A bad client and copywriter relationshipThis morning a friend sent me a jaw-dropping email correspondence between a copywriter and a potential client.

So jaw-dropping that I felt it only fair to share it with fellow copywriters and other freelancers.

If you don’t want your clients reserving the right to ditch your work in return for a £1 fee, dictating payment terms, or giving themselves freedom to sit on your copy for months on end (without paying), then I suggest you read on.

Bare-faced cheek

The correspondence kicked off innocuously enough.

The copywriter gave the client a nudge about his proposed project. The client responded with an outline.

So far, so good.

But then the client continued:

As regards your terms:

2. Use

(a) This cannot apply.

5. Process & Timescale

(d) We cannot accept this.

(e) We cannot accept this.

(f) Our agreement must be obtained before any costs beyond the initial
are incurred.

6. Copywriter Payment Terms

(a) Payment terms are 30 days from date of invoice . . .

7. Rejection

(a) The rejection fee is £1.  If, upon receiving your first draft, we
consider that you are too wide of the mark, we must have the right to
the agreement, without obligation.

(b) We cannot accept this.

I apologise again for the delay and look forward to hearing from you.

That’s right. The client took a large blue pencil and ran it through the copywriter’s stated terms and conditions.

But were those terms and conditions unreasonable? I’ll summarise them so you can judge for yourself.

  • 2a. The copywriter grants use of words for the reason commissioned, but reserves the right to charge extra if they’re used in different media. (In other words, the copywriter is asking the client to pay for what’s commissioned and not help themselves to unlimited use).
  • 5d. The copywriter reserves the right to charge 75% of the cost if the client doesn’t get to third or final draft in 30 days. (Essential to deal with time wasters and tyre kickers).
  • 5e. The copywriter reserves the right to charge full whack if the job hasn’t reached third or final draft within 60 days. (Essential to deal with major time wasters).
  • 5f. Any amendments made after the third or final draft, or after 60 days from delivery of first draft, will be charged extra. (See comments about time wasters, above).
  • 6a. The copywriter’s payment terms – by return from date of invoice unless otherwise agreed. (No comment needed).
  • 7a. No right to reject on the basis of style, composition, editing or interpretation of the client’s needs. (If you’re in doubt, use another copywriter).
  • 7b. If the client abandons the project after the first draft and decides to finish it themselves or go elsewhere, then full payment is due. (Only fair. It’s a commission, not a request to complete speculative work).

As far as I can see, the potential client wants the copywriter to shoulder all the risk while reserving complete freedom to reject the work, stall and generally muck a professional around.

Perhaps you disagree?

Maybe so. But I know one thing for sure – I’m going to be revisiting our own T&Cs very soon.

I can’t think of a better way of weeding out people we don’t want to work with.