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Don't Give the Milk Away for Free: A Blog Writer's Cautionary Tale


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A while back I had a regular Buyer who ordered from my games blog writing gig. We developed a pretty good relationship. He was keen to get his business picked up by Google so we worked a lot on deciding on the right topics.

Our workflow was going smoothly. Do some research, decide on a topic then off I went to write and deliver. Never any complaints. Always glowing reviews and never a peep about a discount.

At some point, this Buyer disappeared. He was still sort of active on Fiverr but didn't engage with me at all. I even dropped him a message to just check in how things were going with his site. No response.

Then, one day he messaged me asking for ideas for another topic. I spent a good hour looking into a solid topic and keyword, then gave him the pitch. But he never got back to me. Didn't even reply with a "thanks" or "let me think about it".

A week or so went by so I got curious. I paid his site a visit and to my surprise there was a post with the exact topic and keywords I had given him.

He now sits permanently in my very short block list.

Did he write post himself? Did he pay someone else on Fiverr? I'll never know.

But a lesson was learned: never give the milk away for free. And applied it I did just recently.

Another Buyer who had ordered a few times. Paid top dollar as well.

For his next order, though, he wanted a discount because "we've been working together for so long" (I chuckled at the thought of 4 orders constituting as working together for so long) I obliged by reissuing an coupon he had let expire but I made clear that I don't give out discounts for every order unless it's a subscription.

Order placed, article written and delivered.

The Buyer pings me in messages without completing the order "Got it. You can write another article now. What topic is hot can you tell me?"

I grew sceptical but he had shown some signs of not fully understanding how Fiverr works: "Sure. Please complete your order and I we talk about it"

He completes the order: "Okay done. What topics are hot now?"

Me: "Well there isn't much news about ABC game. For your site, XYZ guides are what people will mostly be looking for"

Buyer: "Okay. Could you tell me which one exactly to make sure you don't write a topic we have already?"

Now, my Spidey senses were tingling....

Me: "Maybe just tell me which ones your already have and I can write about one you don't have"

Buyer never got back to me.

 

Moral of the story:

Writers, I know it's tough sometimes but don't give away your topic ideas. Even if they are Buyers who have worked with you for a fair bit.

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1 hour ago, yannisenglish said:

Moral of the story:

Writers, I know it's tough sometimes but don't give away your topic ideas. Even if they are Buyers who have worked with you for a fair bit.

I second this. I once had a "buyer" who talked ideas for a few days. Turned out to be a similar situation, where they used my ideas but not my services. 

Normally, they will come to me with some idea of what they'd like. If they have no clue and want me to do research, I tell them that I'll happily set up a custom offer for consulation services. 

The only consulation I do for free is SEO related, and it basically goes like this: 

  • What we should do in a summary form with little details
  • What I can do
  • The price

I try to be unspecific, like for instance saying "Deploy technical SEO tools to optimize the website" instead of "Install Yoast SEO to optimize the website". 

Even so, free consulations will sometimes end up being just that. Can't catch'em all. 

But it sucks when they take your ideas and research elsewhere. Most likely to some cheaper seller who don't have the know-how to do the research themselves. 

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28 minutes ago, smashradio said:

I second this. I once had a "buyer" who talked ideas for a few days. Turned out to be a similar situation, where they used my ideas but not my services. 

Normally, they will come to me with some idea of what they'd like. If they have no clue and want me to do research, I tell them that I'll happily set up a custom offer for consulation services. 

The only consulation I do for free is SEO related, and it basically goes like this: 

  • What we should do in a summary form with little details
  • What I can do
  • The price

I try to be unspecific, like for instance saying "Deploy technical SEO tools to optimize the website" instead of "Install Yoast SEO to optimize the website". 

Even so, free consulations will sometimes end up being just that. Can't catch'em all. 

But it sucks when they take your ideas and research elsewhere. Most likely to some cheaper seller who don't have the know-how to do the research themselves. 

Indeed. A lot of the time you just have to take the risk, as well.

At the end of the day, you're trying to get Buyers to actually buy your service. Some aren't going to be so inclined if everything is discussed so vaguely.

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This resonates with me because i have been in a similar situation. In my own case, i was eager to get them onboard (they agreed to my fee and the money was good). After 3 hours of answering their questions and giving a step by step description on what i would write, they ended up ghosting me. I am pretty sure they used my idea though, although they refused to share their website name (that should have been the first red flag, lol), so i have no way of knowing. The questions were too specific for it not to be used. 

I have learned and moved on. Other buyers have tried similar tactics with me, including returning buyers. I give vague replies and tell them to tell me what they want. Most of them don't come back. 

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On 6/20/2022 at 10:25 PM, yannisenglish said:

Did he write post himself? Did he pay someone else on Fiverr? I'll never know.

But a lesson was learned: never give the milk away for free. And applied it I did just recently.

As a fellow writer I agree. I always have people asking for article ideas. I have a gig extra for that, so I charge for it, I don't offer ideas for free, since I had many times when they were stolen and used without paying for anything.

On 6/20/2022 at 10:25 PM, yannisenglish said:

For his next order, though, he wanted a discount because "we've been working together for so long"

Same thing here. I just don't offer discounts. If you want a good service you pay for it. Many potential clients ask for discounts from the start, promising repeat work. Those are my favorites :))))))

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