3 Sure signs your freelance client is going to treat you like a doormat

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It happens the same way every time.

Someone starts freelancing, and they’re excited to take any client they can get.

But before long, they realize something:

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Not every freelance client is worth working with.

Sounds kind of harsh, right?

It’s true though. Some clients are so difficult and draining that they’ll make you feel like you’re right back at your 9-to-5, getting barked at by your jerk boss.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Instead, keep an eye out for these 3 signs your freelance writing client is going to treat you like a doormat:

1. They tell you that you’re charging too much

When I first started freelance writing, I was undercharging for my work – by quite a bit.

And you know what?

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I still had a potential client tell me that I was charging too much.

I had talked to him about writing copy for his website, and he thought that I was overpricing considering that it wasn’t very much content.

These kinds of clients don’t understand value-based pricing. They think that if you’re only writing a small number of words, your fee should reflect that.

He didn’t take into account the value of my work – which could have been a higher conversion rate, and ultimately, more leads for his business.

If you run into a similar situation, run. Fast.

Because a client who doesn’t understand the value of your work is going to be a huge pain to work with.

2. They want you to work for free

Seriously – any client who asks you to “create a free sample” for them isn’t worth working with.

The client should be able to look through your portfolio to determine whether or not you’re a good fit for them.

If the client wants a sample, they should be willing to pay for it.

Here’s what my process looks like when I land a new freelance blogging client:

  • We agree on a topic for a test piece.
  • I send the client a detailed outline of the test piece to make sure we’re on the same page before I start writing.
  • I write the test piece and get paid to do so.

See how that works?

There’s really no need to work for free in this situation – either the client wants to pay for your work or they don’t want to work with you.

3. They don’t respect your boundaries

Have you ever had a friend who thought it was okay to randomly show up at your house any time they wanted?

Chances are, you got annoyed but let them inside anyway.

I mean, you couldn’t turn away a friend, right?

The crazy thing is that some clients act this way too.

They don’t respect boundaries, and they’ll call, Skype, or text you any time they feel like it.

And you end up caving to their demanding nature.

You’re afraid to upset them because you don’t want to end up broke.

Sound familiar?

If so, it’s time to start setting boundaries with clients from the start.

Here are a few tips for doing that:

  • Don’t answer emails/calls outside of your working hours. If you answer emails on weekend, clients will bombard your inbox on weekends and expect a response.
  • Let clients know they need to schedule a call with you. I know for me, an unexpected phone call can throw off my productivity in a MAJOR way. If you can relate, make sure clients know they need to schedule any calls with you ahead of time.
  • Don’t obsess over your inbox too much. This is a tough one, but it’s super important. If you answer every email within 5 minutes, that’s what clients will expect from you. Answer quickly, but not so quickly that you create a standard that’s impossible to consistently meet.

When in doubt, trust your gut

You know what I mean. Sometimes, when you first talk to a client, and you get a funny feeling that they aren’t a good fit for you.

Trust that feeling.

I guarantee you – more often than not, your gut feeling is going to be correct.

And hey, don’t beat yourself up for turning down the work.

Because turning away a potentially difficult client means making room for good clients who’ll actually respect you and pay you well.

What are some other telltale signs of a difficult freelance client? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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About Jorden Roper

Jorden Roper is the fuchsia-haired founder of Writing Revolt, where she shares no-BS advice for freelance writers and bloggers. Get her free, in-depth course on how to build a highly profitable freelance writing business (even if you’re a total newbie) here!

Leave a Comment



  1. Solid advice, Jordan! I learned very quickly that being ‘responsive’ with your email doesn’t mean replying to everything every 5-10 minutes. In fact, I rarely even pick up those random calls if I know I’m in a place where I’ll lose my train of thought (Let’s face it – It can be hard enough to get on that train to begin with).

    Sometimes it’s difficult to let an email, call or text sit over the weekend, but if you give them a hand they’ll take your whole arm.

  2. Hmmm…well, I’m working with an ad agency right now on a campaign for one of their clients. So my client has a client…first mistake. I know it’s money but I promised myself in the past I wouldn’t take third party jobs bc past experience has shown that poor communication (playing telephone) ends in disaster and here I am again.

    The ad client is real nice but started with no clue as to the direction to go, did not supply needed assets and keeps throwing out new ideas for the project after I’ve already started on the initial ideas. Meaning more work.

    And the cherry on top, asks if I can include more work in the quoted price I gave for the work agreed on after I started…all this in a “need it yesterday timeline”. I’m still working the job but doubt I’ll take anymore work from this one.

    -sleepless in stressland

    • I have totally been there. Never considered the problem of 3rd party jobs but you are right. That is usually the issue because of miscommunication. I think I will adopt your mindset to oust those jobs from the beginning.

  3. Very well written, Jorden! Though I am not a writer but a freelance graphics designer but all above points make much sense. I can totally relate with them.

    Really the gut feeling is right at maximum times. I have met many people who look for free samples or want me to work for peanuts.

    Thanks for validating with your article that what I have in mind is correct .


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