Last Updated on 7 months by


Difficult clients suck the joy out of your copywriting and out of your personal life. Click To TweetDifficult clients can suck the joy out of the most interesting and fun copywriting jobs. In fact, they can suck the joy out of your personal life as well.

You may land your dream job, but if your client turns out to be one giant pain in the proverbial, I guarantee the job will turn sour quicker than milk on a hot day.

I know. I’ve been there. I’ve had my share of problem clients including:

  • those who never paid
  • one who insisted I work with his IT guy to ‘design the website’ even though I had no expertise and then refused to deal with me, and dragged the chain when it came to payment
  • a client who never got back to me with amends, whinged about her personal life the entire time, said she was happy with the job I did but then changed her mind, didn’t pay me the full amount for the job, and then threatened to sue for damages
  • one who claimed they were a qualified health practitioner, but had no qualifications at all
  • one who asked their office staff and members of their family to review one page of copy.

I even had to fire a client and lost money on the deal.

Every time I dealt with a problem client, my stress levels rose, my personal life suffered, and I couldn’t wait to complete the job and be rid of them.

Difficult clients are like a virus

The negative effects of painful clients are not limited to your business life. These people will infect other areas of your life, even if you’re a stickler for normal working hours.

Difficult clients are like a virus. Their negativity will infect your business and personal life. Click To Tweet

You’ll find yourself thinking about them after hours, and wondering how to deal with their unreasonable requests. You’ll wake up feeling sick to the stomach, knowing that you have to chase up the last round of amends again. You’ll find yourself avoiding their calls, and dreading the ping of your email, in case there’s another email from them, demanding something else, or complaining again.

And as for getting the copy ‘just right’? Well, my experience is that no matter how many revisions you do, it will never be good enough for these people, which means that you won’t even get a good testimonial for your trouble. Sigh!

In the end, I guarantee you’ll be wondering how quickly you can get rid of them, and why you let them in your business in the first place.

Become a bouncer

All the angst and turmoil of problematic clients can be avoided by not letting them in your business to begin with. Copywriters already wear many hats so why not get yourself another that says ‘BOUNCER’? You could even go one step further and order the matching t-shirt as well.

Just like bouncers don’t let riff-raff into the nightclub, we must learn to keep the riff-raff out of our business, and say ‘no’ to anyone who looks like they may be more trouble than the job they need doing is worth.

But how do you know who to let in, and when to put up the sign that says, ‘sorry, we’re full’?

How to recognise a difficult client

Difficult clients are relatively easy to spot. However, the sooner you spot them, the easier it is to avoid working with them.

Difficult clients are relatively easy to spot. The earlier you spot them, the easier it is to avoid working with them Click To Tweet

Initial briefing phase

Typical warning signs in the initial discussion phase include:

  • not filling in a client brief
  • being unsure of what they want you to do
  • uncertain who their target market is
  • questioning your rates
  • being slow to pay the deposit.

As for those clients who have written the copy but ‘just need it tweaking’, my experience is they are also likely to be troublesome. While they say they want their copy tweaked, most just want someone to tell them how awesome their copy is, even if it is filled with terrible typos, clanging clichés, and mixed metaphors. As soon as you make changes, all hell tends to break loose.*

*Disclaimer: I have had clients who greatly valued my copy editing skills and in no way fell into the ‘difficult client’ category. However, most I’ve come across are not like this.

After the job has commenced

Sometimes you don’t realise that your client is a pain in the (well, you know) until after you’ve begun work. These are clients who:

  • are slow to revise copy
  • are full of excuses as to why they haven’t got around to reviewing copy
  • get a multitude of people to provide feedback
  • provide you with conflicting feedback
  • contact you constantly, particularly after hours
  • expect you to drop everything you’re doing and work on their job
  • continually ask ‘how is the project going’, despite you giving them regular updates and estimated timelines
  • try to push out the scope of the project
  • are rude and snippy.
Difficult clients usually wave more than one red flag. Find out what they are. Click To Tweet

In these situations, you have two options.

The first is to continue working with them, but establish some firm ground rules. This can be tricky though, particularly if you are half-way through the project. And if you’re relatively new to the copywriting game, you may not have the confidence you need, to push back on their unreasonable behaviour. 

The second option is to fire them. Yes, get rid of them mid-project if you have to. You can free yourself of them in a nice way by explaining that you don’t think you’re the right fit for their project, and then very graciously refund them their money (depending upon your terms and conditions).

Sure, you might lose money on the deal, but let me assure you, you’ll regain your sanity and you’ll sleep really well at night.

How to find the clients you’ll love

The secret to working with clients you’ll love is to work out your ideal client. Who are they? What makes them tick? What makes them ideal? What are their needs? Where do they work? And then focus your marketing efforts on attracting the right clients.

Because when you do that, you’ll spend more time feeling happy about the copy you’re writing and less time dealing with clients who are only going to bring you grief.

You must also learn to listen to (and follow) your gut. If something is bugging you during the initial consultation, then chances are the job won’t go smoothly. Take note of the red flags instead of ignoring them.

When you keep the difficult clients out of your business, you create a whole lot more room for the right ones to come in.

Remember, your copywriting business is YOUR business. Just as you get to choose when and where you work, you also get to choose WHO you work with.

Your copywriting business is YOUR business. Just as you get to choose when and where you work, you also get to choose WHO you work with. Click To Tweet

If you’re in the market for a copywriter, and believe that you’ll be great to work with, please contact me for a free discovery call.


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