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When a Client Doesn’t Like What You’ve Written

Client Doesn't Like What You've WrittenOnce in a while a client flat doesn’t like what you’ve written. I’m not talking about requests for minor tweaks and corrections, that’s all part of the game. No, I’m talking about those rare times when a client informs you they don’t like your efforts at all.

It’s hard to hear that a clien’t doesn’t like what you’ve written. It feels personal, and like you’ve made some sort of horrid mistake. If the client is angry, the news of his discontent may be accompanied by threats of non-payment and the loss of future work. In other words all the ingredients necessary to turn your day sour indeed.

Time for a couple of deep breaths

When you get word that the client doesn’t like what you’ve written, take a deep breath or two. Tempting as it is to react, do your best not to. Here are a series of thoughts and steps that will help:

  • Yes, something has gone awry. But you don’t really know what yet.
  • Slow down. Listen carefully to what the client is saying.
  • Remind yourself it isn’t personal – even if you don’t quite believe that.
  • Get a sense of what, if anything the client is proposing as a solution.
  • Ask your client for specifics on what went wrong. After all, you can’t read his mind. He’s unhappy. Sometimes just asking some questions indicating you’re not fighting him will begin to calm the waters. See if you can’t get him (and yes, I’m using ‘him’ today for some reason) to point out the exact wording that’s wrong or misleading or whatever.
  • Take lots of notes.
  • Determine if the client wants a total rewrite. Chances are the answer will be yes. Ask the client to email you a summary of what he said was wrong and ask for 24 hours to think about how you can fix it.
  • Decide if you want to do the extra work – probably for no additional pay. It is your choice. If you don’t, you will earn nothing, but sometimes projects that go wrong are better dropped than continued.

Fortunately, having situation where a client doesn’t like what you’ve written probably won’t happen often. Know that you’re not alone.

Have you ever had this happen to you? What did you do?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Most clients know what they want. There are two type of clients first ones are those who want approval from writers, that they are good writers themselves. And second ones are those who work together with writers to create compelling content. Always try to avoid first type they will not agree or look ways for approval.

    • Actually Nicole, while maybe even every client has some idea of what they want, it’s not unusual to find those who don’t have a clear idea of how the net, social media, blog posts, even white papers actually work. They have unrealistic expectations of both the writer and the results. It’s up to us to educate them. Your two distinctions are interesting. I rarely run into the first, but it has happened.

  • This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something which helped me. Cheers!
    Aysha Khan recently posted..Sad poetry about life in English – sad poetry about life | Sad PoetryMy Profile

  • Hi Anne,
    This happened to me recently. I was hired from a networking event to do a quick job for a new website. The web designer hired me. I talked over the phone to a client who were obsessed by a different website and wanted me to write in a similar style. But what they wanted was not what the designer had hired me to do – he just wanted some introductory blurb writing and they wanted a full history in this story style. They hated my first draft, so I worked with the designer to produce the second and what he thought they would like was what they had essentially written, changed round a bit. No – they hated it and met with him to ask for another copywriter. I had very little control over this situation, but it’s made me think of asking for a deposit upfront next time, which I don’t usually do. Good learning situation!
    Sarah Charmley recently posted..Freelance Writing – How to Prepare to Meet with a ClientMy Profile

    • Yeah, I always try to get some money up front… just because of situations like this.

  • Recently I was hired to do a bio for an artist. This is my specialty. We went back and forth several times. Although he told me he liked what I had written based on notes taken during interviews and existing written materials he kept changing it back to what he had originally written which was not good. I sent him a bill for time spent and moved on. I was disappointed because I thought I had written a compelling piece which I could use as a sample. It was a good lesson, however, in that no matter what I may think is right, the decision is ultimately up to the client. I know I did the best that I could, was flexible and cost effective. I delivered what I promised.
    beth recently posted..Who are you?My Profile

    • I’ve had clients like that… apparently what they really wanted was for me to tell them they wrote well… sigh.

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