The Dead Don’t Write

Note: This post originally appeared at on October 30, 2009. The Freelance Theater audio play series is now a part of All Freelance Writing.

Have you ever had a "vampire client" -- one who seems to suck the life out of you? Maybe they don't pay enough so you push yourself to the edge of burning out regularly as you cram in countless projects. Perhaps they're extremely picky or they're the type who doesn't know what they want until they see it, meaning you're asked to do an unusually high number of revisions. You might even have the type of "vampire client" who constantly asks you for extra advice or guidance beyond the scope of your projects -- consulting work you're not being paid for.

These types of client-writer relationships are what we explore in our very first episode of the MadLance series, "The Dead Don't Write." See if you can relate to poor Kelly, trying to balance keeping her client happy while also staying sane.

The Dead Don't Write - From Freelance Theater's MadLance Series

What would you do if you were in Kelly's shoes? Would you have the nerve to lay down new ground rules with a client? Would you fire that client? Would you ride the situation out as long as possible? As a freelance writer it's important to understand that sometimes you'll have to make tough calls with clients. That might seem difficult to do, especially when you're first starting out and you may only have a few clients lined up, but how you handle the client-contractor dynamic now can impact where you'll be months from now.

Sometimes clients won't even realize they're putting an unusual burden on you (such as the ones who really do respect your opinions so they ask for advice constantly without realizing that time is money when you're a service provider). Confronting those issues early on ensures you won't feel taken advantage of later. Keep this in mind: if you start to resent your work because you didn't put your foot down in a professional way early on, you aren't doing anyone any good. You'll be unhappy with your work, which means you'll be less likely to give it your all (in turn meaning your client loses out too).

Closing thoughts: Set some ground rules in your freelance writing career. Let clients know when it's okay (or not okay) to call you, and when you're negotiating projects or signing contracts bring up issues like revisions up front. Let clients know how many revisions are included in your base rates, and how much you charge for further revisions (edit requests aren't always a sign that you did something wrong, but sometimes the result of a client taking a different direction with a project they already approved -- you should be compensated for those kinds of requests).

The same goes for consulting. If you're a freelance copywriter for example, chances are good that you have some marketing expertise. If the client wants additional time to pick your brain about tactics for increasing conversions or something similar (beyond what's covered in your initial contract) have an hourly consulting rate laid out from the start. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble, and your client some unpleasant surprises, by preparing for "vampire clients" before they have a chance to sink their teeth in.

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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3 thoughts on “The Dead Don’t Write”

  1. Zoinks! I love Freelance Theater. You really nailed where I’m at, only I’m more of a zombie to DS and it makes me act like a reluctant crack addict and do things utterly out of character.

    Follow some glorious advice of Jenn, I’ve reevaluated my current sitch and started back at the beginning. I want to specialize as an ebook writer, and I can set myself aside from other ebook writers in a marketable and authentic way.

    Amidst the excitement of knowing I may be venturing into a sustainable business than dabbling and playing at freelancing, I went to bed with questions, fears even about what to offer and not to offer alongside ebook writing. How far to specialize. One of my big things was helping with covers or messing with graphical elements. I can see the life drained out of me if I have to do either thing, even if I accounted for paying for it. And I need an editing/revision policy. And I refuse to accept a client telling me that they want me to help with their niche idea and keywords and not pay me any extra for the obviously extra time!

    Thanks for doing Freelance Theater. It really helped me to see today not only but how to position myself for a specialized market *and* position myself for a happy business (not another vampire in my life).

    Thanks again for helping my business become NOT another thing in my life that is sucking the soul of out me.

  2. As I told Yo before, I made the mistake of listening to this with my husband who repeatedly pointed and laughed and shouted “That’s you!” In my defense, he was exaggerating a little. That used to be me before I set some strict boundaries with myself on the amount of hours I’m allowed to work per day.

    Still, there were things in here I still needed to hear. Thanks for packaging them in such an enjoyable way!

    • That was a lot of us at some point no doubt. But figuring out how to get out of that funk is what matters. And it sounds like you have, so congrats for that. I still let myself work late too often (usually on my own projects). With me it’s less about client work and more about tackling too many projects independently (like right now I’ve got the next episode of FT, two e-books nearing release, a major industry survey / report being developed, the interview series at AFW, and of course the Query-Free Freelancer book still being drafted). Ugh…. I wore myself out thinking about it! lol So consider this my own vow to follow your lead Jenn — I’m sticking to strict working hours this coming week. Back to 4am wakeups and working 5-noon again I think. Or at least I’ll try. My sanity would probably be the better for it. 🙂


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