When a long-term writing client changes the rules, you need to listen well and be patient if you want to preserve the relationship and keep writing for them.
At least that’s been my experience, more than once.
Sometimes they will tell you a change is in the wind, more often they won’t.
They don’t tell you I suspect because they truly do not understand how writers, or any creative for that matter, actually work.
CC the owner
In one case, I suddenly got instructions from the marketing person I’d been working with for a year of blogs to include the owner in every communication. When a writing client changes the rules like this it can mean trouble. The owner saw, and still sees, everything – our discussion of ideas, editorial calendars, rough drafts, and final copy.
I wasn’t too surprised when, for the first couple of posts the owner did some micromanaging. I just kept my mouth shut and sure enough, that stopped. My assumption is he’s just too busy to pay that much attention to my email correspondence with his marketing manager. I was delighted that he gave thumbs up to a post I’d written that the manager wasn’t happy with. After that I’ve hardly heard anything from him.
My strategy of wait and see worked perfectly.
I’d worked for another client blogging for a couple of years when I got notice the editor had changed. A change in editor often signals the writing client is changing the rules. Other than sending the new contact info, the new editor never said another peep. He didn’t last long and was soon replaced. This one was a bit more involved, but not much and he too disappeared. With the next editor came trouble, at least for me.
He started by pointing out that several of my articles had done well pulling in traffic and said he wanted more stuff like that. Then something happened and all of a sudden he wasn’t liking my ideas and wasn’t willing to suggest anything. The next problem was he wanted to me to write about something fairly technical that I happened to know was just flat wrong. When I questioned him, he hated it and sure enough I got notice.
My hunch is the company was having trouble and either trying to find their way or the people who were in-house had started to leave. The rapid change in editors was a signal to me to double my efforts at replacing that client, which I did.
When a writing client changes the rules it may signal confusion
Sometimes a writing client changes the rules because they want better results. Don’t we all! Problems can arise if they don’t tell the writer what’s going on.
I had that happen and it wasn’t until I simply asked why what had been a good working relationship had gone to pieces that I discovered what was happening. In this case, the client thought they weren’t getting enough response and was trying this and that, never giving enough time to find out if the change was working or not.
We had several long talks about it all and I was able to help him understand that each change had to be made by itself – that changing more than one thing would result in stats that didn’t mean much. Things settled down a bit.
We can’t always know what’s going on with the people we’re working for, particularly when we’re working from home. It’s up to us to ask if we’re not told. It’s also up to us to keep marketing ourselves even when we have a long-term client or two.
What have you done when a writing client changes the rules?
Write well and often,