Do most of your writing clients really know what they want? Of course, mileage will vary. If you’re working with managers who often hire freelance writers, the chances are those clients really know what they want.
On the other hand, someone who has worked with few or no freelance writers often has lots of misunderstanding s.
For example, those who want books ghostwritten are classic for not knowing what they want. They know they want a book, but they have little idea how a book actually goes together and what’s actually required in terms of time and effort. The same is true of the executive of a small business who suddenly decides she wants a blog. Unrealistic expectations abound. They are sure they can get rich or increase their sales with ease.
Vague assumptions are perhaps the first clue they have no idea how to define or spec a writing job. They think they do, but because they don’t understand how writing actually gets done or what the writer needs, they can be difficult to work with. These seven questions will help your client know what they want and you to get crystal clear on your assignment.
1 – What is the writing for?
Every piece of writing has a purpose, and that should be made clear. Why do they want you to write it in the first place? Knowing this will help you understand your client’s goals.
2 – What does your client want it to accomplish?
Is this an advertising or direct mail piece that’s supposed to sell a product or service? Or perhaps it’s to get the firm or someone in the firm publicity. Is it to provide background information of something tighter and more specific? Is it to be a ghostwritten piece, and if so, whose voice should the writer use?
3 – How will the client know if it’s a success or failure?
Do they have a formal process for deciding if the writing you’ve done works for them or not? Either way, it’s helpful to know their thinking.
4 – Will the writer need to do research or interview for the information?
If you need to do research you need to know in advance and build that into your pricing. And realize that unless you happen to be familiar with your clients industry, it will take you longer to come up to speed.
Of course if the client is going to provide the information, it only makes sense to ask for a sample or two so you know in advance how usable that information is.
5 – What form does the client want the final copy in, Word? Posted on WordPress for your review?
It’s one thing to do your writing in word, and can be quite a different one if the client wants you to use special software or post in a content management system like WordPress. If the document is to be printed, are they asking you for camera ready copy? What about illustrations? The form requested should influence your price.
6 – What, if any, involvement in Social Media will the writer have?
Are you expected to help promote whatever you’ve written in social media or elsewhere? If so, you need to charge more.
7 – How many people will be involved in the final okay of what is written?
This is a personal bugaboo of mine. I’ve actually turned down work when more than two or three people are involved in the approval process. It can quickly turn into a nightmare with delayed pay or worse. The problem is the people involved in the approval never ever agree, so everything is delayed. My ideal is a single person, and I often insist on that. And yes, I’ve lost gigs, but I learned this the hard way.
What have I missed in helping you and your client know what they want?
Write well and often,