Not knowing what your client wants with and from a writing project spells trouble – trouble that is up to you to solve.
It’s trouble because if you’re not in sync with your client’s needs and expectations you simply can’t get it right.
Our customers are notorious for being unclear on why they want a particular piece of writing and what they will do with it once they have it. Which is why it so often falls to you to figure it out in concert with your customer, even if it means you end up helping them decide what they’re actually doing.
It’s surprising how often this confusion needs to be addressed.
Start by asking the right questions
Skillful questions are the key. Take this situation. You get a call from a possible customer who eagerly wants to know what you charge to write blog posts. I generally start with something like: “Great! What kind of blog and what do you hope to accomplish with it?”
You’re really asking what your client wants; the answer you get is likely to be pretty vague. I’ve heard every thing from, “well all the business magazines say I need a blog to promote my business” to “why does anyone want a blog? To tell my ideas to the world, right?”
Unless they have a really clear vision, I skip right to the money question with “What’s your budget?” More people ask me to write than I have time and desire to write for. Finding out if they can afford me is a necessity before I spend too much time with them.
Clarifying what the client wants is next
I want the client to be as specific as possible with their goals or desired results. If it’s just to satisfy seeing their name and some of their ideas available to the public that’s fine. So is wanting to increase web traffic, or increasing sales, etc. If they’ve got a numerical goal even better. I know, for example, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to double their web traffic or their sales very quickly, if at all and I can help them understand that a blog to be profitable needs to be backed up with a plan of some sort. I can offer some advice, write a darn good blog for them, and that’s about it.
Often you’ll find you need to help the clients change their expectations at least a bit. Many truly smart people are still pretty vague, for example, on blogging. My understanding on how blogs work, both from a technical standpoint and a content point of view can help my customer come to terms with what’s real. Chances are you can do the same.
As writers we bring all sorts of things to the table – it’s part of the way we meet our client’s needs and wants.
Write well and often,
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