How To Help A Client Unconfuse Your Writing

writing client confusionI subcontract some article work for a company that’s in at least three countries, including India. They had been getting their writing done there but realized, that since most of their clients are in the U.S. they needed a writer with a real American voice. It’s been going well, at least until yesterday when I got back four articles for rewriting.

I don’t mind rewriting. I actually consider a revision or two part of the deal.

This time, however, when I read what they were asking for I recognized they really had no idea how we writers work or what we need to do it well, particularly when dealing with unfamiliar topics.

Nor had I given them any help in knowing what I wanted. We were both expecting somehow to read each other’s minds. When I thought about it I was really surprised this issue hadn’t come up before on this gig.

A list of what I, the writer, need

After talking with the person who hired me I generated a list of what I need to do a great job writing for them, which in this case, is about to do industrial manufacturing. It looks like this:

  • What, precisely, do you do?
  • Who is your customer? (Types of businesses.)
  • What does your customer do with your product or service?
  • Why do you want this article written – an answer for each article
  • What do you want each article to accomplish – sell, inform, etc. for each article
  • What resources do you suggest the writer look at in addition to your own website?
  • How long has the business existed?
  • What else comes to mind?

This list could, with minimal adjustment, work for almost any client who is selling products or services. If they asked me to write something about the company, instead of its products, I’d need a different list.

Writing clients are often confused

Often the folks who hire us are confused. Many of them don’t really know what kind of writing they want or need; most of them have no clue how we do what we do.

It’s really not surprising when you think about it. They are specialists and real experts in what they do which doesn’t prepare them well for hiring writers. The web is forcing more and more companies to create web sites and blogs if they want to stay competitive and that means someone has to do some writing. But how would an expert on say used equipment for the oil industry have any real understanding of content creation? The same is true for maybe even most businesses.

It’s up writers to sort them out

It’s really up to us to not only do the writing they need, but give them the information they need to help us do what they are paying for.

Successful writers know how to question a client about what they’re doing and exactly what they want to achieve. Sometimes this means a project will be delayed while the client figures it out.

Once in a great while a client will balk at this type of questioning, either fearing that somehow you’re calling into question their expertise, you’re trying to steal their secrets, or they think they’re being clear enough. That’s a client to drop – you’ll never get it right and the client will be sure its your fault even though it isn’t

The takeaway here is don’t be shy or think you should know whatever – ask. Ask the client questions so you both are truly on the same page. Your writing will be easier and you’re client will be happier.

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Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

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Backups May Save Your… Freelance Writing Career

writers back up your workEarly last year, at the request of one of my adult children, I began writing our family story. It wasn’t for publication; the goal was to retain some of the family stories and history for, well, posterity.

I’d written maybe 30 pages, complete with illustrations and had emailed this incomplete rough draft to my kids when I hit a snag. Since I wasn’t writing for a paying client I didn’t worry to much, knowing I could get back to it when the time was ripe.

Of course, life goes on and part of life for me was getting a new computer. Why is it that even with the same software or almost the same software the new computer never looks exactly like the old? I always figure I’ll lose at least a day and maybe two getting set up with the new machine.

I deleted it – I think

I don’t remember doing it, but apparently in an effort to tidy up my desktop on the new machine I deleted the family story folder. Over a couple of days I ran several searches, thinking maybe family story wasn’t the right name.

Nothing.

I felt some panic, and even asked one kid if they knew where their copy of the folder/files were – no help there either.

Then I remembered I pay Carbonite every year to automatically back up my computer.

And there was the missing folder; literally a single click put it back on my desktop and, when I checked, everything was there, including the manuscript.

Whew!

What if it had been a writing client?

Now, what if that missing and probably deleted folder had belonged to a client? Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if you had to contact a client, or several and tell them you had lost your assignments and the writing you were doing for them?

If you’re going to be in the writing business, you simply must be backed up, period. Not being backed up and losing client files can end your writing career – really.

There are all sorts of backup systems, but the ones that work best are those that backup your computer offsite automatically.

I know there are some who won’t use such systems for fear of privacy breaches. I understand that and I’ll ask only one question: How often have you skipped your backup scheme?

Why writers need offsite backup

You can have the best backup system in the world right their in your home or office, and it’s not enough. It’s not enough because every home and every office is subject to fire, flood, wind and who knows what kind of damage.

That old tree might one day fall and wipe out part of your roof and all off your computer and backups.

Your kids could pour water over your systems, or the dog chew on it, or you do something wierd… or, as happens often, and without warning, your hard drive dies.

These days it’s just too easy and too cheap to have automatic offsite backup to risk not having it. I pay Carbonite $60 a year. They’ve bailed me out more than once and I’m now familiar with their service. It’s a business expense I’m more than willing to pay.

And there are even free services. Gizmos has an updated listI haven’t used any of those so I can’t recommend them, but I totally agree with Gizmo when they say the worst time to think about back up is when you need it.

No more excuses! Choose your offsite backup solution right now – there’s no reason to postpone it.

How are you backed up? Tell us your solution.

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

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6 Assumptions About Writing Clients That Will End Your Business

no assumptionsI was talking with a coaching client recently and realized she had a set of assumptions about writing clients that would, if not corrected, sink her freelance writing business.

She’s not alone in this at all. There’s something seemingly inherent in human nature that makes us sure we know what some other person is thinking.

But we don’t – not really. And how could we?

Sure, humans have a lot in common, but we have huge differences too. When we make assumptions about our writing clients or our potential writing clients we tend to make the wrong ones. Far better to assume nothing and ask questions until all gets clear.

Typical Assumptions

Here are six assumptions many writers make about their clients that simply may not be ture:

You can’t move low paying clients up in price. Often this is true. If someone’s been paying you to write for them for $5 or $10 an article, or five cents a word, they are going to be startled if you jump your fees to a dollar a word. But you never know. At least give them a chance to pay your rate and occasionally one will. Or they will offer something you consider reasonable. To assume no client will ever pay more than they’ve been paying is to leave money on the table.

Sole proprietors can’t pay as much as corporations. Just because a business is owned and run by a sole proprietor doesn’t mean they aren’t making enough to pay you well. You won’t know until you ask. Some entrepreneurs have more money to spend on writing than some corporations.

Potential clients who say no won’t help you find some who say yes. When a potential client says they aren’t interested in hiring you, ask them if they know someone who would be. People love to help and sometimes you’ll get a referral that makes it worth your while to ask.

Potential clients who say no today won’t hire you in 90 days. Unless a potential client specifically asks you not to contact them again, try in three or six months. Things in business are always changing.

Clients know what kind of writing they want and need. Often the client only knows they need writing for something – a website, a marketing piece, n instruction manual, a white paper, and they may not know even that much. Remember you’re the expert in writing – that’s why they are hiring you. Ask questions, and you can gently guide them where they need to go.

Clients know how writing actually gets done. If you assume the client has any clue how writing actually gets done you’re likely to be surprised and not get paid for something you think of as extra, but the client assumes is part of the gig.  It’s up to you to make sure both you and your client are precisely clear about the details of the writing job.

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What assumptions about writing clients have you found to be untrue?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman

 

 

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