I get emails from fellow writers that are mini rants about how difficult it can be to work with certain clients.
As writers who are comfortable with the written word I think we tend to overlook just how unusual our particular talent – getting words on a page in ways that work for both clients and readers – actually is.
Because we do what most can’t, we simply have to be willing to educate our writing clients.
I find there are five areas where you have to educate your writing clients:
When they argue about fees
A lot of the push-back a client may give you on fees comes from mistaken ideas about how writers charge. Either they think there is some sort of standard fee for the type of writing they want, or they actually hired a write at a low fee who did a good job.
Some of these folks really can’t afford you while others just want a bargain no matter what. Whatever the reason, I won’t argue back.
I usually say something simple, like “I base my fee on $xxx an hour. Yes, you can get it cheaper; how well it will be written I have no idea.” I don’t apologize, or talk about my years in business, or my expenses. My fee is my fee.
My goal is always to leave folks in a better position than when they got in touch with me so I often will close this kind of discussion with something like “I understand. Thanks for contacting me and please, consider me a resource.” Once in a great while they will call back ages later, but I say that becasue I want to feel good about how I left them.
Not being clear about what they want written
This is a personal bugaboo of mine. If the client doesn’t know what they want written and why, there’s no way I can please them.
I try to help them discover what they want with questions. I might ask “what result do you want from this piece of writing?” and “how will you use this writing?” and “have you ever had anything like this written before? If so, what happened as a result?”
You can use questions like these to in parte educate your writing clients. The questions help them figure out what they are doing.
If I can’t get to clarity with a client I decline the work.
Questioning limitation on the number of revisions
I often put a limit on the number of revisions I’m willing to do before I start charging additional fees. I do this to put a firm boundary on how much work I’m expected to do. I generally agree to do two or three revisions and say I’ll start charging by the hour after that. This goes in the agreement, contract, and/or email.
When a potential client pushes back on this I consider it a red flag. If they’re clear on what they want written and why and communicate that clearly to me, I know I can do a good job. When they signal they may want endless revisions I get cautious. Some clients (and those who edit by committee) seem incapable of ever really signing off on a piece – they always want ‘just one little thing.’ I won’t go there anymore.
Little or no understanding of the writing process
I would much rather have a client who knows he doesn’t understand how to write than one who thinks they know how it works.
Writing is a creative process. We each approach it in a different way. Trying to really understand it from a distance is like nailing jelly to a tree.
I work hard to set realistic expectations for the client – that’s part of my job. If they want something radically different we may well part ways.
Wanting rush jobs
What is it with some clients? Everything they ask for is an emergency and needs to be completed sometime yesterday.
Their lack of planning isn’t my problem. If I take the gig it creates problems for me because I have to rearrange my schedule for their panic. I charge extra for that – sometimes as much as double my usual rate, more often like 50 percent more. And I’m not a bit unhappy if they move on with their rush project.
For existing clients I’m a bit more flexible, but not much. Of course, I’ve educated these clients not to expect rush jobs from me.
How do you educate your writing clients?
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Write well and often,