Unfortunately the old adage, “the customer is always right” applies to freelance writing. Or does it? In theory, a client has come to you, the expert, with a writing problem that needs to be solved. They recognize you as an expert otherwise they wouldn’t be there. So what do you do when they don’t want to follow your advice?
As a freelance writer you are in the position of having to delivery a quality product based on the guidelines given you by the client. Sometimes the direction is fairly clear. The project is straightforward and at its conclusion, both writer and client move on. Ideal scenario, right? Not necessarily rare but probably not the norm, either.
Here’s the thing. We want to be helpful, we want to do a great job for the folks who invest their trust (and money) to us. What do we do when the client insists on handling a project in a way that may be detrimental to the success of their end goal?
It puts the freelance writer in a bad position. If we give the client exactly what they want and the project ultimately doesn’t provide the results the client wants, then the client may hold that the result is due to your writing. It would also be poor form for the writer to give a great big, “I told you so.”
How have you handled these kinds of situations?
Here is the system I use when it looks like the client wants to head down a road that has disaster written all over it:
- Clarify. Make certain you really understand the project
- Question. What is the client going to be doing with the final deliverable? Is this a synopsis to be shopped to editors, is it copy for a landing page that will serve as ad copy?
- Suggest. Base your suggestions on your experiences. Remember, you are the expert. Get that point across, as tactfully as possible. In these kind of scenarios, you are now a salesperson, selling the client on the correct way to proceed.
- Provide Alternatives. I have had situations where when I delivered the final, I also delivered an alternative version with the caveat that they may want to consider version two as an alternative. Yes, it may be more work, but sometimes it will help the client to see the light. It also shows a level of caring that may win the client over into a returning customer.
If you look closely, you’ll see there is a common thread in this system. It is the thread of communication. We talk about that a lot here at Freelance Writing (The Writer’s Manifesto). Communication is the key to success and in these kinds of situations it is crucial.
I’m interested in knowing how you have handled these types of situations. What tips do you have that have worked for you in the past? As well, what have you tried that hasn’t worked, and why didn’t it?
Posted by George