Note: This post originally appeared at FreelanceTheater.com 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.
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.