite for free, but it’s not your responsibility to change things you didn’t know they didn’t like.

Whatever reasons you’ve got to let your clients go, if they’re not horrible twats, make sure you do recommend someone else to take your place.  Finding a new, reliable writer can be a painful process, so do what you can to help that along.  They might not like your recommendation, but at least you tried to help them (the ingrates!).

In Summary, Say No!

I once wrongly believed you should always say yes, then I met some people who clearly should have said no.  So, now I say you should say no.  A lot.  All the time, even.  Say no when you’re busy and can’t do a project justice.  Say no when you’re not sure you can handle the subject matter.  Say no when your potential client is a flaming cunt.

Just say no to projects that are wrong for you and you’ll not end up a overworked, over-caffeinated pile of horse shit that’s not worth two drops of ink.  Just say no to save your sanity, your career and your personal life.