I don’t gripe about my clients on my blog. Other people do. In fact, I see a great deal of grousing about PITA clients on freelance writing blogs.
Sometimes, these complaints are presented as part of an educational effort. You know, “this is how to handle a bad situation” stuff. There’s a moral to the story, so to speak. That makes sense to me.
In other cases, it the posts read more like invitations to commiseration. Sometimes, they’re nothing more than cathartic rants. I guess I can understand the underlying sentiments in these situations, but I can’t really imagine myself doing something like that.
It’s not that I don’t occasionally get PO’d, mind you. I just tend to reserve my moaning for those unlucky people in my more immediate social circle. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong about releasing steam in public, it’s just not part of my personality, I guess. Plus, I know it isn’t part of my business plan.
I thought I’d take a little time today to argue against publicly railing against your annoying clients–even if you make every effort to keep their identifying information under wraps.
My clients read my blog. They don’t necessarily subscribe to the RSS feed and drop everything when they notice a new post, but I know that they check in with some regularity. They mention posts in our conversations, etc.
I’d hate to alienate or upset any of them by calling them out in public. Even if I didn’t share their name, business type, info about the project, etc., they’d know that I was raking them over the coals for the world to see instead of handling the situation with a one-on-one conversation.
Additionally, I realize that I have imperfections and that I make mistakes. I’d hate to stumble upon their post about “my dumb-ass writer who apparently didn’t bother to read the last page of the project specs because I’m now waiting for editing so I can have the stuff this afternoon instead of using it this morning, as originally planned.”
If I screw something up, I don’t really need to encounter our dirty laundry in the public sphere, even if my name isn’t Sharpied on the waistband of the undies for all to read.
I also realize that some of the stuff that can drive me up the wall is nothing more than pure accident or a byproduct simple communication failure. In other cases, I’ve found that PITAs can be resolved rather easily with a little quality back-and-forth.
Venting doesn’t seem to contribute much to problem resolution. If someone irritates me, I can let loose with a stream of expletives down here in the office where no one else is going to hear them.
I’m anything but a doormat. I don’t do the subservience thing and I’m more than ready to stick up for myself if I’m being wronged. I just don’t see the value of doing it in a public setting. It feels rude to me, and I generally have a high threshold for rudeness.
Additionally, I know that some clients find me via my blog and that others look it over after receiving a referral before they contact me.
I can see how railing on bad clients could turn them off. Who wants to volunteer to work with someone who makes a point of publicly mocking or criticizing his or her clients, right?
You can argue that posts like that might send a message–that you expect a certain standards of behavior and professionalism from those with whom you work. That’s not a horrible argument, but I wonder how many prospective clients are more likely to see those gripe posts an indication that the writer is a cantankerous PITA.
Besides, it seems much more reasonable to outline expectations in one-on-one discussions. Heck, you could even outline them on a separate page of your site/blog if you feel that strongly about some issues.
Let’s say I needed to find a lawyer. I wouldn’t be magnetically attracted to the shyster with a blog post about “his stupid client who apparently doesn’t want to win this case, based on his unwillingness or inability to provide me with the necessary documentation.” I’d look for someone slightly more professional who didn’t seem quite as likely to fly off the handle if it took me a few days to find a receipt from 2002.
I don’t think I’d set up an appointment with the insurance agent who blogged about “annoying customers who take a high deductible to save money on their monthly bill and then gripe about it when they have a claim.” I’d avoid an accountant who mocked clients for misunderstanding their potential deductions, too.
In other words, I just can’t believe that openly grousing about your clients does much to encourage business.
At the same time, I really do enjoy reading Kathy Kehrli’s Irreverent Freelancer, where she makes a point of raking lousy would-be clients over the coals. I also do see the value in revealing atrocious experiences so that others can learn and benefit from them. Obviously, I can’t consider myself a hardliner on this.
So, I’ll dump it in your laps… What do you think about it? Do these public attacks on frustrating clients serve a greater good that justifies the potential downside? Are there particular standards that writers should follow when calling out a bad apple from their client barrel?