Client’s General Attitude and Demeanor
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Clients Who Treat Freelancers Like Children or Servants
Close relatives of openly hostile clients, these ones aren’t overtly verbally abusive, but still make you feel like you’re being talked down to. These folks write long, verbose project specifications, which sound like instructions being given to a third-grade class. Sometimes they put little “code words” in the project description, and demand that you put the code word at the top of your proposal to “prove that you read the project”.
I don’t consider this behavior to be an automatic show-stopper the way I do offensive language. I find it insulting when I read “Put ‘jabberwocky’ as the first line of your proposal to prove you read this”, but I can understand the frustration that clients feel that leads to this technique. There really are far too many contractors who apply to jobs without even reading what they are about.
But I still prefer to avoid these clients, for two reasons. First, regardless of justification, it indicates to me a lack of professionalism, patience, and simple courtesy. And second, as mentioned above, this behavior is often the sign of a cheapskate: if you pay reasonable rates you get reasonable freelancers without having to resort to this nonsense. A client who makes a habit of posting projects that talk down to people does it because he or she knows that it’s necessary due to the low caliber of person his low rates will attract.
Nobody wants to work for someone who doesn’t value the work they do, but unfortunately, some clients are like this. Sometimes this devaluing is unintentional; the client doesn’t realize that he or she is being insulting. But it’s also sometimes deliberately done in an effort to drive down bids.
The most common examples are claims that the work is “easy” or “simple”, or suggestions that the client “could do the work himself” if only he weren’t “so busy”. A client who says things like this is sending you a clear message: he doesn’t think what you do is of much value, and isn’t going to pay much.
A more difficult issue is when clients try to put estimates on how long the work will take, by saying “this should only take a few hours/minutes”. Sometimes this is a legitimate effort to indicate what the client believes to be the scope of the work. More often, however, it’s just another way to try to get contractors to bid as cheaply as possible. I’ve had success in the past politely telling a client how long I thought a project would take, and why his or her “only a few” estimate was wrong. But most of the time, you’ll just get ignored.
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