Freelance writers handle a wide variety of projects and assignments from different clients. Every client has different goals and viewpoints. No matter the type of client or what they want, they all expect quality work from you.
Whether you’re writing a how-to guide for an electronics supply company or a press release for an Australian spa manufacturer, your finished work reflects upon the company’s integrity—as well as your own integrity.
When working for different clients, it becomes challenging to convey their vision and mission through your writing. This may lead to problems with clients who expect you to read their minds and deliver work as they had envisioned. Other problems, like misspellings, grammar errors, or missing an important instruction are inexcusable but easily fixable.
Most clients are willing to work with you to remedy problems or inconsistencies, while some clients expect too much and become irate. So how do you handle different clients with different attitudes, moods, and tolerances? Here are a few tips to make clients work with you instead of against you.
1. Identify the Specific Problem(s)
It’s no surprise that some people just don’t get along. It happens in the professional field of freelancing just as often as it does in the personal world. When a freelance writer and a client disagree on the finished work, tensions can rise high, and these negative emotions can lead to unfriendly remarks. Nobody wants this to happen, especially the freelancer.
You can only solve a problem if you can identify it and how you may have—directly or indirectly—caused it. Did the client offer feedback on the problem or did he or she reject your work outright without constructive criticism? If the client offered feedback, then pinpoint exactly what he or she wants you to fix. It could be something as easy as rewording a paragraph or editing text to fit better on the page.
Clients don’t often communicate exactly what they want initially, until they see the finished work. For example, if your tone and writing style are slightly off-the-mark, then ask the client for specific examples of what he or she wants you to follow. The point is that you isolate specific problems before you begin revisions and rewrites.
This leads to an important point: new clients may assume that your delivered work will be perfect and spotless. In some cases, yes; is most cases, probably not. Educate first-time clients that revisions are part of the process of delivering exceptional work.
2. Find Examples to Fit the Assignment
Once you’ve identified the specific problems, such as incorrect tone or the wrong style of voice, you might need to research more thoroughly into what the client wants and find examples similar to the project on which you’re working.
For example, if you’re writing brochure copy for a hotel company, find other, similar brochures online to help you decide the kind of tone that is better suited for this assignment. It’s okay to do research, as long as you don’t copy and paste other people’s work. Obviously, avoid plagiarism.
If you feel uncertain how you should write or word a particular description or narrative, look to other experienced writers for guidance. Of course, this route can only take you so far. Research may only address some problems, not all problems. Plus, it’s frustrating and counter-productive to spend more time on research to fix something that you’ve already spent time on.
3. Talk It Out
Clients often have specific ideas for their assignments, and perhaps the reason they hated the finished work is because it doesn’t adhere to these ideas. In this case, you should opt for the direct approach: consult with your client to discuss specific issues. If the client
cannot indicate the specific problems with what you delivered, then meet with the client. After all, it’s a huge waste of everyone’s time to try and solve an unidentified problem.
For example, if your client rejects your work because the tone does not convey the brand messaging of the company, but he or she fails to explain how, then send a friendly email asking the client what he or she had in mind. The best and quickest way to remedy most problems is proper and polite communication. The fact that you are proactive in wanting to fix problems immediately will ease the client’s mind and build a stronger relationship between you and the client.
4. Don’t Take Criticism Personally
Writers must remember this important lesson: rejected work is never personal. Just because a client hates your work doesn’t mean he or she hates you or hates your writing style or hates the way you do things. Writers, even professional freelancers, sometimes forget this distinction. Chances are, the client takes issue with an aspect of the writing, not the writer. If you remember this, then you can communicate honestly with the client to make amends.
5. Leave the Client Happy
Remember that you’re working for another entity, not yourself. Maybe you disagree with the assignment, but it’s not your place to argue. You might suggest opposing ideas to the client if you have a strong relationship, but sometimes it’s better just to grin and bear it. At the end of any project, you want to make sure that you’ve discussed and fixed any problems and the client is happy. A happy client will always give you future work, as well as refer other businesses to you.