The Truth: What a Client Really Wants from You

The Truth: What a Client Really Wants from You

I’m a client. I get approached by designers, web architects and copywriters all the time. They pitch me the same shit – over and over.

I don’t like being blunt, but the whining at the other end of the phone, Skype session, Webex or whatever-technology-choice-du-jour just comes off as pleading.  Painful, desperate pleading.

Angry yet?


If you want to differentiate yourself from the rest of the poverty herd, here’s a checklist of what a client really wants from you – directly from a client’s perspective.

Measurable Results

Measurable results look like this: 3% sales in the 1st quarter, 5% sales in the 2nd, 7% in the 3rd, and 8% sales in 4th to wrap up the year.

Help your client achieve results like these, and there’s no question of whether they’ll work with you or not. They will – and money won’t even be a consideration at that point.

No Mumbo-Jumbo

Speak to me using jargon and industry-laden terminology, and here’s what I’ll do: I’ll be polite and show you the door, or politely excuse myself from the conversation.

And I won’t answer any more of your emails or phone calls.

Your Best Work

This may seem obvious – even insulting – but I guarantee that if I created a survey right now and asked 100 businesses why they stopped working with someone, the overwhelming majority will say the person didn’t do a good job, or didn’t do whatever task was assigned in the first place.

Give up the excuses – they ended in high school.

Perceived Value

The only time I look for the lowest cost is when I don’t perceive value.

Hey, I can get anyone to write an article or a press release.  There’s a whole globe full of people willing to do the work, and everyone’s charging different rates. I’ll shop by price when I’m not seeing value in choosing you over someone else.

Strong Confidence Levels

Before I hired my very first writer, I did some research. What I found was mind-boggling.

The amount of neuroses writers display is astonishing – I’m floored by the stuff writers do to themselves. There’s impostor syndrome, not-good-enough mental crap, and that’s just the beginning.

It’s appalling… and as a client, it’s to my advantage. I consistently use this information to negotiate rates. In the past 8 years, I’ve never been told no or asked to pay more than what I’m offering.

Now, don’t get uptight. I don’t pay 1$ an article or a penny a word, or anything like that, and the writers I hire are from countries where English is the first and main language. But your lack of confidence has let me rejoice in great rates.

What I’m saying is this: have confidence in your abilities. Writing for money is a business pursuit. You get to decide how and when.

Be Creative; Just Not with My Business

Creative. I love this one: when writers don’t deliver what I asked for, I’m told (with accompanying attitude) it’s because they were being creative. Yes, you sure were, and with my $500!

Look, by all means, be creative with a creative assignment. But when it’s a business assignment, deliver what we agreed upon using the objective checklist and guidelines I provided. Please, and thank you!

Tell Me About Your Emergencies

Look, I know emergencies happen. We live our lives, and crap comes along most often when we don’t want it to.

So communicate with me. Let me know if you had a death in the family, a sick spouse, sick kids or if you feel you might be getting sick. I can relate.

But don’t expect me to be kind or understanding if our pre-determined deadline gets missed and you said nothing about it. And when I do hear from you? It’s for another payment!

Forget the Competition

There is no competition.

That’s right: when it comes to writing – any type of writing – there isn’t any competition. Just for laughs, I tested this theory and asked several fellow business owners if they’ve heard of any of those ‘writing gurus’ that permeate the Internet.

They’d heard of none.

That’s right, these business owners didn’t know any of the so-called ‘writing experts.’ And these folks are well-read; they’re just not reading where you write.

And that’s a good thing. When you contact these business owners, they don’t usually care about where you’ve been featured or who you know or who you hang out with.

They care how your content is going to help their business get promoted. They want to know how that speech is going to influence their peers. They want to know about how they can turn an intangible idea into dollars and relationships.

That’s all they care about. That’s all you should care about.


Stop the brow beating. Stop the neuroses. Stop the whining and the self-deprecation and the image-destroying habits.

Oh, and stop the $30 a day latte habit I see you all talking about online, especially if you’re not earning anything.


Start contacting people who can pay you. Fortune 1000 companies are always – and I mean always – looking for content. Departments like engineering, communications, and sales and marketing are always looking for writers who can get their ideas onto paper in a crisp, concise manner.

Why not make it you who gets hired? Decide how you’ll use your writing talents to create the lifestyle you desire. Make the decision to be confident in your ability.

If you won’t, then who will?

Post by WHG Cameron

WHG Cameron is a pseudonym. When he isn't hiring writers, he's helping clients bridge the gap between their ideas and real results. You can contact him at

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  1. Thanks for this hard-hitting post.
    I liked these lines best:

    “The amount of neuroses writers display is astonishing – I’m floored by the stuff writers do to themselves. There’s impostor syndrome, not-good-enough mental crap, and that’s just the beginning.”
    So true.
    Thanks again for the no b.s. straight talk.

    • WHG Cameron says:

      Rohi, can you shed some light on what have you done to combat these types of feelings?

      • Hi WHG,

        I’m not Rohi, so I apologise for butting in. But I’m going to anyway! I’ve never been good enough. And I’ve suffered from depression for years. But late last year, I finally did something about it. I got myself onto a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) course and it changed my life.

        Sorry about the apparent hyperbole, but it’s true. I’m a science nerd, so I don’t subscribe to pseudononsense. This works. It’s bloody hard work (but then nothing worth having comes easy).

        I now question all my automatic negative thoughts. I stop and ask myself if they’re really true, or if they’re just my opinion. I go through the evidence for and against the negative thoughts. And usually, they’re bullshit. It’s much more complicated than that, but it comes down to making fundamental changes in your behaviour, which cause changes in your thoughts and beliefs.

        You’ve got me thinking now. I should write some business-related articles about this, because I think it could be really useful. We get trapped in a ‘nobody understands and I’m a special flower’ spool and your anecdotal evidence shows that’s just not true. We all have neuroses, so perhaps I should share my experiences and help others.

        Great article, by the way. Thank you.

        • WHG Cameron says:


          It’s very positive that you’ve found a way to work on yourself and be true to what matters most.

          You bet. Write those business articles, share your wisdom and inspire others.

  2. *What I’m saying is this: have confidence in your abilities. Writing for money is a business pursuit. You get to decide how and when.*

    This is very true. When you are your own boss, you are your own key motivator. Doubting yourself is like putting yourself up for redundancy.

    If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you even hope to persuade anyone else to believe in you?

  3. First, I’ve acknowledged the not-good-enough feelings and understood that they are fake. So whenever they arise, I smile (though not always).
    Next, I realize that the way to clarity is through action, not thinking.
    So I’ve set long term, medium term and short term goals and try to achieve them daily.
    I also use the plan-act-review loop to learn from my successes and failures.
    Finally, I keep reminding myself to be patient and persistent, using what the Zen masters call “beginner’s mind.”
    One of my goals in 2014 is to join the Damn Fine Words course in September.
    Thanks for asking.

    • WHG Cameron says:

      Rohi, I appreciate you sharing. Your experiences can assist those who feel the same way, yet may be shy about expressing themselves.

      You’ve gone a long way in recognizing and acknowledging what you need to do and are going through with it – even though pain may be involved. That’s courage. And this needs to be recognized.

      Powerlessness is a crime. Powerlessness forces us to compromise who we are and forces us to become what we’re not.

      I’m glad you chose to claim your power.

  4. The whole “writers exhibit all kinds crazy” thing is true of freelance and/or very small business owners in general. It’s something such people have to be incredibly careful of – vulnerability aside, you HAVE to insulate your customers from the ups and downs of your psyche.

    Nothing scares away customers like crazy.

    • WHG Cameron says:

      Peter, if appropriate and as a mental health professional, can you clarify 3 warning signs that folks need to be aware of (such as depression, obsessive/compulsiveness)?

  5. I’m a writer and I can’t thank you enough for writing this to-the-point post. It makes me rethink my strategies and definitely makes me want to strive harder – that too, with MORE confidence. So thank you!!

  6. Insecurity is every beginner writer’s lot in life. To let it continue is criminal though. If you can’t conquer the feelings on your own, you need to take action.

    For me, it was taking James’s writing course. Then when I was confident in my writing but not in my ability to pitch my writing, I took Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging course. Taking classes gives me the confidence I need.

    I also firmly believe in faking it till I make it. Nobody needs to know I’m quacking in my writer boots or that I was up all night waiting for a client to get back to me with feedback and was going through every word and figuring out how I could have written something better.

    As for rates, if no one’s questioned my rates in 6 months I start thinking about raising them.

    • WHG Cameron says:


      James is offering something that you can’t buy. Been there, doing that, living it experience.

      As for your rates, why wait 6 months?

  7. Fantastic. This post really hits the spot. All the writerly neuroses does get old. Content mills and writers who are willing to slave away for a fraction of a penny per word aren’t the reason why a good writer isn’t succeeding. There are plenty of people out there who know the value of good writing and are willing to pay for it. In the words of the great philosopher Rocky Balboa, “Go out and get what you’re worth.”

    • WHG Cameron says:


      You’ve hit the proverbial nail on the head. Master the language, and you’ll enhance your chances of success. And if the focus has shifted from value to price, you’ve lost control of the conversation.

  8. Well, WHG. This post has certainly made me stop and think. I love the line about how there’s no competition. I, for sure, spend time looking at the competition and wondering how I can be different/better. And in fact? It’s not a complete waste of time, but I find it definitely influences my ideas.

    Action step: Ignore competitors from now on. Awesome for my productivity AND self confidence.

    And I’m loving the acronym-name. Mystery: created.

    • WHG Cameron says:


      Perception is reality and the first sale is always to ourselves. Looking at the competition isn’t a waste of time; comparing yourself to them, evaluating yourself on the basis of their perceived success (real or imagined) is the killer. In effect, you’ve sunk your battleship before it even has a chance to leave the dock.

      Your action step is commendable.

      What are you doing today to improve tomorrow?

  9. I love the transparency. I think the point about “writing experts” is right on. Business owners, the people you will try and pitch to, don’t care what your blogging credentials are. They want results. That’s not to say having a strong following doesn’t hurt your portfolio, but the purpose isn’t to show how great you are, it’s how great you can make someone else.

    That being said, if there is no competition, what makes the difference? I’m sure we agree having a large readership looks good to clients but if it doesn’t bring clients to the table, where do you go? You make a point about the premium rates you can get from low-self-valued writers, so where do people who write make a stand? Aren’t you only as valuable as the market says you are?

    • WHG Cameron says:


      You asked, “If there is no competition, what makes the difference?”

      Value. Specifically your value. As a business owner, if I say, that I want an article written on X, that’s me expressing my want. My need here, and this is key, is that I’m lazy, value my time more, can’t for the life of me get past that blinking cursor and a blank screen.

      This is typical of everyone you meet, communicate with, friends etc. Behind every single business objective is some sort of personal one.

      In regards to a large readership – this brings social proof, specifically, credibility and authority. You ask, ‘where do you go?’

      A few questions:
      1) What’s your objective with having a large readership?
      2) A year from now, where do you envision your blog, website etc?
      3) What will that look like?

      You ask, ‘So where do people who write make a stand?’ and ‘Aren’t you only as valuable as the market says you are?’

      Excellent questions.

      If you’re a commodity, then you care what the market says. If your value fluctuates like fiat currency, then your income is on the whim and mercy of someone else. You are powerless.

      My suggestion is stop being powerless. Retake your power. The folks you’re speaking with only discuss or ask price because they don’t understand or have been educated incorrectly about the value you produce and the results they will achieve.

      They [the client] needs you just as much as you need them.

      However, I believe at the core here is one of self-confidence. It’s not writing ability; it’s not the act of writing. It’s the act of belief that what you do is valuable. It’s worthwhile; produces tangible and intangible effects – more than just profit. Builds goodwill, establishes thought leadership, drives sales, reduces stress, deletes anxiety and relieves tension.

      Above all, you have to make the first sale to yourself. If you do, then everything else will start to fall into place.

      Looking forward to your comments.


  10. Yes, tell them how you’ll help grow their business, speak in laymen’s terms, over delivery always, set your rates based on what you’re worth, not what you think the client wants to pay, BE the expert, design for Biz-nas, and go get ’em 🙂


  11. Absolutely awesome!!
    This article motivated me to want to write for clients. Thank you, you’ve made my day with a new spring in my step.

  12. T. Monneek says:

    WHG Cameron- I think the insights you offered in this article unfortunately spans further than the writer. If you know or have worked with, any artists, designers or creative person in general this can apply to a large percentage of us. Information and application is key to getting us out of this rut. Being creative has become an excuse for being undisciplined and unprofessional. Appreciate your article very much; please continue.

    • WHG Cameron says:

      T. Monneek,

      Yes, it is unfortunate. Your insight is refreshingly correct. Being ‘creative’ has the perception of being more irresponsible now as we all have access to information and no real access to wisdom.

      Pundits extoll the virtues of ‘digital freedom’ without the raw,solid truth: you have to market yourself and your services in order to get clients. In order to understand deal flow, you have to engage clients on what they need (as they will always tell you what they want).

      And all you have to look at are the platforms that extoll that ‘digital freedom’ – they’re chock full of writers and other ‘freelancers’ (actually sub-contractors) who don’t or aren’t willing to engage and create their own market.

      You can turn writing one page for their website into running the content for their entire website. If in doubt, I’m sure James will tell you of some of her experiences (if she hasn’t already!)

      Forgive my rant, however, being a poor starving artist doesn’t quite cut it as an excuse.

      Thank you T. Monneek!


  13. I agree 100%. I love creativity! As someone said “It’s not the monopoly of designers”. We can all do small things that set our work apart from the crowd, regardless of our professions.


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