For successful freelance writers, there’s one thing above all else that separates a robust work schedule from a lacklustre calendar: clients.

Sometimes clients are like buses in that you wait ages for the right one then three appear at once. Sometimes, they’re like air – you don’t even think there’s an issue until you realise you’re not getting any.

And sometimes, clients are like socks; you find them everywhere when you don’t need any, but as soon as you go to look for them, they’ve vanished from the face of the earth!

But while it’s true that you often don’t miss the water until your well runs dry, it’s also important to realise that not all clients are created equal, and not everyone who wants to work with you will be the right client for you.

Today I’m examining some strategies that successful freelance writers use to spot and deal with difficult working situations. Prevention is always better than cure, so read on for some tips on how you can maximise your success, and hopefully avoid problematic clients before any dispute even rears its head…

1) Define your ideal client

One of the best ways of guaranteeing that you’ll enjoy your client experience is to first figure out who you don’t want to work with.

Spend some time thinking about the ideal client for you – such as their industry, their business needs and yes, their budget – and then make a commitment to only market yourself to, and work with only those types of clients.

Defining your ideal client from the outset puts you in control and means that you’re much less likely to encounter huge problems and pitfalls once you’ve taken on a job.

2) Set your terms and stick to them

Successful freelance writers know that one of the key principles of reducing a stressful client experience is to always keep the balance of power in your favour. Clearly set out your working terms every time, and make sure you never make too great a compromise.

Having well-defined boundaries with a client and knowing exactly what is expected of each other – for example in terms of the payment structure for you and project scope for them – will quickly and easily foster an attitude of mutual respect between everyone involved, and ensure that the potential for issues cropping up later down the line is kept to a minimum.

3) Know when to negotiate

Of course being respected and compensated well for your skills and time is crucial. But successful freelance writers also see this process as a two way street.

You need to learn to match the rhythm of your own needs with those of your client, and understand when it does occasionally become appropriate to relax your rules and allow a little wriggle room.

You might, for example, take on a project at a reduced fee if it’s the first one outside of your usual niche. Or maybe you’ll throw in an extra round of revisions at no cost in return for an assurance of repeat work or a referral to new client.

The point is that you need to recognise the stage you’re at in your own career, and weigh the pros and cons of each opportunity to negotiate on it’s own merits.

Developing an intuition for when to resolutely stand your ground and when to open the door to dialogue and discussion gets  easier over time for successful freelance writers.

Ultimately, practising this skill will help you cultivate better relationships with all your clients – and avoid the problematic ones more often than you encounter them.

Do you have any tips of your own on how to deal with negotiations or avoid problematic clients? Let us know in the comments!

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