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8 Types of Client to Avoid If You Want to Get Paid


Jeremy Paige - Unsplash

One of the worst types of client for any copywriter to encounter has got to be the dreaded debt defaulter.

Aside from the fact that you end up not getting paid for your valuable time, effort and work; it is also something many people don’t like to admit has happened to them.

But it can happen to the best of us.

I would wager that the people who say they have never experienced it are either a) new b) exceedingly lucky, or c) just don’t want to admit it to others in their profession.

It’s a little embarrassing, isn’t it?

You were taken for a fool…someone saw you coming a mile off…and the cries of ‘whaaaa…you didn’t ask for payment upfront??…tut-tut’ are enough to make your stomach churn.

In an ideal world, you should always get at least a percentage of your money upfront, but for some client relationships, this may not always be possible. Perhaps it is an ongoing relationship, or the terms you set out when you began did not clearly stipulate payment upfront, or you are just doing a ‘favour’ for a friend.

Whatever the reason, here are some red flag warning signs for you to be aware of that may well indicate that your new client is going to be very backwards when it comes to being forward in the financial settlement department!

Basically – you got it – they saw you coming!

1. The Schmoozer

This is the person who wines and dines you, happy to hear all your great ideas (which they will pass off as their own later on)…bless ’em.

These are the silver-tongued charmers who have you at hello (and all your hard work at goodbye). Click To Tweet

It may even be that they are telegraphing their insincerity right from the start with their tall tales and poetic license, but you choose to ignore it all, because they’re so utterly charming and said a massive “YES” to your fee straight to your face but never quite got around to putting anything solid down in writing.


But you like them (or you think you do) so you do the work only later to find that you have been bamboozled…and you didn’t agree to anything in writing anyway…so you haven’t really got a leg to stand on, have you?

The trouble is, they are such charmers, even if you were to ‘out’ them on social media, no one would believe you, most people don’t really want to get involved anyway and it all ends up just reflecting rather badly on you.

There really is no such thing as a free lunch.

2. The See You Later…Much Later…Alligator

You do a great piece of work for a new client, and everything is going swimmingly well, you send the copy off and then nothing…zilch, nada.

The courtship was all going so well, but now you feel like you have been jilted at the altar.

You send a few friendly reminders because after all, you may just be being paranoid, but again, nothing…just the sound of tumbleweed rolling all the way down the high street directly into your bank account.

Maybe a few weeks or months later they come back, maybe they even eventually pay you.

But remember, late payers have a nasty habit of turning into NON-payers. Click To Tweet

Always start out with a client as you mean to go on.

It has to be ‘later alligator’ to this non-snappy reptile.

3. The Excuse Maker

Ah, the excuse maker…

They have not read your copy in full yet, but they do have feedback, however; their kid is sick at school / they are drowning in paperwork / husband is away on business / they are at a samba and yoga retreat in a rain forest in Bali at the moment and the WiFi is a bit iffy/ the cat has just vomited on the floor / the dog has eaten their homework / *delete as applicable.

You get the picture.

No doubt there will be an excuse when you send your invoice too. These people will fake their own death to get out of paying for your services.

The minute someone starts making excuses for everything they do (or don’t do) and blaming everyone including the dog for their own shortcomings/poor time management, it’s time to jump ship.

No excuses.

4. The Emotional Blackmailer

This person will suck you in with tales of how their service is essential to helping others and the survival of humanity, and how your input is desperately needed; it may even be a charity, making you feel even more guilty if you don’t help out.

You might be told that ‘everyone else provides their services for free‘ but YOU are the sole exception…you don’t mind seeing homeless children starve on the streets, kittens drowning, locusts taking over the earth.

Let’s get this absolutely clear, many charities ARE also profitable businesses that often pay their directors handsomely, and you ARE providing a service which you also deserve to be remunerated for accordingly.

You may want to work pro bono or provide a discount, and that is absolutely your prerogative, there are many causes, NGOs and wonderful charities out there you can help, but just be very careful with those who are always providing you with tales of woe (yet they seem to be living the life of Riley).

There is a saying that not everyone who smiles at you is your friend, likewise not everyone who uses emotion in an underhand way to get you to do something has your best interests at heart either.

In fact, no one who uses emotional blackmail in business to get you to do something has your best interests at heart!

5. The ‘I Can Write Better Than You’ Clowns

The moment anyone says to you ‘I am actually a really great writer, better than you, in fact, I just don’t have time to do my own copy’….RUN!

Seriously, just run away as quickly as you possibly can!

This person will simply not be able to help but tear your work to shreds because quite frankly, they would lose face if they didn’t.

These types usually have massive ego problems, so big…they probably don’t even know or care that you actually exist. You are just the writer…a mere plaything.

Like that James Bond villain...and the cat...and you are the cat's plaything's plaything. Click To Tweet

Copywriters hire other copywriters all the time, it’s nothing new, and in these circumstances, copywriter ‘A’ would not turn around to copywriter ’B’ with such a line.

Don’t stand for it, not for a minute. If they think so little of you, it’s very unlikely they are going to give a hoot whether they pay you or not either.


6. The ‘Mates Rates’ Serial Killer

You know the ones.

You may have exchanged pleasantries online, they may be part of the same Facebook group as you, or maybe it is a genuine friend from school…who you haven’t seen in like 30 years (ahem) okay 10 ish…but as you are such a good connection, you can drop your prices, right?


There is nothing wrong with providing mates’ rates, or exchanging services, in fact, this can be a great way to do business and nurture relationships…but just be wary of someone whose first gambit is the mates’ rates massive discount line.

Trust me on this one.

7. The ‘Step Over The Mark’ Chancer

When it comes to stepping over the mark, this one is an Olympic athlete.

They are the ones who contact you at all hours of the day and expect an immediate reply or push the boundaries of your relationship too far by informing you out of the blue they are about to turn up on your doorstep on a Sunday morning ‘now you are friends’.

These types flash hot and cold…pay you one minute, leave you high and dry the next.

They may even employ some of the tactics of The Emotional Blackmailer too.

You may indeed find your bank balance goes ‘one step beyond’…but not in the right direction.

Stay clear…very clear of this one.

8. The Client With Friends in High Places

You get contacted by someone who has got a client list to die for, all the latest celebs and red carpet peeps…you have even seen them getting married in Hello!

They are going to offer all these people to you on a silver platter and you are going to get a great big whopping paycheck. Woohoo…you are on your way to A list copywriter superstardom…but you are not.

No, you are so very not my friend.

Yet it starts off so promisingly, maybe you even sign an NDA (so you don’t tell the plebs about your superstar friends), and get to have a Skype call with someone ‘famous’; you are a little starstruck as they casually name drop…so you stay up all night to do the work.

You have already got your Oscar acceptance speech ready…and can almost lick the pavement of the Hollywood Walk of Fame…look…you have a little bit of gravel in your mouth.

But then you remember.

Oops…you forgot to a) agree how much you would be paid and b) didn’t get money upfront.

No Oscars for you! Plenty for them.


Okay, so the above are just a few of the unsavoury stereotypes you need to look out for, but the question remains…even if you have weeded out the obvious bad apples, what else can you do to deter potential non-payers?

Read on:

What you should do

As I mentioned before, ideally you should get at least 30 to 50% payment upfront (some people ask for 100%) and a signed agreement at the very least outlining the scope of the project.

Your agreement should not only manage expectations and include payment terms, but also timescales, copyright, confidentiality etc. I would also include a note which stipulates that if you don’t hear back within X number of days regarding revisions, you will assume the work completely acceptable and issue your final invoice.

Elaine Rogers of The Smart VA suggests watermarking documents.

She says “Watermarking is common in imagery, but can also be applied to text. Another great way to protect work before being paid is sending an image of the text so it can’t be lifted – we all know it can, but by taking basic measures to obstruct blatant copy and pasting, it may deter clients from using the text without paying”.

Of course, even if you have all this in place, there is still a chance a client will default on payment and run away with your work, in which case you may need to take legal action. Unfortunately, sometimes the stress, hassle and expense of doing this may far outweigh the benefit, so prevention is always better than cure.

Remember, you are running a business, and it is only by being paid that you can continue to do the work you love.

Take precautions.

Watch what people do...not what people say...and always, always trust your instincts. Click To Tweet

I am sure you can think of plenty more shady archetypes that we should be aware of and suggest other helpful preventative measures.

Let us know in the comments below:

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