If you’re new at the freelance writing game it may surprise you when you find the first client who doesn’t seem to quite know what they want.
Their confusion can show up in a variety of ways, including:
Vague instructions – this one you can often help with, and that’s by asking just exactly as many questions as you need to. If you find that their answers are confusing you’ve probably run into a client who really doesn’t know what they want. You can try asking some clarifying questions like:
What result do you want from this writing?
How will you measure the result?
Who do you think this piece should be aimed at?
If you could choose only one reader for this who would it be?
You can’t get clear instructions no matter how hard you try – this is a big red flag. If the client doesn’t know what they want, you’ll probably never figure it out. Don’t waste too much time with these folks – you’ll probably never satisfy them anyway. If, after a couple of conversations and emails, you still don’t know what they want it may be time to tell them something like, “I’m sorry. I’m just not getting it. Perhaps you should try another writer or, if you’re not quite clear, get in touch with me when you are.”
The only other option is to bill them by the hour and include the time you spend talking with them and emailing them.
Umteen change requests – This one can sneak up on you. You’re sure you understand what the client wants, yet you get request for change after change after change – the chances are it’s the client who is confused, not you.
You can avoid this trap by specifying you’ll do two or three revisions only for the quoted price – any changes made beyond to be billed at your hourly rate.
Missing appointments – if a client starts missing appointments with you often, or fails to respond to your emails, it may be because they’ve changed their mind about what they really want your to write, or they didn’t know in the first place. Give them a call and if you reach them you may be able to figure out what to do. Don’t be afraid to bill them for the time you’ve spent if the communications don’t clear up.
Most people who hire writers really don’t understand how a writer works. They may think they’re being clear when they’re not. They may have worked with someone in the past who was able to guess what they wanted so they unknowingly expect the same to you. A client may think a change request “will only take you a minute,” not recognizing the time and energy spent in stopping what you’re doing and re-entering their project once again.
It’s up to you to protect yourself, to set the boundaries and to be willing to do some educating. Sometimes a simple explanation is enough to help the client see the error of their perception.
Just because they are offering to pay you doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to be walked on – there is always another client if this confused soul can’t get it together. Be brave and move on. You’ll both be glad you did.
Have you run into clients who didn’t know what they wanted? How did you handle it? Tell us about it in comments.
Image: Some rights reserved by mikecogh