How to handle those pesky ASAP copywriting requests

May 5, 2011 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Business Smarts 

rush copywriting projectsRush work. We all hate it, but it’s a fact of life for freelancers. Trouble is, some clients abuse our good nature with repeated requests for quick copy.

Sara Lancaster takes on this problem and provides a few suggestions for dealing with it.


On Monday, a client sends you an e-mail requesting brochure copy. The company’s sales team is going to a conference next week. NEXT WEEK!

On Tuesday, a potential client calls to ask if he can have 50 articles about cell phone repair ASAP.

On Wednesday, an old co-worker IMs and asks you to be a professional reference. She’d love it if you could review her résumé that afternoon.

On Thursday … oh, never mind. You get the point.

What is with all these rush copy projects?

More to the point, how do you handle situations like this?

Why clients need ASAP copywriting services

Turns out clients are people, too. They’re forgetful. They’re procrastinators. They’re ignorant about things outside their world. Like, for example, how long it takes to write five pages of web content.

Some clients are also a little rude. Maybe it’s how they’ve gotten things done their whole life, and they just don’t know any better. Maybe they don’t mean to be abusive, but that’s how their boss and their boss’s boss act around the office, so that behavior trickles down, all the way down to the independent contractors who are clueless about that company’s internal culture.

All of these reasons are possibilities, but I actually have a different theory. I believe clients and potential clients ask for an ASAP deadline because of the “delayed construction epidemic.”

When I was a kid, my parents built an addition on to our house. They hired a construction company to make a beautiful family room that extended beyond the kitchen. They thought that within a summer’s time, they would have that wood burning fireplace, picture window, and abundant space for their oversized recliners. But, no. Months passed. Progress moved at a snail’s pace.

By September, my father decided the best approach was to be a pest. He called the contractor every day. He came home early from work to monitor progress. He told the contractor to get it done ASAP or else.

Whenever we hire a service provider to do an important job, we often feel vulnerable. We feel that if we don’t ask all the right questions, then it won’t get done. We feel that in order for a job to be done right, we must do it ourselves or at least micromanage the process.

How to kindly say “no” to ASAP requests

If you accept an ASAP request, your writing quality may go down because you’re rushed. You’ll neglect your patient customers, the ones you enjoy working with and are most willing to pay your full rate.

Say no to 95% of ASAP requests, otherwise you will set a trend. The client you say yes to will repeat that request over and over again and there’s an opportunity cost associated with that. While you’re manic trying to get work done, you’re risking your reputation. You’re also wasting time you could be spending trying to find clients that make you happy.

The solution? Say, “I schedule projects one week in advance (or longer if you need longer) and require three days to provide a first draft (or longer if you need it). I’d be more than happy to work on your project beginning DATE, and if I can get to it sooner, I will. Should I schedule you in?”

Tips for preventing ASAP copywriting requests

Dean posted an excellent article about how to deal with freelance clients that suck. In the post, he’s clear that we, as freelancers, have to adjust our attitude to make clients happy. In addition to attitude, it’s also strategy. Here’s what I suggest you do to prevent ASAP requests.

1. Set boundaries. Answer phone calls during regular business hours. Make weekend deadlines and evening meetings a very rare occasion. Prove you’re a real business.

2. Charge an expedited writing fee. Earlier this year, I started an emergency writing service to discourage ASAP requests. The new service hasn’t cured the problem, but it has earned me a few more dollars and eased some pressure.

3. Don’t neglect your clients. On every project, give the client status reports. It doesn’t have to be formal, but updates should be frequent. I’ve found that a quick e-mail letting him or her know of my progress often eases anxiety.

Certainly, there are more ways to discourage ASAP writing requests. How do you handle it?

Sara Lancaster, through her agency, No. 2 Pen, writes website content and other online marketing materials for businesses.

Related posts:

  1. Copywriting Revisions Gone Wild! Why it happens and how to handle it

>>> Subscribe to blog by RSS or E-mail

Smart Comments

7 Comments on How to handle those pesky ASAP copywriting requests

  1. Rezbi on May 6th, 2011 1:00 am
  2. I’ve had requests for rush jobs.

    I always say from the start that I don’t do rush jobs.

    However, I will offer to do the job in such a way as to raise the value of the finished work. So much so, they’d have to accept or really be in a rush like their lives depended on it.

  3. Shannon on May 7th, 2011 11:45 am
  4. Thanks for writing this – lots of helpful information and it’s coming at the perfect time for me. I’ve debated a lot lately how to handle requests when I’m already as booked up as I want to be (I’m trying to avoid working 14 hour days as I have in the past…).

    I like the idea of the rush services but my problem is sometimes I can’t even do rush – it’s more like anywhere within a 3 week time frame will be considered overtime work for me and I’d want to charge a higher rate for that work.

    So what’s the best way to tell a client about this? Say that I can do it for them within their desired time line but I will charge overtime for it?

    Or just tell them that my next available opening is such and such a date and they can take it or leave it?

    I am willing to do overtime and would prefer that then lose the job, but on the other hand, I’m only willing to do it for an increase in price….

  5. Dean Rieck on May 7th, 2011 12:34 pm
  6. Shannon, If you’re at maximum capacity and more clients are calling, maybe it’s time to consider raising your fees across the board. You might lose a little work, but if you’re in high demand, some should be willing to pay. I call this “turning over and trading up.” You’ll turn over some of your client base and trade up to better clients.

  7. Shannon on May 7th, 2011 1:25 pm
  8. Thanks for the prompt reply. Yes, that’s a good point. I’ve slowly been increasing my rates but perhaps not enough. Even at the new rates I’ve had quite a few clients state that my price is so reasonable (or low).

    I guess I still slightly fall into the trap of being too scared of no work to raise them up, but you bring up a really good point. Plus, I could try the increase now while I’m booked and if no one bites, then I guess I know I’ve gone too high.

    For these last few instances though it’s been returning clients who want more work done when I’m booked, so that makes it a little trickier.

  9. Russell on May 19th, 2011 9:34 pm
  10. I was seriously considering inquiring about your services until I saw the term “pesky ASAP” out of the corner of my eye.

    As a potential client, I’m turned off by being referred to as “potentially pesky”. Any reference to a client being “pesky” is probably an indication of how a person feels about their clients in general. Isn’t it about giving the client what they need? Even the occasional rush project?

    I’ll be moving on before I read the other article I just noticed you wrote, entitled “freelance clients that suck.” That attitude won’t get your proteges off to a great start in business. Especially since they don’t have your credentials.

    I’ll give you some credit, for having the onions to post these articles in the same place where you’re selling your services. Personally, I don’t invite my guests over to eat in the bathroom.

  11. Dean Rieck on May 19th, 2011 10:03 pm
  12. Russell:
    1. This is a guest post. That means I didn’t write it. However …
    2. Some projects *are* pesky as any full-time copywriter knows. And yes, some clients suck. As they do in any business.
    3. This isn’t where I sell my copy services. This is a blog for writers and we don’t pull any punches here.
    4. The advice here is hard-won and will serve any copywriter well who hopes to deal with the realities of writing for a living.
    5. You should pay particular attention to articles like this so you can be sure not to be pesky or suck when you move on and hire a writer elsewhere. Training clients to be good clients is part of what a professional writer needs to do.

  13. Yegyan on Apr 30th, 2012 1:29 pm
  14. Russell, the reality is “giving what the client needs” cannot be done under certain circumstances. Not enough time to thoroughly research the product or service being sold can jeopardize the success of the campaign even if it was written ASAP.

    The fact of the matter is there are clients that will continually ask you to do rush jobs, no matter how many times you tell them it is not the way to go. And yes, they are pesky. And when I am open and honest with them about them being pesky, they actually appreciate the honesty and do understand.

    The only job copy is meant to do is to convert to sales. Anything that gets in the way of this will be a dis-service to the customer. Even if you have to call them on being pesky.