Could a freelance writer be lying in an attempt to win a contract, justify their fees or just stop you from asking awkward questions?
But, after years of working as a (very honest) freelance writer, I've heard similar stories from clients on how they have been burnt by unethical writers who could not care less about their business and view them as a walking cash cow.
Business owners are not stupid. They know when they are being lied to. And such dishonest behaviour is tarnishing the reputation of honest writers. It's time to fight back.
Below are 10 common lies bad writers tell good companies, based on my own anecdotal experience:
1. "I need to know more detail before I can give you a quote"
Yes, every project is different but top writers will be upfront about their basic rates (contact me if you'd like to know mine - I'd be happy to help).
If you hear this line, then you are probably dealing with either writer who is looking to charge an arbitrary rate and squeeze the maximum amount of cash out of you or an inexperienced one who isn't sure what to charge.
2. "I need to know the budget before I can quote"
Writers asking this question are just trying to work out how much you can afford so they can charge the maximum amount. A good writer will quote based on their basic rates and negotiate accordingly.
3. "I have a degree and that makes me a great writer"
Academic qualifications are important, but they are not golden tickets to prove your worth as a writer. I do not hold an English literature degree - but I do hold two Masters in Physics and have a solid portfolio of work.
Degrees don't matter. Results and experience do.
4. "The invoice is higher than I quoted because it took a longer time to write than expected"
Yes, some writing work takes longer than expected. No, you should not have to pay more.
This is where my argument about fixed rates comes into play. Some clients prefer that I charge by the hour, some that I charge per word and others that I charge on a project-by-project basis.
But all budgets are agreed on upfront regardless of the payment model I use. A client who wants me to charge by the hour will get an estimate of the time it takes - and I use tracking software to prove my working hours. If I go under the estimate, I only charge for the hours clocked. If I go over the estimated time, that's my bad. I quoted incorrectly. If the client wants me to do more work outside of the scope of the original project, I'm upfront about how long that will take and the impact on the final amount.
Good writers do not spring an unexpected bill on businesses.
5. "I'm so busy, I can only fit you in if you pay extra"
This lie gives the illusion that the writer is in-demand and allows them to charge more at the same time. In reality, popular writers do not play such mind games.
A busy writer will be honest about their availability. They do not need to charge extra and are not afraid to tell you to wait your turn.
6. "I didn't get your email"
A classic time-stalling trick or way to avoid dealing with clients if you think you cannot make a deadline.
A good writer checks the spam folder, makes deadlines and maintains communication with clients.
7. "You only get what you pay for"
Another crafty mind game to make you feel guilty about questioning costs, but it's not strictly true.
Good writers will have a solid portfolio of work to back up their rates and will negotiate with costs. A byline or long term contract can be worth more than charging the maximum per word rate, for example.
Bad writers will use this line to elevate themselves and make you feel cheap - don't be fooled.
8. "You only need good copy to make sales"
How ridiculous. Good copy is one ingredient to make a sale. If you don't have sufficient sales and marketing plans, tools, resources, strategies and tactics to back up good copy - who's going to be reading it?
9. "Anyone and everyone will love this"
No, they won't. Writing is subjective. And a good writer understands that they need to meet the needs of your target audience and find your business's voice.
10. "Trust me, I know what I'm doing"
No, you don't. Good writers are not this arrogant. They will ask questions, want feedback and work closely with a client to get the best result. They understand that trust is earned.
I'm not trying to condemn my fellow freelance writers, I have made mistakes and may have uttered some of these phrases early on in my writing career.
But if you hear a writer using these lines on a regular basis, alarm bells should ring. So ask for a rates card and writing examples, communicate with your writer on a regular basis and don't believe the bullshit.
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I'm the freelance writer who gets tech. So, I blog on three core topics:
Science and Technology