It is never easy to hear that you have not delivered over and above what the client was expecting. Your goal when serving any freelance writing client should be to give them an amazing experience that encourages them to refer you out to others and to give you business in the future. However, when you get negative feedback from a freelance writing client, this can be a jarring experience. Trust me when I say that it is much harder to receive negative feedback from a freelance writing client when you are first getting started. Of course, negative feedback will always stink and cause you to re-evaluate your approach to hiring clients and creating products. However, as you get further on down the line with your freelance writing business, you will feel more confident in your decisions and become less affected when somebody gives you negative feedback. What follows are some of my recommendations for how to handle a situation when a client gives you negative feedback.
Ask Yourself If You Have Any Blame In This
In some situations, perhaps you were sloppy; maybe you missed a deadline or maybe the work product simply wasn't what the client was looking for and you knew it before you even submitted it.
In these situations where you can accept full or partial blame, this is your opportunity to make things rights by giving the client an apology. If the client is upset and you have the opportunity to potentially fix this situation, I strongly recommend doing so. You may still be able to salvage not only this project but future projects by handling things professionally and owning up to what you could have done better. If the problem in question has to do with the client and not you, however, then choose to handle this by not burning any bridges.
How To Handle Situations Where It's the Client's Fault
If the client gave you improper directions, changed the scope of the project after you had already completed the first piece or is simply being unreasonable, you have a couple of options.
First of all, if this is a smaller project, you may wish to simply close it out and move on. It may not be worth your time to go back and forth with the client over one blog post that they just can't be happy with. If this is a bigger project, however, or if you want to stand your ground, you need to articulate the reasons why this work needs to be accepted. Try to work with the client within reason but this is one reason why your freelance writing contract should always include stipulations about how many rounds of revisions are included. Not incorporating this crucial information can be a big mistake and can lead to further frustration on your part. One way that I avoid negative feedback from freelance writing clients is to ask in the contract for them to initial a section that claims they have reviewed my writing samples and accept that the pieces provided to them will be of similar tone and style. In the past, I have had a handful of clients who have received my writing samples, then the completed work for their project and said things that were generic and extremely unhelpful such as "I just don't like it." This is not helpful for anyone who is a freelance writer because it does not provide specific feedback about what needs to be changed. Furthermore, your writing style and tone are often unique to each writer and cannot be easily switched to something else. This is why I ask my clients to verify that they have reviewed my information directly and understand that their completed work will be substantially similar to what they have already reviewed.
If you find yourself in this situation of dealing with negative feedback from a freelance client and it's not your fault, don't get upset and try to handle things professionally. Perhaps you can negotiate to receive half of the payment or three-quarters of the payment. If you have a kill fee in your contract, for example, this may also allow you to end the project and receive partial payment for what has been completed or for the aggravation of the client deciding at the last minute to cancel things.
Learn a Lesson
Whether the negative feedback from your freelance writing client was your fault or the client's, this is a great opportunity to reflect on how you are going to do things differently in the future. For example, if you did not proofread your materials carefully, budget in extra time before you handle another client's project to make sure that you've given yourself enough space to review these materials. If this client was just a difficult person to work with who would have never been pleased with any completed project, make sure you note down any red flags that you should have spotted before signing a contract and working with this person. This step alone can help you avoid future interactions with similar people. One of my lessons learned was that I needed to have my clients sign the piece of paper stipulating that they understood their work would be of substantially similar quality. This is why I have taken that action step and it has worked wonders since.
Every freelance writing client relationship is an opportunity to learn a lesson, whether it's that you have found an ideal client and you love working on a particular type of project or that you need to screen people more carefully in the future so that you don't end up with people who are not the right fit for you. Taking these steps early on can help to clarify your expectations and make for a better freelance writing relationship.