I’ve been a freelance writer for 21 years and a freelance book ghostwriter for 10, and even I still make stupid mistakes… like giving clients a break on my fee. Never, ever do this. I had an author from the West Coast with a really interesting book idea and a comprehensive outline. Outlining is a big part of my task, so when he sent me the outline and asked if I might drop my price a bit, I said “What the hell.” First mistake.
I should note that this gent is quite affluent, so he could have paid my fee with no trouble.
Predictably, over the coming weeks, his entire outline got thrown out and we went back to square one.
Second mistake: I mentioned that I could throw together a quick book proposal for him if he wanted to seek a publisher. This turned into him guilting me into doing a full-length proposal, a project for which I usually charge $8,000. Did he offer to pay me for the extra work or even thank me for it? Perish the thought.
Over the ensuing months, this hell-client managed to get me to edit speeches for him and even design a reader quiz, all without fee or even thanks, simply because I had established myself as a pushover to an author who was an entitled narcissist. The final straw was the seventh draft of an initial book chapter that we both agreed I absolutely crushed. It was perfect. No more changes needed. Until the next day when my client sent me a page of them.
Your faithful idiot (me) went back to my contract and, to my horror, realized that when I had updated my work for hire agreement, I had removed the typical “three rounds of revisions” clause, leaving myself unprotected from the client’s endless changes.
Camel’s. Back. Broken. I fired the client the next day, ate the remaining fees I had coming, and breathed a sigh of relief. To my knowledge, he’s still editing his chapter two months later.
The moral of the story: we’re all susceptible to wanting to be kind, but to quote Admiral Akbar, it’s a trap. Clients who want to work with us can pay our full fees and pay us for any extra work. To do otherwise opens us up to being taken advantage of. In fact, I’m raising my fees.
Yeah. Caveat emptor. My sympathies.