Some time ago, I did a writing freelance job for a client. I sent in a few drafts and received very little feedback, despite me prompting for some, but I was given nothing but praise for my work right up to the point that I received payment.

Now, two months after I turned in my final draft and received payment, the client has changed his mind about my work and is very unsatisfied with what he received. He has been sending me unprofessional e-mails lambasting my work and accusing me of things such as trying to make the piece as boring and poorly written as possible (and no that's not an exaggeration, that's what he wrote). I totally disagree with him and I have tried to explain that, having not received proper feedback, there was little I could do about the items he is now unhappy about, but he hasn't seen the light. I feel as though the client is being quite unreasonable and is making this personal.

I'm concerned that this individual might damage my reputation as a freelance writer or badmouth me to other clients. What can I do to try and minimize the damage caused by this situation?

EDIT: To clarify, not many issues were cited as to why he was unhappy with it, but those that he did mention were items that were in as early as my first draft and which I would have happily made changes to had I been asked. At this point though, he's wanting a total rewrite and doesn't want it from me, which again I find incredibly strange because I received praise at every step of the way earlier. I've tried to think of what I could have done differently, but I can't think of anything.

RESOLUTION: One of the answers to this question is what wound up happening. It may or may not have been a good way to resolve it, but it's there for appraisal.

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    Have you tried providing the emails where you asked for feedback and requesting that he forward you the responses he thinks you ignored? If he provides them, apoligize profusely and offer to incorporate them for free. Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 17:30
  • In my responses, I did provide e-mails where he provided praise and suggested only minor feedback, as well as points where I requested feedback. The client is now upset about areas that he says are in need of major revision that were never addressed during my time writing, so naturally I don't have e-mails regarding them. Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 18:08
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    However, nor does the client. If the client cannot show these changes were discussed or negotiated for they are on shaky ground.
    – Oded
    Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 18:10
  • That's certainly the way I feel about it. I feel that he has no reason to be criticizing me for areas regarding major revisions when I never received any notification that he was unhappy with them during my time working (indeed, he actually praised me for my whole work). Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 18:11
  • That's the point. If you say that you'll be happy to make any changes he requested that you did not incorporate if he calls them to your attention, chances are that he will step back. Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 18:57

2 Answers 2


I wonder what you are trying to achieve?

  • Do you want him to be happy with your work, give you great recommendations, and perhaps use your services again?
  • Do you want to minimize any possible damage to your reputation in the industry?
  • Do you want to prove that you were right and he was wrong and get him to say that it was all his fault and you're off the hook?

I feel that #1 is the right one to aim for. #2 is implied by your title, and reading the body I hear mostly #3. That one is just not going to happen and you should stop trying for it.

To achieve #1 (which will take care of #2 also) stop telling him that he said it was fine before and how were you to know and so on, and just ask him what he wants. Does he want you to rewrite it? If so, for free or for money? Does he have someone else to rewrite it? If so, how does that affect you - reputation only, or money? If he knows what he wants, and you're able to give it to him, then give it to him instead of telling him this is the wrong time to want it. The customer is always right, but they don't have to be your customer forever. If he wants to just walk away from the whole thing, blaming you while it was him who was the poor communicator - well that's how things sometimes go when you're a vendor. You're an easy scapegoat. Arguing about it won't make you less of a scapegoat, it will just cement his position and worsen your rep. Taking the hit with some dignity and from a position of "I am here to help you with your job, whatever you need" might make things better. Or not, but then at least you had dignity and integrity and were trying to make it better, so you can feel a little bit better while resolving never to work with this client again.

If you don't want #1, just #2, then let this drop starting right now. Answer him if he asks you stuff and otherwise leave it alone. Proving people wrong will never improve your reputation. Keep your dignity and integrity and get out there rustling up other work. Put this one behind you as soon as you can.

  • You've given a lot of insight into the problem. Your point being made the scapegoat when he was the poor communicator does describe the situation. I suppose that the reason that I didn't try for #1 was because I didn't think it was feasible. This may have been a gut reaction because I felt that his anger came out of the blue and that it wasn't possible to change his mind. Given, that, I guess I defaulted to #2 and #3 in order to save face, but perhaps that wasn't the right thing to do. Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 23:24
  • I've decided to mark this as the best answer because it addresses the root cause of the problem and explains why certain courses of action would be better than others. It's also the most likely to help others who might be in a similar situation. Commented Mar 16, 2013 at 23:48
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    +1 for trying to maintain dignity and respect. Clients like this are just a fact of freelancing that we all must accept. Personally I try my absolute best to give what they want, not what they originally said they wanted, even if it means a loss on my part, then when the contract is over I blacklist them and refuse further work from them. Commented Mar 18, 2013 at 11:42

So here's what wound up happening (which may or may not have been the best way of doing it). Before I posted on Stack Exchange, I had done my best to reason with him in the calmest way I could and address his concerns. I also had someone look over my e-mails before sending them to make sure that I wasn't being angry or anything. I had hoped he would see the error in his ways, which may have been selfish on my part.

Yesterday, I received an reply that was definitely a personal attack upon me, so I calmly told him that I was sorry he felt that way, that I had hoped we could remain civil about this, and that I wished him the best of luck in his endeavors. I planned on having no further communication and moving on.

Today he sent an e-mail apologizing about "the horrible words [he] said." He said he had been under a lot of pressure, but that it didn't excuse his behavior. I accepted his apology and he reaffirmed a desire to have civility between us and move past this. I won't be doing a job for this client again, but I'm glad that we were able to resolve it peacefully.

As others here have noted, perhaps I should have offered to make changes at this point, but I was afraid of being attacked further (e.g. "No, I don't want you to make changes, I don't want to see another word from you again!"). Also, I really didn't want do rewrite it again since I felt it was unreasonable, but I suppose should have swallowed my pride and just offered it.

The situation is resolved and we're both moving on.

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