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Why (Some) Freelance Writing Projects Fail

writing projects failI was reminded recently that often writing projects fail not because of freelance writer doesn’t complete or otherwise screws up, but because of the client.

Never getting started

Here’s roughly what happened that triggered that thought:

A potential client contacted me saying he wanted to write a book. After several email exchanges we set a phone appointment. That first appointment was broken by the potential client. He sent an email apologizing pointing out that he’d scrambled the time zones since he was calling me from another country and we rescheduled.

We had a good conversation, and he agreed to email me some questions about the whole ghostwriting process. I didn’t receive those questions and I emailed him asking where they were. When I didn’t get the questions again I emailed asking if he chosen another writer because I knew he was looking at several. His response was asking me to be patient because he been terribly busy and he had made up his mind all.

I’m reasonably certain that this gentleman will not get his book written by me or any other ghostwriter, at least not at this point in his life. He simply does not have time to devote the attention it takes even when a ghostwriter is hired.

When someone hires a ghostwriter whether it’s to do articles or whole book they have a great deal of responsibility for the project as well – and that responsibility includes spending reading what the writer has sent and responding. If they don’t have time to do that, the project is pretty well doomed.

Won’t pay for research

Another example: I’m doing some short posts for a company that’s in a fairly specialized business. They keep being unhappy with me, and they keep not sending me the information I need.

Somehow they think seem to think that I should also be an expert in their industry which I’m not. I would guess few writers are. I’ve tried to explain this verbally and more than once in writing. And given I’ve even given them examples of the kind of information I need.

I don’t know where this one will turn out consider unwilling to pay for the research time I have to do, and I’m unwilling to do the writing unless I paid for the work including the research.

Both of these projects could be considered examples of how writing projects fail.

Not exactly red flags

Neither of these failed writing jobs match my usual red flag warnings. Fortunately, on the book project we didn’t get started. I would’ve gotten in advance which is great. But the project would never have been completed and that just doesn’t feel good.

The article project is still in play. I did go ahead and write up a few of the posts to see if what I did would actually work for them. I suspect I’ll get paid for those and I may get lucky and be able to complete the project doing it my way, which is far fewer words, but in my opinion gets the job done. We’ll see.

The takeaway here is simply that when you’re working with clients no matter how hard you work or how good your writing is sometimes the writing project fails and it’s not your fault. Don’t worry about it much and move on.

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Write well and often,

Anne Wayman freelance writer



Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/celestinechua/

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Good observation, yes, we do want the client to succeed don’t we.

  • Great perspective.

  • Yeah, when the client is that uncooperative you should end it right there and move on. Think about the other opportunities you’re losing.

  • Great post!

    A writer can only do their best. If a client doesn’t provide or wants to provide the necessary information to complete the project, then it may fail. After all, a writer wants a client to succeed.
    Amandah recently posted..How to Influence People Through Social Media Updates and Other ContentMy Profile

  • Absolutely! Luckily I did get a 50% advance on this project, and it was a small one, so I’m not out much even if I never hear from her again 😉

    Good question about “going south”! I love etymology ;D Looks like it’s an Americanism that started as a stock market idiom in the 20s, mainly just because south = down: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/42358/origin-of-the-idiom-go-south

  • Yep… but some of these clients just never understand that.

  • I should have made it clear in the article… this is one reason I get a hefty advance… as much as 50%… my thinking is I want enough up front to not feel ripped off if the project goes south – why do we say south? Anyone know?

  • Something very similar just happened to me. I have a client who’s super nice and great to work with, but very, very hard to get in touch with. She goes for several weeks without responding to my emails, and it usually takes at least 2-3 reminders before she does, only to tell me she’s been too busy. Our latest project is hung up in the middle of revisions because I’m waiting for her to give me feedback.

    You’re right; it’s a two-way street. I can’t do my job if they won’t do their part. After one more attempt at contact I’m just going to send the final invoice and call it done.

  • wow!!nice post. Actually client should be responsive about his project. Ot.herwise project can fail. In a word good communication between client and worker is very important

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