I’ve taken on a lot small business clients over the years. Stay away from this type of work; or, if you must do it, make sure you’re still hunting better opportunities. I’ll tell you a story I lived over and over again with ecommerce clients in five points, which proves you shouldn’t write for them.
1. They Chew Your Ear Off
Usually, my small business clients are ecommerce clients looking for two or more weekly blog posts. They are willing to pay $25 per blog post, but they almost always want to talk on the phone or Skype before you start writing. This is the first of many unnecessary meetings. Rest assured, I’m not doing it anymore and neither should you.
Editorial feedback is all I should hear from them, but it’s never that way. They always want more from the relationship. Sometimes, I’d try being upfront about cost. I’d let them know my time is precious and valuable, and usually I’d get promises for more money down the road for additional services. It’s exhaustive communication, and it’s something most writers can’t afford. It doesn’t help the client’s business either.
That isn’t to say these relationships aren’t endearing. Small business owners are rightfully proud of their companies. If I could afford it, I’d listen to them tell me that all day long. I had to learn to say no, and I hope you can too; especially it’s important to shut down the rude clients. These are the ones who baited me with opportunities, only to chew my ear about themselves.
That being said, some of my best business relationships started out as small jobs. I always look forward to phone calls from my friend Sandra in California who once hired me to write posts for her website, www.Hempista.com. The difference is Sandra and I are a bit alike, we are colleagues. She never sought me out to mentor her business, but rather she mentors me and equally dispenses insight and anecdotes with me.
I should note that Sandra is not in the ecommerce business, but rather is the successful author of The Cannabis Spa at Home. Connections such as that are invaluable to growing your successful writing business, but not everyone you work for will have such an impact. If you find your client is demanding too much time, walk away because it’s not a real opportunity, and it’s sucking up time you could be using to land higher paying jobs.
2. They Can’t Afford You
In my experience, small businesses don’t have the money to really do what needs to be done. That’s why I avoid them at all costs now. I made the mistake of seeing their long-winded communication efforts as an opportunity to sell my skills. It wasn’t.
If I was only being asked to write blogs and nothing else, I wouldn’t have asked about their goals in regards to content. They called me anyway. In some cases, I was able to sell social media work, but the ROI on social media posts isn’t good. I would tell them that, but they never listened. This is because social media work is cheap, but cheap stuff doesn’t improve their website or my life, but it would keep me communicating with them. I know my worth, but they still tried to stretch the buck and get more hours out of me than they were willing to pay for.
Small business will nickel and dime every opportunity you present to them. They won’t pay you to promote anything you create for them with your Google AdWords account. Even when I offered special discounts only I could receive, they were reluctant to create a budget for me to advertise with, but they’d sure talk discuss it to death. And, this is almost every small business client I’ve ever had – I’m basing this on a lot of work.
Think about it this way – you’re getting paid $25 to write a blog post that takes 1 ½ to 2 hours. Factor in all the time it takes to communicate with them and all the services they refuse to buy from you, and your hourly rate is going to go way down. You’ll make more money picking up articles at a content farm than enduring drawn out, unfruitful meetings.
3. They Steal Your Good Ideas
You’re full to the brim with good ideas; they know it and you should know it about yourself. Personally, I have a growing expertise in analytics and driving traffic with outbound links. I am a seasoned content writer with knowledge of Google’s complex algorithms, and I’m a talented saleswoman. There are clients who’ve attempted to exploit this. My first encounter with this misbehavior came years ago when I was first starting out.
A local plumbing company had contacted me to write content for their site – very cheap content. Their site’s SEO was being managed by HubPages, which was a bit suicidal for what they wanted (dominance over some expensive keywords and phrases, including “Rochester plumber”). Still a bit green, I jumped at the opportunity to work for a local business, and showed the owner’s son where links where broken, where content was missing, and exactly what I’d do to clean it up. I also told him what type of inbound and outbound content was needed to improve their Google rankings.
I wasn’t upset when he started to do the work he’d promised to pay me for himself. He quickly learned that it sounds easy, but it’s not and it’s time consuming. I realized they would not make a budget for me, and I was content to move on; however, he was not keen on letting his guru go. He repeatedly called and texted me with his questions. And, if I didn’t respond, he’d send another message a couple hours later with many question marks.
He unabashedly worked on the job they’d promised to hire me for, and then sought me out for solutions when things didn’t go his way. When I tried to explain this, he treated me like a petulant employee. He told me that the money would come when I did my job, which was shocking because I’d planned to do the job. I wanted to; instead, I was asked for a tutorial and then left hanging.
A few months later, the owner’s son contacted me again. Nothing had gone their way in regards to HubPages and his own attempts at content marketing. I told him I’d be happy to do the work for a retainer fee of two hundred dollars, which is cheap. I’d never do that amount of work for so little money today, but this was seven years ago. He said no. He said he was just hoping I could help him out again, and then he linked me to where he was struggling. I blocked his email address from ever contacting me again.
4. The Work Dries Up
As far as blog posts are considered, the thing they initially hire you for, there always comes weeks where they don’t want them. To that, my response is always the same – Google rewards blogs that have at least three posts a week. You will lose out if you don’t publish at least the two you initially wanted. They don’t care, probably because they can’t afford it.
It’s crazy, but even on the weeks I wasn’t getting paid, my small business clients would still want to gab. They will call you about stuff that doesn’t even pertain to you, such as their other business needs or even their personal lives. This is usually when I quit. I either send an email saying I’m too busy to continue, or we ghost each other. They’ll feel me pulling away, so they’ll get back online to find another writer to exploit. The sad thing is they probably don’t even realize what they’re doing, and their websites often are big failures until they finally, if ever, get their online marketing in order.
5. They Don’t Pay Enough
At the end of the day, the struggle isn’t worth the fifty bucks you may make per week with a small business client. I learned I can do better, and I get paid way more for less headache-inducing projects. We don’t need these types of clients. They need us (that’s for damn sure), but we don’t need them; especially because they’re not willing to pay our worth.
If you’re struggling to find writing jobs. Check out these links. They outline where you should apply to find the best jobs online – the ones that are the lowest maintenance and pay the most money.
In the meantime, you may have to work with some small businesses to supplement your income, but you can escape the merry-go-round if you keep searching for better opportunities. That’s what I did. They can’t afford you, but there are plenty of places that can. Gravitate toward larger companies, corporations, hugely trafficked websites/blogs, and marketing companies. Good luck and leave a comment if you’re got feedback, have questions, need a word of advice, or just want to say hello.