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When a Writing Client Doesn’t Perform

when a client doesn't performEvery so often a writing client doesn’t perform! The biggest non-performance issue is probably  when a client doesn’t pay, and yes, that’s a problem, but not what I’m talking about now.

I have a newish client – we’ve been working together about four months. I absolutely love their project and it’s been a delight working with them.  Until recently.

My initial understanding

Let me back up a bit. Their project is a multi-year effort. There is a ton to do and all of a sudden the client has stopped responding to my requests for clarity on what’s next. From my point of view we really need to get rolling or we could miss a hard deadline. As I understood it we planned to use the month of December for some serious planning, even though two of the principles would be gone about half of the month.

Here’s what I’ve done:

  • I’ve asked for a meeting to create a rough schedule. We had a meeting but never got to that subject. We’ve scheduled another.
  • I’ve made a list of what I think needs to be done and asked for comments. All I’ve been told is the list is too disorganized.
  • Of course it’s disorganized… but it’s a start. I’ve asked for help with it and gotten nothing.

In many ways the client has simply stopped responding to me in ways that would help me do the work they say they want done.

My imagination run wild

My tendency is to think it’s somehow my fault when a writing client doesn’t perform. I begin to think it’s something I’ve left undone, or that somehow I’ve managed to offend. This kind of thinking is so unhelpful because it isn’t true.

The truth is I have no idea why a writing client doesn’t perform, unless they tell me. Sometimes I have to ask, maybe a couple of times before I get an answer. In this case the answers I’ve gotten lead me to believe they will get caught up and begin to respond. We shall see.

It’s not my project!

I tend to get invested in the writing projects I take on. I think allowing that makes me a better writer and better at responding to what the client needs. Bur, like so many things, it has a downside. I have to remember:

It’s not my project!

It doesn’t matter how much I love what the client is trying to do, if they don’t give me the information I need to do what they hired me to do in a timely manner there’s nothing I can do.

It helps to remember that it’s not my project, that when a writing client doesn’t perform, it’s not my fault nor my responsibility. My real job is not to panic!

I truly have no idea what’s going on. Maybe they will surface and maybe they won’t. Because of the way I write my contracts I’ve been paid for almost all of what I’ve done so far – and if I never receive additional pay I’m in good shape. I do need to decide when to warn them that I will need to move on – that’s only fair. And if their lack of performance continues I will move on. In fact, I’ve already begun looking for the substitute project.

After all, being in business for myself means I have to look after myself. That’s part of being a business owner.

What’s been your experience with a client who doesn’t perform?

Write well and often,

Anne Wayman, freelance writer

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