Your Client Hates Your Work. What Do You Do?

A frustrated freelancer screaming after his work is rejected by a client.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

You’ve spent hours and hours writing. Then more hours purging your copy for mistakes. You’re sure you’ve done your best work. You ship it and then your submission comes back with a red X slapped across it.

“Hmm, this isn’t exactly what I wanted.”

Trust me. I know the gut-wrenching pain of rejection. Here’s an email I got after sending in a 1400 word sample.

“After speaking with the team, unfortunately, we feel that the tone and voice are far off what we’re looking for. Thanks for your interest in the gig and best of luck.”

This email felt like a door slamming in my face. I thought I had nailed the blog post. Unfortunately, they did not feel the same way.

Getting doors slammed in your face and drafts rejected or returned with many edits is just part of being a freelance writer. It hurts but it is pain that you learn to live with. But it does get better, as your skills grow and you learn to communicate with your clients.

Now let’s try and get into the mind of the clients. Why do they hate our best work and reject it?

There’s no pleasing some people. You can do the impossible and deliver a perfect job and yet it gets torn apart. While I’d like to say there’s a way to make this type of client love you, I’ve to say there isn’t.

They’re the type of people that go on a hike and criticize a mountain for its height.

Some clients might not like your work because they are confused. They are not quite sure what they want and they expect you to keep up with their mind as it changes. Unfortunately, telepathy does not accompany your ability to write.

The solution would be to try and get them to decide what they want. You’ve to take charge and lead them in the right direction.

It takes a lot of work to try and decipher the messages and instructions freelancers writers receive.

Prospects send messages like this, “We’d like blog posts for our blog…” and expect you to just know what they mean.

You need to ask questions.

  • Who are you trying to reach? (Target audience)
  • What are you trying to say to them? (Topic/message)
  • What do you want them to do after they read this? (CTA)

I didn’t ask a lot of questions when I started as a freelance writer and I spent many nights editing or adding more lines to what I had written. Now I ask all the questions before I start writing.

What to do when a client hates your work

You are not your work. It is that simple. The words you write and the reactions you receive do not define you.

When a client says they do not like your work they are not saying they hate you. Separating your emotions, whether elation or sadness from what you do helps shield you from unnecessary pain.

Deliver your work with confidence but do not hinge your self-esteem tight-lipped on it.

Some clients might be very vague and say they don’t exactly what you’ve done wrong.

They simply say, “I don’t like this” or “This isn’t what I wanted” and expect you to just know what they would have liked or wanted.

Instead of panicking, ask for feedback. What were they expecting? What can you do better? What sections do they have problems with?

Not all clients know how to be expressive so it is up to you to make them talk.

Not all clients will provide you with a style guide. You might have to go hunting yourself.

  • Look through existing material.
  • Take note of their tone and voice.
  • Browse through the articles and copy on their site
  • Or even better still, ask them for a style guide and an outline.

The most important step is to make changes. Take note of feedback and preferences they have and then start rewriting.

Use these simple steps to get your clients to love your work

Before getting started, I always send an outline to my clients. It helps them know what to expect and helps me because to know what direction they want to take before I start writing. This small detail saves us precious time

Properly edited and formatted work rarely gets rejected. If your words are spelled correctly and sentences arranged in a logical sequence, you’d have fewer people hating it. Every client would love that they do not have to spend hours correcting errors.

Questions are the only ways to get into the head of your client (since you can’t read minds).

When you’re approached by (or approach) a prospect, ask for information that will make your work easier.

If you notice the prospect is holding back or tight-lipped about vital information, you might want to reject the job.

In all of these things, remember to keep your temper in check.

It is very easy to lose it when a client does not know what they want or changes their minds after you agreed on what to write.

Take it in a stride. Walk away from your laptop instead of pressing send on that “strongly worded” email.

But also make sure you draw boundaries so that you.re not mentally abused. Which takes us to our next point.

Not every client is polite when expressing how they feel. If a client gets aggressive, politely tell them off and explain that you won’t tolerate such behavior. Remember you’re not a slave.

If they persist and have made an advance payment, you can refund their money. Your mental health is more important than annoying clients.

You also need to create boundaries for people that want to exploit you. Scope creep is subtle. Some clients keep adding work even after the final work is done. To avoid this, you need to make it clear the number of revisions you do or to charge them an additional fee for extra work.

In the end, you need to be confident. Each time a client does not like your work, your self-esteem takes a hit. You need to learn to fail forward. If their criticism is valid, take note of your mistakes and do better next time. If it is unreasonable, brush it off and keep moving.

Originally published at https://intrastellar.com.ng on September 8, 2020.

Content Marketing Manager at Animalz. Part-time Otaku and occasional poet.