Viewing all posts by Siân Killingsworth.

What baseball & poultry can teach you about handling SEO clients

How to apply concepts from baseball and poultry in handling difficult SEO clientsWhat do you do when you’ve got an SEO copywriting client with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye?

Perhaps you’re developing new content or maybe you’re just taking direction and making straightforward tweaks to existing copy, but at some point, your client asks you to do something you know is a bad idea.

Sometimes it’s because your client thinks she is an expert in not only her own business, but yours as well. Sometimes it’s because she’s trying to help but is simply misinformed or has information that’s out of date.

Either way, you know your ideas are going to be the more effective, but you don’t want to risk offending or angering your client by being rude about it.

Here are some tips on championing your own, superior ideas while making your client feel respected, comfortable, and enthusiastic:

If the idea’s a turkey

When the client’s idea is something that clearly won’t work but she is pushing you hard to do it anyway, vent to a disinterested third party before you address it with a client. This way you get to say all the snarky, insulting things you want, and get them out of your system so you can collect yourself before you ruin an otherwise perfectly good client relationship.

One funny example I can share with you is when a former client of mine really, really wanted to publish almost a dozen pages on his website that would feature “articles” brimming with relevant keywords.

He had no intention of publishing content that was well-written, useful, or necessarily relevant to his audience, and he didn’t even have plans to promote the content. He merely wanted to have the keywords all over the website so that, theoretically, the site’s Google ranking would rise.

Of course, anyone who’s read a little bit about Google’s Panda update knows that publishing low-quality content is pretty much worthless. It took me a few deep breaths not to yell about this particularly “fowl” idea.

Don’t be a lame duck

You may be just the hired help, but permitting a client to steamroll you even one time is dangerous because that will set a precedent for the client to do so all the time.

If you believe that the client’s idea will be detrimental to her business, steel yourself to say something. She hired you because she respects your expertise, so now is the time to show it off. Furthermore, you might be held responsible when things backfire down the road, so protect yourself by putting your reservations in writing.

Don’t be chicken either

You should be working on content that you’ll be proud to put in your portfolio, so don’t be afraid to stand up for it.

Your reputation as an effective copywriter could take a beating if you put out material that’s weak, not in keeping with best practices, or otherwise low quality. Don’t let a fear of upsetting your client deter you from raising the issue.

Show off your slugging percentage

Let’s say your client insists you use absolutely perfect schoolmarm grammar despite the fact that her target audience is unpretentious, regular people with average educations. You know that type of language will alienate prospects, so hit the books yourself.

Do your due diligence and provide your client with evidence from your own work with other clients showing how colloquial wording is more effective than flawless grammar.

Three strikes & you’re out

My rule of thumb for persuading a client to drop their bad ideas in favor of my superior ones is borrowed from baseball. You can argue – politely! – no more than three times for your ideas, but if you’re shot down all three times, you have to let it go. Either the client is too stubborn or you need to improve your persuasion tactics!

One last piece of advice: Always allow your clients to explain why they want you to implement their ideas because often the reasons they have can help you lead them to an understanding of why their ideas won’t work and which ones will.

When you know what their reasons are, you can come up with solutions to the problem rather than appear to be arguing for the sake of argument.


About the Author ~ Siân Killingsworth

Siân Killingsworth is a freelance copywriter, content curator, and social media manager. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she blogs about marketing for small business at and spends a lot of time studying various social media channels to guide her clients with best, freshest marketing practices. When Siân isn’t writing, she enjoys discovering elegant wine bars, traveling, and working on her lifelong quest for the perfect prawn burrito. Find her on TwitterFacebook, or email her at


photo thanks to allygirl520 (allison)

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How to fire a writing client: it ain’t me, babe

A pier broken in half represents a freelance copywriter ending a client relationshipIf you’re a freelancer, you’ve probably wanted to end a client relationship at some point or another.

There are so many reasons to do so: sometimes it’s as simple as a personality clash, and you have a client you just don’t click with. Maybe it’s your smallest client who pays a discounted rate and expects the most effort, so it’s not worth your time. Perhaps the subject matter is boring, personally objectionable, or the work will not advance your career.

You might even have a “bad” client who pays late or not at all, is abusive, etc. It might be your biggest fantasy to channel The Donald and yell, “you’re fired!” But in real life, that’s just not good business practice.

Now, obviously, if a client has seriously crossed the line in some way, such as throwing things at your head or screaming at you (let’s hope this never happens!), then ending the relationship is probably in your best interest.

However, assuming your client doesn’t exhibit those extreme types of behavior, you still may find yourself yearning for freedom. Before you tell them to take a hike, there are several questions you should ask yourself, and they fall into two categories:


1. What’s Really the Problem?

  • Is there a personality conflict?
  • Is there some sort of abuse happening?
  • Is the client’s upper management doing something to harm the relationship?
  • Do you believe the company is doing something unethical?
  • Is the work boring or unlikely to dazzle in your portfolio?
  • Are you getting paid in a timely manner?
  • Is the client crossing your boundaries around time management?


2. To Fire or Not to Fire?

  • What are the criteria you use to fire a client as opposed to trying to work things out?
  • Are there any ways to make improvements in the relationship?
  • Can the relationship be handled by other people?
  • Can the implementation of new systems such as editorial calendars or timesheets ease the stress?

If you can answer all of these questions and determine that ending the client relationship is your choice, here are some ways for it to be, if not a pleasant experience, at least one that isn’t unpleasant – for all involved.


Take Care of Yourself

Make sure that you suffer no serious or long-lasting repercussions as a result of ending the client relationship.

  • Try to replace the client with another so as not to dent your income.
  • Fulfill all remaining work on standing contracts. Even if you disagree with how the client wants it, you can put it in your portfolio with a companion piece indicating how you would have preferred to do the work.
  • Remain professional at all times. Even if you’re hopping mad, communicating in a calm and respectful way is the best way to keep the situation from worsening.
  • Don’t take it personally. Most of the time, the sins of the client occur because they’re stressed and under pressure, not because they’re trying to make you miserable.


Take Care of the Client

The way you treat the client will directly affect the way she feels about you after you no longer work for her. If you are able to keep things pleasant and relatively upbeat, you may escape with a glowing testimonial. She may even refer her colleagues to you.

  • Determine what is your responsibility. Complete all standing contracts, and don’t take on new work.
  • Offer to help find your replacement.
  • Agree on the appropriate way to transfer knowledge to a new person doing your job, and also agree on whether you charge for that time.


Breaking Up is Hard to Do

To make a clean break, do it in person if possible, or over the phone if you’re far away. Do not terminate the relationship over email or, God forbid, voicemail. Put yourself in their shoes: remember to always be professional, polite, and positive.

You needn’t get into your real reasons for ending it, especially if it’s not flattering to the client. You can say you’ve taken on too much work and you need to cut back. You can say you want to focus your work to cater to a different industry. You can say that you’re uncomfortable with the workload or schedule.

Another option is to look at personal relationship strategies. If it’s the case that you’re just not into them but you don’t want to go to the trouble of breaking up with them or creating a bad feeling, you could start exhibiting behaviors they don’t like. You might raise your rates, give them less attention, or even offload the work to a junior member of your team.

None of these is necessarily the single best option: each has benefits and drawbacks. You need to assess the situation and determine which tactic or combination of tactics will get the result you want.

One last thought: once you’ve decided to end the relationship, if you need help to muster your courage, you can’t do much better than this classic Bob Dylan song, covered by breakup experts Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash: It Ain’t Me, Babe.


About the Author ~ Siân Killingsworth

Siân Killingsworth is a freelance copywriter, content curator, and social media manager. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she blogs about marketing for small business at and spends a lot of time studying various social media channels to guide her clients with best, freshest marketing practices. When Siân isn’t writing, she enjoys discovering elegant wine bars, traveling, and working on her lifelong quest for the perfect prawn burrito. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, or email her at

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