Parasite Clients and How to Avoid Them

I know what you’re thinking…

  • Avoid clients? But I spend all my time trying to figure out how to get them?
  • What the heck is a parasite client?

First of all, let me address #1.


Listen, I get it. As freelancers, we seem to be constantly trying to figure out new ways to find new clients, not get rid of them. In fact, you’ve probably heard (or read) me say “some money is better than no money,” and it’s true – if you absolutely can’t get any clients at your proposed $150 rate, then you need to lower it if you want to write.

But here’s the thing – at some point in your career, you will have a client that comes along that will drain you. He/she will drain you of your time, your energy, your creativity, and sometimes, even your will to live.

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit far, but that brings me to #2.

We can safely call the people I just described parasite clients.

What does that look like?

Scope Creep

One type of life sucking client is a scope creeper.

Scope creep is when you are hired to do one thing, but your client tries to sneak in other tasks for free.

For example, say you agree to write a 500-word blog post. You turn it in. It looks great. But then he emails you back and says “Would you mind also including a Pinterest image for this blog post? I’m assuming you could include that with the price.”

No big deal. I often include an image with the price of the blog post if I’m not already discounting my writing by a huge amount. So you decide to go ahead and do so to please the client, and then he emails back and says, “Now I just need you to email this out to my attached email list, blind copy the recipients and add a little call to action at the end. Thanks!”

Did you notice how his requests are suddenly becoming demands? I mean, he’s being perfectly nice about it, but he’s not even asking anymore. This is how you know he is starting to view you as an employee. This is where it can all start to go downhill very quickly if you don’t put a stop to it quickly.


While there’s nothing wrong with a request to change things up, or for a client not to be pleased with an article, there are some clients who are simply beyond pleasing.

While it’s their prerogative to be as picky as they like, if a $50 blog post has taken you 10 hours to write, tweak and rewrite according to the client’s vision, your business is going to flatline! You need to decide whether or not it’s worth your time and your sanity!

So, what do you do about all this?

Avoid Parasites Like…well…Parasites!

Obviously, the key is to try to avoid working with these types of clients in the first place, and in order to do that, you need to recognize the signs.

1)    Long and in-depth instructions for a simple blog post.

If your client-to-be sends you a 10-page printout on what he does and does not want in a piece that should otherwise be fairly straightforward, it’s a sure sign that you will be rewriting this piece for days to come. If you’re willing to give this type of client a try, be sure to charge accordingly. I NEVER agree to write a piece like this without a very hefty compensation.

2)    Unnecessary communication requirements.

Of course you need communication with your clients to understand their expectations, but if a client requests 2 skype call and 3 emails for each assignment, you could be dealing with a time-sucking parisite who can’t give up control, but doesn’t know how to do the work himself. Again, if it’s a project that you think deems this much communication, charge accordingly.

3)    Negative Language in the Job Posting

This is the type of client I don’t even look twice at. If a job posting states something like, “Don’t bother applying if you can’t follow simple instructions.” Or “If you can’t meet deadlines, we don’t want to hear from you.”

These are perfectly logical expectations, but the problem is how they word things. It could be that they just got burned and are frustrated, but they are already letting you know that they are skeptical of you upfront. Nine times out of ten, these clients will have unreasonable expectations and will be extremely unpleasant to work with.

Fire Your Parasites

If you accidentally find yourself working with a parasite, my advice is to fire them as quickly and professional as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up being their employee. And isn’t avoiding bad bosses why we escaped the rat race in the first place?

You’re Up

How do you deal with your parasites?

This is a guest post from Cheri Read, a single mom, entrepreneur and freelance writer for hire. You can find out more about her or her services over at

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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