Let me tell you a little story–because everybody loves a good story, right?
I’ve been a copywriter for a long time.
And I’ve worked with a lot of clients.
Some of them were fucking gems. And some of them were straight up assholes. The rest fell somewhere in between. (By the way? It’s my policy now a days to only work with fucking gems. Because the hassle/stress/frustration/irritation/wall punching temptations…simply aren’t worth it.)
I want to tell you about one particular asshole, because everybody loves a story about an asshole, right? <—-Nod your head and go with it.
This particular client came to me to re-write the copy on his website, head to toe. Left arm to right arm. Boobs to back.
When the project commenced, I began the first round of drafts. The client came back to me and said it didn’t sound fun enough.
I went back to the drawing board, starting from scratch, and worked to develop a second round of drafts. The client then came back to me and said this round was too fun.
So, wondering where I went wrong, since it’s rare I don’t hit it on the head the second time around, I went BACK to the drawing board, consulted with some other writers on the project, and completed a third round of drafts.
The client disappeared.
Gone. Whoosh. Vanished. MIA. Nowhere to be found. Off the map. And otherwise unresponsive, not providing any further feedback.
For two weeks, we sent emails–no response.
And just as we were having a meeting, deciding what needed to happen to wrap this project (as we were now way over project timeline, which screws with the timing & attention we can give to our other clients), the client showed back up, out of the blue, promising to give us the feedback we needed that night to continue on and complete our final deliverables.
Unfortunately, we didn’t hear from the client for one whole week thereafter, at which point, we were ready to give up.
But then, when we did hear from him, you know what the email said?
After weeks of work, and weeks of the client going MIA and not responding to our messages, it simply said: You know? I just don’t think we’re seeing eye to eye. I’d like a refund.
NOW. Here’s when things get fun.
I proceeded to inform the client that wouldn’t be possible, given that we’d done the work, we were already one month over our project timeline, they hadn’t provided the necessary feedback to complete the project (and align it with his ultimate expectations) and frankly, if anything, the client owed us money.
At that point, the client got angry, and decided to try a different route.
He then implied that the copy we were delivering was not original copy, and on those grounds, he would like a refund.
This, of course, made me angry. I take incredible pride in my work, and I give my clients my everything. It’s frustrating enough when you get a non-cooperative client, but this was a whole new level. It was personal, because that’s my integrity. My honor. My character. My WORK.
So then I did what anyone in the situation at hand would do:
I snarled four times, slammed a vodka, and then proceeded to request specific examples of the copy in question.
The client, in turn, responded by telling me he did not have time.
And so I responded once more, insisting.
The client then proceeded to tell me that there were no specific instances, per se, but that he just felt it wasn’t original, and that if I wasn’t going to give him a refund, then the conversation was closed.
I responded by saying that the conversation was, in fact, closed.
Fast forward to a day later.
The client writes again, demanding the refund after all, and telling me that if he does not receive the refund, he will be filing a lawsuit, which, he reminded me, would be public knowledge, and basically–I should be shitting my pants.
This made me laugh, at which point, I simply forwarded the correspondence to my lawyer.
Because here’s the deal:
This client was not getting a refund.
Because I held up my end of the bargain. The client, however, did not.
There’s nothing in my client contract that says:
a) If you don’t have time to give proper feedback and you leave the project hanging? Then you get your money back.
b) If you aren’t satisfied with the copy after not giving proper feedback and dragging out the project for a month longer than the agreed upon timeline, you get your money back.
c) If you make false accusations and try to scare me into giving you your money back, you get your money back.
That client should be lucky I even awarded him rights to use the copy, given his false accusations, let alone a refund.
However, that didn’t try to stop him from arguing the matter.
Because sometimes, you’ll get the asshole client. And sometimes, that client will feel entitled. They’ll view you as a helpless little freelancer who should bend over. And they’ll try to rake you over the coals–just because they think they can.
Please don’t let your clients take advantage of you.
Just because they’ve paid you money does not make them entitled to bully you.
Just because they’ve “chosen you” does not mean that you owe them endless numbers of hours well beyond the initial agreement.
And just because they feel like you owe them something?
Doesn’t mean you actually do.
Some of this boils down to learning how to maintain your professional boundaries–and some of this boils down to simple things like having a contract that outlines all of the details, so when you do get that asshole client?
You can lazily yawn, pull out the contract, and point to the dotted line they signed.
The dotted line that outlines when refunds are given, when they certainly are fucking not, and the other terms of your working agreement, like when the client has a right to be an asshole…
…and when they can take their false accusations?
And shove it.
This is why we created Small Business Bodyguard–to give you downloadable client contracts & templates, so when that asshole client comes along? They’ll know to keep walkin’.