Customer Service Vs Customer Slavery: Knowing the Difference & When to Save Yourself

Julia McCoy
4 min readApr 13, 2017


Cartoon by Mike Flanagan / License Purchased From Jantoo Cartoons

What do you do when you’re in business, and come across a customer or a prospect that treats you in such a way that you feel like their slave, rather than someone providing a service that deserves their respect?

It’s easy to just say “walk away from it,” but when you are building up income, a reputation, and a brand, sometimes that isn’t your solution. Or so it feels.

And what about “giving them a shot?”

There’s a real temptation to try to service that client, if you run a business where you care about your customers and prospects, and giving them your best service.

The balance?

Knowing when to cut the cord and let that client go before you become their slave.

To inspire and add a real-life example to my topic today, here is a real conversation that happened between our support specialist and a client. Names are hidden for privacy.

Potential client: I have several files for a total of 5300 words and would like to know the best total cost for editing.

Us: Hi, Client! That falls into our developmental editing category, which starts at $150/5 pages. You can order that here.

Potential client: That’s not “best cost.” Put me in touch with your owner, please, for a deal.

Step 2 in this conversation could go one of two ways.

1. You could step away, get the CEO involved (or, that could be you yourself if you’re in charge of a startup or running your own consulting business), and try to rationalize with them. If it’s a slow day or week, I guarantee you’ll be extra tempted to go that route.

2. Or, you could step away — and stay away.

As in:

“Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t think we’re your best solution and would encourage you to find someone else to work with. Have a great day!”

Do you know why the second solution is in your best favor?

Because servicing them could cost you a lot more time, unnecessary stress, and subsequently more wasted money than what you could earn making that quick dollar they’re offering to pay today.

I’ve experienced this, and to date, we’ve seen significant losses on trying to service clients that in reality want us to become their slaves.

We tracked what it looked like with one client that spent under $1000, and couldn’t make up their mind on what they wanted, and trying every possible way under the sun to get to us to work outside policy:

  • Over 56 emails
  • 25–30 hours of paid staff time

That doesn’t even cover the payout to our team copywriter on their project.

Yes, we lost money: and yes, lesson learned.

To combat the problem and decrease the stress and frustration of dealing with the “slavedriver” clients, not to mention to also stop the loss of valuable staff time and pay, we’ve developed an internal “client’s we don’t want to work with red flag list.” Tara M. Clapper, an experienced content marketer and freelancer who is also our Content Development Specialist at Express Writers, helped me put it together.

This Red Flag List has been shared with all of my staff, along with the explicit permission and freedom from me that they are allowed to stop a potential lead in his/her path as soon as 2+ of these red flags pop up.

Here’s a copy/paste excerpt straight from that list:

Clients We Don’t Want to Work With (Red Flag List)

1) Unrealistic payment expectations / wanting us to work outside our process

2) totally disorganized

3) “we tried another [reputable] agency before and they ended up not wanting to work with us” — red flag for unreasonable expectations in a client

4) no contact for a while and then strenuous nagging about quotes all of a sudden

5) no communication then expectation for immediate turnaround

6) can’t decide who is in charge of project — we need 1 point of contact

7) Trying to negotiate set prices

8) personal and professional disrespect to team members (no respect for time, sexist, etc.)

9) a good fit for project management but not open to project management + fees

To end, I hope this inspires you.

Service provider, consultant, coach, CEO — be empowered to never allow your staff (or yourself) to be taken along down the road of becoming a slave, not a service provider on an equal human level, to a customer.

Let’s kibosh those relationships before they happen, and change the world. Remember, slave drivers can’t be who they are without slaves to drive.

Julia McCoy is the CEO of Express Writers, a copywriting agency working hard to become the best, highest-quality content creation provider in the world.



Julia McCoy

Adapt to AI, or die. E/Acc. From exiting a 100-person SEO content agency to leading the AI content frontier at Content at Scale w/ a bunch of bright foks.