I’ve been writing professionally for more than five years, but only in the last few months have I experienced several issues with third party clients. I’m sure I’m not the first business owner to encounter problems, so I thought a post on this would get people talking.
I consider third party clients those placing their order for writing through a middle man. For me, this middle man is often a designer or SEO company, but it can also be other writers, marketing or PR agencies, or any other person or company wanting to outsource writing needs. In one instance I encountered, it was a third party editor and I’m still not sure of the person’s exact role with my immediate client.
The issue arose after several submissions to my client. For months she took responsibility for approving my work and was happy with my submissions. And then suddenly she wasn’t happy and said the work was different than anything I’d submitted.
When I asked what had changed, she forwarded an email from her “new editor.” The email gave no specific editing suggestions and said the piece was too simplistic and “not good enough.” As an aside, it also included a link for purchasing vitamins, so I’m guessing editing was not this person’s primary source of income.
Anyway, I asked for specifics from my immediate client. I never had direct interaction with the editor. Instead, my client asked not for edits, but upgraded material. She wanted longer articles with links to studies. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with upgraded material, but it’s not going to come at the same rate as basic work. It took several days to work through this and ultimately ended the project. The client purchased one set of upgraded material, but was unwilling to pay the higher rate for the long haul.
I think I handled the situation as well as I could. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of this would have occurred were it not for the third party involvement. My client was happy for months until the negative feedback from the third party. Had the client decided she wanted upgraded content, we could have worked out a fair rate and set up new standards for the project. Since the idea for this upgrade came to her through someone who jumped on board later in the project, the expectations were unreasonable.
Of course, I realize this third party editor might now be handling the project from beginning to end. If so, this is not only my first exposure to negative third party situations, it’s also my first exposure to the seedy underbelly of freelance writing.
UPDATE: The client returned and asked that I work on a new project. Nothing was said about the previous submission and so far, so good with this round of work.
Is It Always This Bad?
Needless to say, I cringed when another third party situation cropped up a couple of weeks later. Luckily, this went much better. My immediate client arranged a phone meeting for the three of us and we worked through the issue. The third party client appeared to be asking for work outside of the original parameters, my immediate client had my back, we discussed the issue, and we moved forward with the project. I even received an email from the third party asking for future work.
I believe the problem with the first situation was an isolated incident. Unfortunately, it cost me what I thought was a great client. I enjoyed the project, it was subject matter I love, and there were a lot of opportunities for the future. I suppose something would have gone wrong eventually, so this just saved future headaches. And once again I’ll be tweaking my contract to avoid similar challenges.
So, do you have third party client horror stories? Do you find the majority of your work is for your immediate client or are they packaging your work with other material and sending it on to a third party? Do you have any tips for dealing with this type of client relationship? Share your thoughts below or join me on Twitter to discuss how you handle third party client.