Should Writers be Responsible for a Client’s Bad Business Decisions?

It's common for clients to overstep when hiring freelance writers these days. Writers are expected to wear multiple hats, and clients are rarely willing to pay more for these added services.

The Northeast Ohio Media Group's "zero-tolerance policy" on typos is an insane example; writers are expected to have their spouses edit their work after copyeditors were dismissed. Blog owners are an even more common example, expecting freelance bloggers to handle everything from social media marketing to licensing (or even taking) photographs to supplement their content.

None of these things are appropriate, at least not without added pay.

These clients try to make their problems your problems. But they're not. It's up to a client to make sure they can afford everything they want (ideally from qualified providers -- writers, photographers, editors, marketers, etc.). And it's on them if they purchase content without having a clue how to monetize it or use it to reach other goals.

As a freelance writer, if you're asked to provide extra services, you can always refuse. Find clients who respect you as a writer first and foremost. Or charge appropriately for any extra services you are willing to commit to.

This is the topic of a guest post I wrote for Writer's Worth Month, run yearly by Lori Widmer of the Words on the Page blog. Check it out. Share your feedback. And catch up on some of the other posts in this year's Writer's Worth series.

Profile image for Jennifer Mattern

Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, consultant, and indie author. She runs numerous websites & blogs including All Freelance Writing, Freelance Writing Pros, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

Jenn has 25 years' experience as a professional writer and editor and over 20 years' experience in marketing and PR (working heavily in digital PR, online marketing, social media, SEO, new media, and thought leadership publication). She also has 19 years' professional blogging and web publishing experience (including web development) and around 18 years of experience as an indie author / publisher.

Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names and is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association.

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6 thoughts on “Should Writers be Responsible for a Client’s Bad Business Decisions?”

  1. Hi Jenn!

    I live in Northeast Ohio and had no idea The Northeast Ohio Media Group has “zero-tolerance policy” on typos. In fact, my name was mentioned in a recent article and it was mis-spelled. 🙂 Maybe The Northeast Ohio Media Group has loosened up on their “zero-tolerance policy” for typos. I appreciated the mention in the article and it was great PR for our local animal shelter. They deserve it!

    • LOL That’s funny Amandah. Seriously, there’s no way to enforce a policy like that. I keep hoping to come across a punchline somewhere, like this was some stupid April Fool’s joke. Sadly, it doesn’t look that way.

  2. I have noticed this also…I have two opportunities in the hopper right now that want regular blog posts each month but expect me to provide photos with each post. I don’t have a good camera and many times I don’t have the time to go set up what I am writing about to take the photos…the other thing is that I have ghost written a couple e-books…when I first did them all I had to do was provide the copy and the editor would take care of everything else…I was contacted to write another one but they want me to but in a live table of contents with links, along with pictures for every chapter plus hot links back to the customers website, all at the previous price…I politely told them I wasn’t interested


    • Good for you for standing firm Randy! It’s absurd to think they could get so much more without paying anything extra. People never cease to amaze me.

      Here’s another thing with e-books specifically. Most writers are not designers. They can’t competently create an e-book cover and handle internal design elements and layouts, and make it look like it was done by a professional. It’s scary when clients don’t seem to care about ending up with the best end product possible. And if you were able to write and handle design work both at a pro level, you would be charging pro rates for both of those services combined. So they wouldn’t save much, if anything, anyway.

  3. Hi Jennifer,

    This is indeed an interesting topic. Will step over and read your post. However, just want to say that before ever giving a client a quote I always attempt to get the details of what he wants. I factor all these into the quote and if he wouldn’t go with this, I pull out.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Absolutely. You should always get details before taking on any project. That’s not quite the issue here though. This is a broader problem that goes beyond individual projects. It happens when magazines, blog owners, etc. start asking freelancers to work for less pay (or do more work without a pay increase) because their overall business choices aren’t working out. Then there seems to be an implication that writers are somehow to blame (at least partly) when publications don’t reach their goals. That’s usually more about how well they market the publication and whether or not they’ve willingly adapted to industry changes when it comes to revenue models.

      My basic point with the post is pretty much in line with what you’re saying — know what you’re getting into. But also go further than that and don’t agree to take lower pay or increased responsibilities just because a publication can’t afford you at a professional rate anymore because they were slow to adapt to the market. There seems to be this feeling among some clients that writers should just take what they’re offered and be grateful for any work at all, but that’s not how you run a business successfully. You have to know when to move on to better markets and drop older clients as their circumstances change. It’s not always easy, but it’s a part of the job. 🙂


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