Your Freelance Writing Clients Know You’re Lying

Freelance writing clients are smart cookies. Most of them know when they’re being conned or lied to. In today’s public and open world of freelancing, you can’t call in sick and head to the beach. You can’t claim an aunt died when you really just want a few days off. If you’re going to lie to your clients, keep in mind that in most cases they’ll find out.

Don’t Invite Clients to View Your Personal Details if You’re Going to Be Dishonest

As freelance writers we work hard, but we still maintain flexible schedules. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to take time off any time we like. Still, sometimes opportunities present themselves or we find ourselves not wanting or not able to work while still being on deadline. Instead of planning ahead or rearranging their schedules, some freelancers will make up little fibs about not delivering to clients as promised. Back in the day, clients would be none the wiser unless they ran into their writers in an elevator or something. Nowadays, it’s easy to catch on.

If a writer claims to be too sick to work yet talks often on Twitter and Facebook about having lunch with the girls or going to a party that night, the client will find out if he or she is a follower in said networks. If you’re photographed being in one place while begging out of another place, and said image appears on a popular blog or website, your client is sure to find out about it. If you publicly do or say something and others talk about it, your clients could find out.

Today’s freelance writers are living very public lives, even if they don’t want to be public people. Now, there are steps you can take to prevent private details from becoming public, but when it comes to your business honesty is always the best policy. Also, if writers don’t want their clients to find out what they’re doing during their down time, it’s best to either create a separate business account on the social networks, or don’t allow or invite clients to participate in private Facebook discussions.

How to Freelance Writers Can Be Flexible and Honest at the Same Time

So you’re working, and a friend calls and asks if you want to take a day off and go shopping. You’re on deadline and really can’t go, but the idea of going is so appealing and distracting you want to blow off the deadline anyway.  Now you’ll have to make some excuses to your client.

Or how about this one:

You have several clients. Some are more lucrative than others. As a result the “big” clients get all your attention while the smaller clients get the shaft. You often tell the people you work for your child is sick or you’re having school emergencies but discuss online how busy you are with other client projects. Eventually the shafted clients come to realize this and end the relationship.

And what about:

You’re busy. You’re so busy you can’t possible keep up with all the work. You don’t want to give up your clients because you need the money, but you’re increasingly less reliable. You have constant excuses and your client is getting frustrated.

What’s a better way to handle these scenarios?

  • Don’t leave deadlines to the last minute: Being busy is cool and all, but when you’re so swamped each bit of writing is turned in at the very last minute, you’re never going to have any time for fun. Assess your client situation and your schedule to see how you can work it so that your projects are all ahead of your deadlines. This will allow for better flexibility and if you want to blow off work for a day you’re not going to lose your client.
  • Don’t go shopping: Seriously. Flexibility rocks and all, but if you’re going to keep blowing off clients in favor of fun things to do, you have no business freelancing anyway.
  • Be flexible with your flexibility: Blowing off work in favor of a fun day is cool and all, but who says you have to blow anything off? Instead of dropping everything and running off with your BFFs, ask if you can meet in a few hours after you complete deadlines. Or leave early. Attend whatever it is you want to attend but leave yourself enough time to come back and complete the work in time to save the gig. No one says you have to miss deadlines in order to do fun things anyway.
  • Plan ahead: Spontaneity is fun and all, but sometimes you have to plan your fun. Suggest to your friend, “I really do want to take a day to go shopping but I’m on deadline today, can we do it Friday?” You can also set aside a specific time each week to do a non-writing related activity and plan your schedule accordingly.
  • Don’t talk about what you’re doing if you’re gong to lie to people: A day at the beach is fun and all, but if you’re going to screw off on a project and make a lame excuse, don’t post photos to your Facebook if your client has access to your account. Don’t Tweet. Don’t Foursquare. Don’t do it.
  • Don’t deliver what you can’t promise: Having lots of clients is lucrative and all, but blowing off one client in favor of another is only going to mean you’re going to lose a client. If you can’t do the work be honest with your clients. Let them hire someone who is more into their projects and truly has their best interests at heart.

What to Do if Your Client Catches You in a Lie

So…you decide to blow off work in favor of a day at the beach but you have a project that absolutely must go to a client TODAY. You jot a brief note explaining some vague family emergency, send it off to your client and  rush off. You check in at the beach using FourSquare and Tweet about a sandcastle contest. You even post images and updates on Facebook. Your client sees some of your activity and calls you on it. What do you do?


That’s it. No explanation necessary. Apologize. Let your freelance writing client know you were unprofessional. You might also offer a discount or freebie for blowing the deadline, but you have no choice but to say your sorry. Don’t lie again or make up lame excuses to cover for your original lame excuses, because now you breached the trust factor. If your client doesn’t dump you might, try offering some sort of reparation. Chances are though, that the damage is already done.

Apologize and use as a lesson learned.

Sometimes writers take advantage of “nice” clients because they don’t complain or they’re very understanding when deadlines are missed. After the first few times this happens it becomes apparent the writer has more important or interesting priorities and the freelance writing client gets a bit frustrated. Choose your clients wisely. If you find yourself lying to them or making constant excuses, it’s probably time for one of you to move on.

Have you ever lied to a client? What the circumstances? Were you ever caught in a lie?



15 responses
  1. Senobia Avatar

    I don’t see where it matters. So long as their project is finished by their deadline, according to their specifications, to their satisfaction – what does it matter if I goof off all day long? They’re paying me to complete one project. Aside from that project, I am a private entity and am free to do what I wish with my time. Unless a client is paying me around the clock, my off time is just that – mine.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      Senobia, It’s absolutely none of your client’s business what you do on your spare time. My point is that if you’re going to blow of your deadlines and then lie about why you blew off your deadlines, you broke the trust and can lose your client.

      I don’t care if you go to the beach. If you send me a note saying my project is going to be late because you’re in the hospital and I learn you’re at the beach, that’s a whole other puppy. Now you made it my point to care that you’re at the beach because you blew me off, blew my deadlines, and lied.

      There’s a difference between doing what you want, and lying to your clients.

      1. Senobia Avatar

        I guess I misinterpreted. I never blow off a deadline. In fact, I have a guarantee that says if I miss your deadline, your project is free. Gives me the incentive to get it done!

        I thought you meant snoopy clients who sort of stalked you during the time you’re working on their stuff, expecting you to do nothing else until it’s finished.

        Eh, lol.

  2. Sharon Hurley Hall Avatar

    Yes! Your rep will suffer if you don’t. If I have something pressing to do, I tell clients that I won’t be available. Other than that, I keep a regular work schedule and they can generally find me during the usual times. I prefer honesty so if I have to be away for some reason and it affects the deadline, I just tell my client.
    .-= Sharon Hurley Hall´s last blog ..How To Earn Your First Dollar As A Freelance Writer =-.

  3. Laura Spencer Avatar

    Interesting post!

    I try to make it a point not to lie to my clients (or anyone else either). Most people who know me well would probably agree that I’m a pretty honest person. Your integrity as a freelancer is an important part of building client relationships.

    On the other hand, as a freelancer I also don’t share a lot of personal details with my clients nor do I inform them when I am taking a day off. If I am keeping up with my deadlines and producing quality work, my schedule shouldn’t matter to them. (Which is the point Senobia made)

    A freelancer who is caught like this probably will lose the client, but sadly many clients won’t tell the freelancer why. Some freelancers may not figure out why they lost a client and they may keep on doing it.

    Just my thoughts on the matter…
    .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..My Very First Professional Writing Gig Ever (Looking Back) =-.

    1. Deb Ng Avatar

      I don’t think it’s necessary to share personal details with clients at all. In fact, I discourage it. I don’t friend clients on Facebook and, in fact, just culled a bunch of my professional followers from my private account. However, many people will friend clients. So that was my warning to them.

      No client should know or care what you’re doing during your personal time, unless you constantly miss their deadlines and make excuses.

  4. Carson Brackney Avatar

    Here’s another reason to be a straight shooter…

    Eventually, a perfect storm *will* hit and your clients need to know that you’re on the up and up.

    In the last week, I’ve (a) had a friend pass away, (b) dealt with two birthdays–wife’s and baby’s, (c) sliced the hell out of my index finger with a razor sharp Wusthoff (not good for typing), (d) dealt with multiple doctor visits for aforementioned baby and more…

    Right now, I’m typing this comment from the Johnson County Public Library. Why? Because my home connection is out and our provider says it may be “a few days” before they can resolve the problem.

    If I had a history of doling out BS excuses, this confluence of annoyance would seem like complete fiction to my clients. A history of being straight with them should prevent too many eyebrows being raised as I make up for some lost time while trying to navigate through this perfect storm.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Wow, Carson!

      I hope things get better for you soon.

      But, you’re right. Misfortunes tend to come in bunches and such excuses might seem fictional if the freelancer already had a history of making excuses.
      .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..My Very First Professional Writing Gig Ever (Looking Back) =-.

    2. Deb Ng Avatar

      Right, Carson. If I were to make excuses to all my clients, it would only be crying wolf. When the real stuff comes along, they won’t buy it – and who can blame them?

      Hope everything’s better soon at the Brackney household.

  5. Kimberly Avatar

    That’s a good point, Carson. Things happen, and when they do you want to have a working relationship built soundly on trust and reliability so that your client gives you the slack you need instead of you worrying about whether you’ve blown your chances of getting future projects.
    .-= Kimberly´s last blog ..Creating a Work at Home Schedule =-.

  6. Jennifer Brown Banks Avatar

    Interesting topic. As they say, “honesty is the best policy.” It also makes for a life that’s less stressful.
    .-= Jennifer Brown Banks´s last blog ..The Gospel Truth**6 Things Writers Can Learn from Joel Osteen =-.

  7. Lori E. Mazzola Avatar

    This was a wonderful article! I would agree that honesty is always the best policy! 🙂
    .-= Lori E. Mazzola´s last blog ..Calling on creativity | GoDanRiver =-.

  8. Anita Avatar

    Great points in this post. Untruths are a lot of work to deal with. You have to create the story, keep coming up with fibs and fake evidence to back it up, keep track of where you let the conflicting reality come through (Is that client on Facebook? Did I write about that beach day on my blog? Did somebody see me?) and deal with the stress of wondering when it will all fall apart.

    It’s much easier to just deal with reality and let the chips fall where they may. If I can’t complete a project as promised, apologizing and working together on damage control is easier than constructing a lie. And even though my private life is none of my clients’ business, even in supposedly controllable forums like Facebook, I try not to post anything (or do anything someone might photograph) such that I’d mind if the whole world happened to see it. Folks who read about me online will find out my political beliefs and some of my stranger hobbies (like that I take classes in clowning and stage sword fighting), but if such things bother them, we probably aren’t a good fit, anyway.

    Still, I needed this reminder to have the courage to be real more often. Not all clients will be happy with my reality at all times, but there are plenty who work well with the real me, and being me is much easier than coming up with imaginary excuses.

  9. Glenda Taylor Avatar

    I try not to tell any bold-face lies but by the same token, I have a hard time telling small clients that I’m going to give precedence to a better-paying client.

    I find that it’s easier if I keep my options open from the start. I’ll tell them up-front that I have other clients. And if I can’t pull off an assignment, I try not to accept it.

    The only problem (for me) arises when I think I have time to complete a project and then a more important client comes along. But I can only remember that happening once and I lost the bigger client because I didn’t jump when they snapped their fingers. In the long run, though, it all worked out for the best. The smaller client is local and she and I are now pretty good friends so, it was worth losing the better paying job.

    Tough call.
    .-= Glenda Taylor´s last blog ..Recycling Construction Waste? =-.

  10. Nyasha Avatar

    Great article. I think productivity is an important part of managing deadlines and client expectations. One additional way to do so is by blocking distractions, which a new cool tool called iFreeFace helps with. You can use it to limit time spent on addictive websites or to block them and email whenever you need to focus. It’s available to download today at

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