Quick Cheat Sheet for Evaluating Prospective Clients

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Just a quick hit based on an experience I’m currently going through, wherein I am re-re-learning how to avoid PITA clients. Previously, I briefly touched on what makes a great client, and today I’m sharing a brief cheat sheet of red flags that should make you pause and seriously consider whether you want to work with a prospective client or not.

Potential Client Red Flags

  1. Appears disorganized during initial communications

  2. Does not offer a written contract

  3. A Google search reveals complaints of non-payment by writers

  4. A search of Facebook writer groups reveals complaints of non-payment

  5. Expresses prior difficulty finding “good writers” or writers who can meet their expectations

  6. Track record of one-off assignments

  7. Pays on a vague or unspecified schedule

  8. Performs editing-by-committee

  9. Slow to respond to emails

  10. Expresses unrealistic expectations in initial or ongoing communications

  11. Low pay

  12. Requires full indemnification by the writer

  13. Constantly advertises for writers in online communities and listings

  14. Research reveals lower-than-expected annual revenues for a company their size

  15. Publishes health content of questionable accuracy

  16. Fails to adhere to the scope-of-work parameters stated in the contract

  17. Person who performs all the initial negotiating turns out not to be the final decision-maker

  18. Cannot articulate what they want, in terms of content deliverables

This is just a brief list, off the top of my head. As I think of more items, I’ll update this post.

Some of this information can be gleaned intuitively from your initial conversations with clients, while some of it requires more in-depth research (such as delving into publicly available financial data, if available). I always recommend having a phone or Zoom conference with prospective clients before you sign a contract, because it gives you a great opportunity to better evaluate many of the little nuances that can make or break a client relationship, such as “are they assholes?” That information often can’t be gleaned from email conversations.

I’m not saying this list positively rules out working with a client. I’m saying these red flags should alert you to potential pitfalls to further investigate before engaging in a professional relationship.

And always, always trust your gut.

Elizabeth Hanes

Elizabeth Hanes

Elizabeth Hanes BSN RN is known professionally as "the nurse who knows content." By day, she uses her nursing knowledge and creative writing acumen to produce content that drives results for clients. By night, she teaches other nurses how to achieve their dreams of a professional writing career. In between, she takes frequent breaks to drink Cosmos and walk her dog, Mitzi. Elizabeth lives in Albuquerque, NM. She has never met Walter White or needed Saul Goodman.

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