Being a great client to freelance writers

Hi Victoria, do you have any advice on how to avoid being a “difficult client” when hiring freelance writers? I recently launched an informational website, I work with freelancers very often and I’d like to make sure I’m not scaring candidates away. I’d appreciate your point of view, thanks – Mark

Mark, this is a fabulous question. Thanks so much for asking it. I thank you, and every freelance writer in the world thanks you.


There are ways to avoid being a “difficult client” to freelance writers. In fact, there are ways to be the best.

  1. Pay on time

    This is the biggest one. Freelance writers, who live off their writing skills and expertise, can sometimes spend way too much time trying to get paid for the work they have done and the contracts they have honored.

    Most of their clients are honest and honorable and always pay on time as negotiated. These are the clients with whom freelance writers build fruitful and mutually-beneficial long-term relationships.

    But every industry has its bad apples.

    Freelance writers should never have to waste time chasing payment. They are professionals, so, please—you be professional too.

    Pay them.

    Pay them on time.

  2. Be clear about your needs

    This should be handled in negotiations, but only too often the client forgets something important or—worse—changes their mind after it’s been negotiated. This leads to very difficult conversations in which the writer is forced to vet you and probably decide to never work with you again.

    So don’t wait until you’ve found a freelance writer before deciding exactly what you need. Determine all that beforehand. Have it worked out very specifically in clear language with appropriate lists.

    Then when you hire the writer, they will know exactly what you need. And they’ll be able to give it to you.


  3. Be polite

    This shouldn’t really need to be said, but unfortunately it sometimes does. Freelance writers work long hours under deadline pressure, doing the best they can to give you exactly what you need. So respect the professional relationship. Be polite. Be nice! When they have to choose between taking your project and someone else’s, help them choose yours.

    Also: be aware that there are professional freelance writers, and there are amateurs. In this Internet era, in which anyone can hang out their shingle selling services for anything, you might run across amateurs. They will be unprofessional. They will be unskilled. They will be a pain in the neck.

    Every industry has its bad apples.

    The best way to avoid them is to do your due diligence on freelance writers’ credentials, then pay proper rates and don’t try to underbid. As with so much else in life: you get what you pay for.

    And if you do inadvertently wind up with an unskilled and/or difficult amateur? Stay polite. Use clear contracts and adhere to them. When necessary, cancel the project and, if there’s a problem, offer a kill fee (partial payment) so you can easily unload this useless relationship and get your project done by a pro. Don’t waste your time and energy fighting an amateur. Your time and energy are too valuable. Just disencumber yourself and move on.

    Yes, you might pay for something other than the project you planned—you will buy the knowledge that THIS PERSON is bad news (along with, most likely, all their associates). As you build your list of potential freelance writers, this will matter. (Keep track.) And you will pay for a professional education through everything in their communications that, in retrospect, might have tipped you off. So now you know. You have acquired essential skills for vetting all other writers.

    Seek out your favorite freelance writers and be great to them!

    These are the skilled professionals who will help your business succeed.