Impossible Client Expectations
May 13, 2012 | ~2 mins read time.

A couple of days ago, an old friend, Heidi, posted a PSA for her readers on her blog, The Happy Freelancer [there used to be links here, but the blog has been replaced] The post, "Walking Away from a Potential Client", had me reminiscing in a comment about an extremely rude potential client. I don't know whether the universe was bent on biting me on the posterior and taking out a chunk, but I had a run in yesterday with a client over a short 350 word article.

I've been taking on projects that I would normally pass up because I need to work on regaining a client base after having been off the market for nearly two years. The project in question was a SEO article. I hate writing them, but sometimes a girl's got to do what a girl's got to do. The pay was only $5.00, but it was about home computer use and what a person can do with one's PC for business purposes. This is an "in my sleep" topic. I was, however, awake and it took me around five minutes. The hard part was keeping the word count down and using the keyword phrase, "using your computer," 10 times. Ten times exactly. In 350 words.

Among the client's myriad instructions were these four pertaining to spelling and grammar:

  • Do not change the keyword, even if wrong tense or spelling - SEO PURPOSES!
  • Use strict third person, formal style
  • American English only!
  • Will not be accepted if spell and grammar bad

So I wrote in strict third person, except the keyword phrase which contains "your" and is definitely not in the third person. I submit the article and a couple of hours later I receive the following message from the client:

I told you only to use STRICT third person style, and yet you use the word "YOUR" in the article 10 times. You MUST rewrite or I won't accept!

I stared at my screen and Samuel L. Jackson was there. The "English, motherfucker, do you speak it?" scene from Pulp Fiction on a loop in my head for a few minutes as my brain calmed enough to respond to the client with:

Yes, "your" is in the article a total of 10 times. Your instructions clearly state that the keyword had to be used exactly 10 times and was not to be altered because of the SEO nature of the article. Otherwise, I adhered to your request for strict third person. Unless you agree to allow me to change the keyword to match the third person or allow me to use a different point of view, how, exactly, do you propose I keep strictly to the third person?

I'm not sure if I was over-snarky or not, but I still haven't gotten a response. I'm not sad and I suspect, once again, that this was an attempt to get an additional "re-write" article out of me without negotiating for one. Either way, watch out for those impossible client expectations!