The Comprehensive Guide to Freelancing Clients From Hell

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I never imagined SEO in the Philippines to become this big, so I guess one way or the other you will get to come across bad SEO clients. Some of these clients tend to be nice at first, but then they rush you with things they think are “easy’ to do while in fact they aren’t.

Yes, there are clients like that. I had an SEO client once who owed me about $1000+ then they just disappeared.

They made me redesign a website and get all the keywords I researched thoroughly as well as meta-descriptions and tags. I submitted everything, then they didn’t email me anymore. I wasn’t skeptical at first because they paid well back then. They just kept saying “We’re going to pay you next week” and then they just disappeared.

I even made their website jump from PR0 to PR3 and made their keywords rank.  Just thinking about them makes me mad.

But what goes around comes around.

I guess I learned my lesson after that that I have to change my terms and conditions in handling clients nowadays.

So I came up with a list of things to do so others may not be victimized by these shrewd and evil SEO clients:

  1. Have a contract ready when being offered a job, you can email it to them and have it faxed or sent to you by email because word of mouth is just too dispensable.
  2. Always opt for a 15-day payout period for your client and supply an invoice.
  3. Be strict with deadlines of payment and have it in the contract to clarify it.
  4. Get clients from trusted sources and not those shady ones, most of the time you’ll get them from SEO forums and Craigslist but always double check if these entities really do pay their SEO workers.
  5.  At the same time always offer only quality work and never a mediocre one, also don’t lower your rates too much that you’ll feel like crying every time you are doing the job.
  6. Do a background check and ask around social forums, most of the time these scammers have a system and method of their own and have victimized other SEO’s and agencies.
  7. Do not be afraid to expose them in forums as you might also be helping potential victims in recognizing them.
  8. All of the things that the client wants you to do should always be written in black and white. A lot of the most unfortunate issues I’ve heard are the ones where the client says something opposite of what he asked you to do and blames you for it. Always document everything and take note of changes the client wants to make.

It’s never too late to rethink your client-SEO specialist relationship.

Some Negative SEO Client Experiences I Had

The Do It Now, Pay Later Client – This client that I worked with, ordered twenty articles for his website. He mentioned that he would pay me as soon as the checks are already cleared by his company. I have had experience with him before, and he paid well though a bit late that is, but I never imagined something as bad as this will be experienced by me. I already delivered the first five articles because he said that they were all asap as he is going to launch the website soon.

After I had submitted the first five, he asked for revisions, so I had them all revised. Afterwards, he asked for an outline per topic plus images, plus sources, so I gave him those as well all the while waiting for the checks to be cleared.

He always says, “next Friday it will be cleared” but then after a month of waiting every next Friday he then said that the checks will be ready again next Friday.

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He emailed me again asking for the other articles; I said I was going to need to speak to the person in charge of the payments first.

He never replied back.

I guess this is the most frequent one as I have experienced it a couple of times.

  • Lesson Learned: It is better to have a 50% down payment in all your contracts.

The I Am Always Better Than You Client – This particular client always had the temerity to put me down, saying my SEO style is bad and is not helping his rankings.

All the while doing another stuff at his website in the background. He always has the time to send me articles from Moz, and another SEO’s in their blogs telling me that they are better or that their method is better.

I felt that it was not just because the discrimination is there because I am a Filipino.

But it is because he fancies himself a better SEO than me even though I am doing all the brunt of the work while all he does is get all the praises.

One can only have so much of anything.

  • Lesson Learned:  Never bow down in the face of discrimination, protect your pride as an SEO provider.

The Player – This client had me going out on a weekend for an interview and meet him in a very far-flung area. Made me sign a contract only to have it rescinded after waiting for a long time because he feels that you should be his employee instead of his consultant. The problem is he asked you to be his consultant to begin with.

  • Lesson Learned:  Better to be earning independently than depending on clients like these.

The Failure Is Not An Option Client – This particular client  or we will call him “Boss” had me work full time under him promising me a lot of things, but first I would need to let go of my other clients or let other people handle it for me.

This client is well known in the SEO circles and is well respected, but then my gut feel tells me otherwise.

By the way trust your guts, in other words, your intuition. I can say that most of the time whenever my gut tells me something about a person even while I am talking over the phone it is 100% correct.

My gut told me that this particular client will be a big problem.

I should’ve sensed it when he kept contacting me even on Sundays and even after work hours and when I signed the contract of 48 hours instead of the usual 40 hours per week.

But why did I trust him?

Honestly, my gut also told me that he is a good person but then he also has another goal and motive altogether.

You can say that he has this certain charisma in him, but also dangerous at that.

The pay was good. But in truth, it is not as worth it being the amount of work I have to go over with him and the entire team.

I was head of the different departments (PPC, SEO, Web Design, Content Management, Web Development, HR, Social Media Optimization) and also tasked to make sure that the team is running smoothly other than handling all his requests alongside the requests of the counterpart team from Australia.

I was able to hold on even at those times when I felt that he was going over the top with his requests.

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It was because he would say that he is open to suggestions, and I can just air out any problem or issues I might encounter.

But lo and behold when the time came when I talked to him about my grievances he always responds the opposite. It would seem that I can tell him what I think and feel, he will listen to it but he will never do anything about it.

In short, he will use the ‘Don’t worry, I will listen to your concerns card, but what I want is what will be followed’ ergo the idea of being helped or listened to is pure bull-shit.

The final straw came when the Indian national came to the country. He is the CEO of the company both me and my ‘Boss” is working for.

Now this Indian guy is also something, he made me explain all the processes of the team, which I also got from the “Boss.” and he will cut me all the time in mid-sentence.  He will insist that my process is not wrong, but it is not complete. He will then let me continue my explanation only to be, cut short over and again.

It came to a point when we were talking about reporting, and I was discussing the things that should be included in the report, again he cut me over and over. Until I handed him the whiteboard pen and told him “Here write down what you want in the report and write the processes that you follow as well.” He took the pen and scribbled a lot of things only he would understand.

It also came to a point when we were talking about project management.  He asked me about the different levels of project management insisting that they are very basic and should be known by every project manager. He gave me 15 levels and then told me to research on it and then submit to him all that he requested (from processes, reporting, etc.).

Now I felt violated afterwards, I felt bad but I still pushed on and proceeded to deliver what “Indian Guy” wanted. I was asked by the “Boss” when is the fastest time I can deliver all the requests I told him a week from now as I have a lot on my plate, he said okay and then I continued working.

The next day he asked me to meet with him and then asked me what I felt about the conversation with “Indian Guy”. He told me to tell everything that I feel and be honest about it.

I told him everything, from how I feel while being cut over and again, how it is really rude for “I.G.” to do that. How hard my work is, but I can still do it, and I am okay now.

The “Boss” replied the following:

  1. I already told you that this job is going to be challenging, and now you are feeling bad about it?
  2. G. is testing you it is within his rights to do that to you because he is a CEO you will only understand it if you are a CEO.
  3. You should’ve not done the “Here write down…” thingy with I.G. it is rude and you should know these things and write it for him not ask him for it.
  4. Project management is very basic you should know these things, did you really become a project manager? If yes, what are the projects that you handled?
  5. You told me that you could finish the requests of I.G. next week I want you to finish it now and submit it to me tomorrow. I will do your work for you I just want you to finish what I.G. needs.

Can you see a pattern here?

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The ‘Boss’ asked me what I felt and used it against me, insinuating that it is okay; it is expected of me to be rudely treated because I was hired for it.

That he questioned my credibility and my work experience even when I am already part of the team and have been working for him for a month.

That he asked when I could finish something said okay and then recanted that afterwards.

I answered him, “You know what, if I.G. is really that good in project management then why does he need help from Filipinos like you and me and why not use his great knowledge in India?”

The ‘Boss’ never responded.

I asked him what he would do if what was done to me was done to him; he said that he would finish and stump I.G. right there and then because he knows everything about project management!

He then proceeded to talk more, but my mind is already elsewhere along with my heart.

I trusted this guy, but I know that we will never see eye to eye.

I never replied to him anymore after that; I just sent my resignation letter.

And I’ve never been so happy in my life. I might not earn that much as compared before, but peace of mind and heart is what will always matter.

Update: as of current time this particular company is now on the rocks, the Boss who I was talking to also cut his ties with them. The entire team is being overrun by Indians and little by little taking over their positions.

This is really sad for my former teammates.

Alas there is an update to this list and it involves a Canadian SEO.

This guy had me create a proposal for him and then just gave me the cold shoulder never to contact me again.

After one year he contacted me and began asking me to become a part of his team.

My gut feel was that I should not take him as a client but then again the good person in me (I always get victimized because of this) told me to take him in.

So the contract was signed, and the work was delegated, the next day I asked him if he can recognize my country’s holidays.

He said that my country loves holidays so much that he can only allow as much as five holidays per year.

I told him that it is not that we love holidays (although by him insinuating it, it would sound like we are lazy people) it is because we respect our culture and our traditions.

Sad to say but I also resigned that day, because for one I feel that he is not respectful of my country’s customs and traditions.

Another thing is that when I mentioned that I want to recognize Philippine holidays because I want to spend more time with my family, he went on to tell me that every one has families.

Now, I personally believe that people should work to live but not live to work.

And taking time away from my family because “He Feels” that we love our holidays too much is just plain disrespectful and discriminating.

To note he was the one who asked for help in his SEO, he even outsourced the work that he should be doing for a very minimal price already.

If he can’t respect the traditions and culture of my country what more can he not respect?

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