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darrenwall74
Member

Going above and beyond for a client - When is too much?

Hello, everyone,

 

I am looking to pick your brains and get your thoughts on an issue I find myself in.

 

I have a client for whom I regularly write consumer focussed product articles. He sets the topics, researches the keywords, and sets the word count. I go off, research, write, do the SEO, and post into WordPress.

 

All was fine until January when he rather strangely began complaining that the articles were not displaying in the SERPS, (on Google,) to his liking. At first, he did not out-right blame me, however, now, he is. And suggests that I either under or overuse keywords, although he is not sure which, but, I must somehow put it right?

 

What I can tell you is, I do not overuse keywords, yes, I add them where naturally possible, guided by the Yoast WordPress plugin that he has installed. It seems as though, he just started to clutch at straws overnight for an answer to his websites problems, it has code issues and is not compliant in many respects!

 

I have, of course, informed him of the facts, and bent over backward to help him, and give him advice, but, he seems blinded by inaccurate information.

 

How would you deal with such a person?

10 REPLIES 10
renata101
Member

Hi Darren,

This is really a great topic for the forum because a lot of people have trouble with these sorts of issues. And they tend to come up a lot any time you're doing any kind of work that can be subjectively judged (i.e., this is par for the course if you're doing any type of audio or video editing, graphic design, or anything related to language --writing, editing, etc).  Sometimes this gets into the realm of what developers call "scope creep."

While it's good to want to put out a solid professional product that you stand behind, you also need to protect your own interests in doing so.

I guess the way you handle it depends on how much of your time it's taking and whether or not you're going "above and beyond" on paid time or your own time.  Another factor is whether you're doing your work as part of a fixed-price contract or whether you're being paid by the hour (and hence, you're being compensated for the time you spend on it).

One of the best ways to deal with this is to attempt to avoid it early on by clarifying what is that your client is looking for and what the contract includes and what it doesn't.  One thing that I've seen designers do is set up their fixed-price contracts to include milestones that specifically deal with revisions.  That can keep clients aware of the cost of asking for endless changes. It might be worthwhile to search the designer's section of the forum for discussions on this.

So  at this point, the way you handle your issue might depend on how your contract is set up.

And just to point out that this is a problem everyone encounters eventually, this is a recent post by someone who's struggling with a "scope creep"/10000-tiny revisions/client-never-seems-satisfied  issue:

https://community.upwork.com/t5/Freelancers/Help-with-a-client/td-p/458613

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Renata.

 

Regarding the job description and its remit, I have consistently asked the client to provide a brief; however, I feel he prefers not to, so he can try to gain extra work.

 

Having read about the problems, Chelsea had with her client; I realize my only recourse is to let mine go. 

 

IMO there are actually two issues here.

 

1. The usual "scope creep."

 

2. Performance-based project success metrics.

 

You are doing your job, but the client isn't getting the end results he wants/needs/expects, and so you are an easy scapegoat.

 

I recognize in advance that others may not have this luxury, but one of my prospective job "radar sniffers" is a hair-trigger sensor for anything suggesting that my work is going to be judged based directly on the client's success. Because that success nearly always involves factors beyond my control.

 

Thus, I avoid any jobs involving sales, or with phrases like "put me on the first page in Google" or "give my site a high conversion rate" or even most listings using the phrases "SEO" or "keywords." I'm sure there are people here good enough to be able to actually make those guarantees, but I'm not one of them.

 

While I'm in the neighborhood, any job with the phrases "simple task," "super star," "rock star" or similar should be treated as guilty until proven innocent.

Hi, Charles, thank you for your input.

 

Regarding my client, he is a new site owner in an extremely competitive niche, and he does not understand, (or try to,) all of the factors involved in getting a site and its content to rank. He falls into the bracket of "I want quick results, and I will blame everyone else if I don't get them," kind of person.

 

In that regard, I told him today, that, his job was the first one in my years of experience where my articles have been judged by their SERPS performance and not their quality, detail, questions answered, etc.

 

His answer, "Well that's just how it is!" I pointed out that, to get exactly what he wants he should provide a brief, but he's not interested. In fact, he said, "If you don't like it I will find someone who does."

 

As such, I have decided to let him go, as I realize hours of him toing and froing between different keyword strategies for a single piece after the fact, is not worth my time.

 

 


@Darren w wrote:

 


His answer, "Well that's just how it is!" I pointed out that, to get exactly what he wants he should provide a brief, but he's not interested. In fact, he said, "If you don't like it I will find someone who does."

 

As such, I have decided to let him go, as I realize hours of him toing and froing between different keyword strategies for a single piece after the fact, is not worth my time.

 

 


I've condensed your response. One of the key "problem client" characteristics I'm now really tuned into is condescension and  lack of willingness to provide adequate input to assist with problem solving.  In terms of red flags in job postings, I look for any assessment of the work that suggests "this should be easy for a professional" or "this should take a professional no more that an hour". If the client is not a professional in my area, how can they make this assessment?  

I have one or two clients who are a little challenging to work with for a variety of reasons. The big difference is they tend to understand why things are challenging and they respect what I put out. That means the energy I put into a project is directed towards the project, not to trying to figuring out new and better ways to try to manage unreasonable  expectations or to rework something that wasn't well thought out in the first place into a high quality product without adequate client input.

I think I've even resorted to telling a couple of people that hiring someone to edit your work is not like dropping off your laundry.  I've found that some clients come around when presented with a blunt statement like this; some don't. 
 

Renata, that was some great advice - I appreciate it. I come to this forum largely to get the insight of other freelancers into how to best manage clients, manage Upwork, etc.

 

In addition to Renata's post, the advice I've read on this forum that has helped me most is:

1. underpromise, over-deliver

2. be super clear (in writing within Upwork) about the scope and expectations before you contract. Often, this isn't a matter of being clear before contracting - it becomes about them getting nasty if you try to be clear, and then I know it's best not to contract.

And the one I've used that has made the most difference: If I get any intuitive twinge of warning, I back out before contracting. I have recently gotten into two contracts where the client obviously understood how to use threat of feedback to increase the scope. In both of those, my freelancer spidey sense had told me to run before contracting, and I should have listened.

Thanks again for others' insight into managing clients, and avoiding bad ones - I'd love to read more.

Denise

For future reference (because it is too late with this client), the minute you recognize that a client is behaving unreasonably, you should begin working on a graceful exit. Do not argue with the client because they won't listen. Just get out. Remove yourself from the situation in a way that does not indicate blame (especially blaming the client). If you argue and leave due to disagreement, an unreasonable client will punish you in his or her review. Better to just become busy or indicate that you don't think you can do what the client asks. Take the blame and save your reputation. 


@Charles K wrote:

IMO there are actually two issues here.

 

1. The usual "scope creep."

 

2. Performance-based project success metrics.

 

You are doing your job, but the client isn't getting the end results he wants/needs/expects, and so you are an easy scapegoat.

 

I recognize in advance that others may not have this luxury, but one of my prospective job "radar sniffers" is a hair-trigger sensor for anything suggesting that my work is going to be judged based directly on the client's success. Because that success nearly always involves factors beyond my control.

 

Thus, I avoid any jobs involving sales, or with phrases like "put me on the first page in Google" or "give my site a high conversion rate" or even most listings using the phrases "SEO" or "keywords." I'm sure there are people here good enough to be able to actually make those guarantees, but I'm not one of them.

 

While I'm in the neighborhood, any job with the phrases "simple task," "super star," "rock star" or similar should be treated as guilty until proven innocent.


The second point really hits home with me. It's sometimes why I'm super selective if I'm going to edit an academic thesis.  Ethically and professionally, I have certain limitations on these projects:  I can't improve anyone's arguments. If they say something ludicrous, I can make it into a clearer statement so others can understand how ridiculous it is,  or I can flag it as something they should potentially omit or rethink, but I can't make the argument itself any different because the idea of a thesis is that students are supposed to be presenting their own original thinking (not mine).  I think  one guy recently actually gave me a rating based on the grade the paper I edited for him received. This was for an incredibly last-minute project in which there was no time for him to actually incorporate any of the changes I would have suggested to strenghten his work.   

d3d571ad
Member

Google is constantly changing up their algorithms and ranking criteria between the Pandas, Penguins and Pigeons, in order to keep the masses in flux, and hopefully force them into running ads in order to drive traffic to their websites.  Google is in this to make money, not provide a public service.  That's what your client needs to understand.  And he might just learn this if and when he switches to a new product writer.  


@Charles W wrote:

Google is constantly changing up their algorithms and ranking criteria between the Pandas, Penguins and Pigeons, in order to keep the masses in flux, and hopefully force them into running ads in order to drive traffic to their websites.  Google is in this to make money, not provide a public service.  That's what your client needs to understand.  And he might just learn this if and when he switches to a new product writer.  


 That I agree and other fact is that there is lot of crap on the web.  Many have learned to game the system.  Google is #1 becasue people google stuff to get useful information.  User's don't like the fact that the first page is full of crap and they are redirected to something they have no intention of patronizing.

 

People are getting sick of reading one cent a word blog posts loaded with nothing but keywords.

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