Ooh Nelly! I think we’ve got a live one today!
(Wow, that really makes me sound like the Nebraska boy I am…)
Here’s the thing. I just let a question jump the normal Mailbox Monday queue. Regular Breakthrough Marketing Secrets reader and social media sharer extraordinaire Larry E was posting this question in a couple Facebook groups yesterday (I got a handful of notifications back-to-back). And I wasn’t really working yesterday, or even active in social media, but I really wanted to answer the question for him.
Then, I realized I have the perfect venue: Mailbox Monday!
So I dropped him a note, asked him to send it my way, and now I have a big block of time I can dedicate to answering it here AND delivering YOU, my loyal Breakthrough Marketing Secrets reader, a ton of value.
This is especially important if you’re a freelancer (and especially a freelance copywriter) who has ever had client headaches…
We’ll dive into Larry’s question…
What happens when you do a rear end rev share Copy deal in March for a large Trader publication (stupidly no contract..I know…kicking myself believe me) based on the fact it’s going to be emailed in April ( i.e. Rev share as early as May) and the client failed to do due diligence on the list he supposedly bartered as trade with and now WONT buy a list, but is trying, in vain, to develop another trade. All of the supposed partners have same problem in that third party can not email to their leased lists nor can they email directly for my clients subscription.
July and I haven’t seen dime one for a great campaign I put together which is still evergreen but there is no end in sight for email to any list. Over 40 hours into this!
Supposed to have gone out to a list of 400,000 which even a 1% conversion would bring me a nice piece of change.
Do I have any recourse?
Tried to get him to advance to no avail!
Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.
This gets my blood boiling!
I’ve heard tell of a very famous Gary Halbert seminar.
Gary shows up 15 minutes late, to his own seminar, roomful of potential clients and folks who’d spent thousands of dollars and flown hundreds of miles (plus driven from the Miami airport to Key West where the seminar was being held)…
Gary’s wearing a mesh beach shirt, Bermuda shorts, and a baseball hat emblazoned with the words “Clients Suck!”
And he proceeds to rant, for the next 20 minutes, about how horrible clients are. How great his life would be if he didn’t have to work with clients. How he’d be happy to never have to talk to another client another day in his life.
And then he launches into his list of “The Top 10 Reasons Copywriters Don’t Get Paid…”
Revealing #1: Client screws it up.
#2: Client screws it up.
#3: Client screws it up.
And so on. And so forth. You get the point.
(Turns out this rant really just made all the clients in the room WANT TO HIRE HIM MORE and, in fact, be really-well behaved and pay him whatever he wanted. But that’s a point for another essay.)
The point here is:
Gary was right! Clients can really suck!
Another friend of Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, Doberman Dan, has his own Gary Halbert story.
(Congrats on the wedding by the way Dan!)
Dan worked directly with Gary. Gary had gotten an email from a potential client, looking for copywriters. Gary wasn’t looking for client gigs, and he didn’t want to pass off a bum client to one of his proteges.
So basically, Gary told the guy off.
He ranted at him. “I know of only three copywriters who can do the job… charge a flat fee of 7500 and all of it has to be paid up front… They will not email you or talk with you on the phone or communicate with you in anyway until they have been paid… [much more of this]… If you can do it, contact me. If you can’t, please don’t email me again…”
The original email from Gary was much longer. Very aggressively telling the client that if they’re not willing to drop $7,500 up front on a copywriter’s fee, he doesn’t want to hear from them again.
(Read Dan’s original telling of this story here.)
You think, “But that’s Sir Gary of Halbert, the Prince of Print. Clients wouldn’t ever take that from ME!”
Halbert became Halbert because of this. Not the other way around. If he didn’t take this attitude to dealing with clients, he would never have developed the reputation we know today.
One more crazy idea from the Halbert camp, before I start reflecting on Larry’s specific situation…
I don’t remember where I heard this from. I’m pretty sure it was secondhand.
Maybe it came from John Carlton. Maybe from another one of Halbert’s students.
But I’m pretty certain the idea originated with Gary.
Basically, price your projects this way: Get enough money up front that all your bills will be paid for the time you’ll spend working on it, when you’re done with the work, you should get another payment that lets you live in comfort, and only ever rely on royalties and pay for performance arrangements for “get rich money.”
Or, to put it more bluntly:
Assume that your client will never pay you another penny once you’ve done the work for them!
A few reflections on this, before we get to how to respond to the situation above…
First off, I’m pretty sure the direct response world that Halbert came up in was way more “Wild West” than the clients I work with today.
“Clients Suck” and the above advice on payments are a result of those clients.
Today, it’s a lot harder to hide. And most bigger direct response companies know that copywriters butter their bread, so they’re happy to treat them well.
But it used to be a lot harder to catch up with someone who was trying to screw you.
It can absolutely still happen today. And does. Especially among the more entrepreneurial or fringe markets.
But I’m way less concerned about it in working with major marketers than I would be if, for example, all my copywriting clients were much smaller shops.
And yet, it’s still good to remember. And in fact, my arrangements today do protect me from this, should it happen. This was intentional.
Today, I won’t work without 50% of my project fee up front. I always at least have a “paper trail” in the form of emailed agreements with a client, stipulating the terms of work and payment. (Most of my clients have internal contracts they use, which I read carefully and sign if all terms work for me.) And when I complete work, I get the other 50% of my project fee.
That way, I never NEED royalties. Royalties are great. But I never NEED them. That’s a position you don’t want to be in.
You will not reliably eat if you relinquish your ability to buy groceries to someone else performing to expectation.
In other words, don’t leave it up to them doing their work for you to get paid!
Back to Larry’s situation.
Sorry to tell ya bud, but you might be in a position where you walk away, the most valuable outcome being the lesson learned.
If you legitimately do not have any kind of contract/agreement outlining all the expectations and arrangements, you don’t have a lot to go on here.
And you know it.
You let yourself get talked into a bad arrangement, probably on the back of some pretty big promises, and now it’s all falling through.
And there’s not a lot you can do.
The biggest lesson: if they’re not professional enough to at least give you some nominal advance or fee, they’re probably also not professional enough to track and pay royalties!
Again, from my copywriting royalties training, I talk about some of the rough lessons I’ve learned. Like how some otherwise good clients end up not pulling their weight on the royalties front, because they’re just not organized enough to get the payments to me.
And if a client REFUSED to pay me an advance or fee?
I wouldn’t have a hope that they’d come around and be diligent about paying me the royalties I’ve earned.
If the client sucks, it’s really, really hard to get paid.
So: what do you do in a horrible situation?
My top piece of advice is to learn from it.
Never take on a client again who isn’t willing to at least put a little skin in the game up front. If they don’t pay you up front, they won’t respect you. You’ve gotta walk away. Better to walk away and spend those 40 hours finding a better client than to sink it in a bad client, get these emotional bruises, and be no better off.
My second piece of advice is to seriously consider whether their behavior is enough to out them for.
In 99.9% of cases, I’d probably walk away after telling them that what they did was unacceptable and I’d never want to work with them. But if you’re dealing with someone who you think is going to turn around and do this to more copywriters, especially if they’re very active in certain social media groups, it may be worth a note within those groups saying something to the effect of, “I don’t want to make a big public deal of this, but if there are any freelancers considering work with client XYZ, I strongly recommend you message me privately so I can share my story before you agree to any work.”
Third, probably forget my second piece of advice, and just drop the client and walk away.
There’s an old Buddhist parable…
Two monks are walking through the woods. They come to a river, and there is a woman there, wanting to cross, but not wanting to get wet. The older monk offers to carry her across. She accepts, and the younger monk is aghast. After they’ve crossed and the woman and monks have parted ways, the young monk protests. “You know we’re not supposed to touch women. And yet you carried that woman across the river!” The older monk replies, “Yes, and then I put her down. But I can see that you’re still carrying her.”
The longer you carry the burden of this client’s shit on your shoulders, the more of a negative impact it’s going to have on your life, your business, your copy, your everything.
Put it down, and walk away.
Even, forgive them for their errant ways (this is for you, emotionally) but never forget it, and learn what you’d do differently next time.
If you take that seriously, it hurts short term, but the long-term rewards of that mistake will be many.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
PS: If you’re a copywriter who wants to charge royalties, spending $37 to get access to my Copywriting Royalties and Pay for Performance program through BTMSinsiders is not really an option — it’s required and a total bargain. Click here.
Like This? Get More...
Get daily marketing tips by email... Enter your info below!