How To Help A Client Unconfuse Your Writing

writing client confusionI subcontract some article work for a company that’s in at least three countries, including India. They had been getting their writing done there but realized, that since most of their clients are in the U.S. they needed a writer with a real American voice. It’s been going well, at least until yesterday when I got back four articles for rewriting.

I don’t mind rewriting. I actually consider a revision or two part of the deal.

This time, however, when I read what they were asking for I recognized they really had no idea how we writers work or what we need to do it well, particularly when dealing with unfamiliar topics.

Nor had I given them any help in knowing what I wanted. We were both expecting somehow to read each other’s minds. When I thought about it I was really surprised this issue hadn’t come up before on this gig.

A list of what I, the writer, need

After talking with the person who hired me I generated a list of what I need to do a great job writing for them, which in this case, is about to do industrial manufacturing. It looks like this:

  • What, precisely, do you do?
  • Who is your customer? (Types of businesses.)
  • What does your customer do with your product or service?
  • Why do you want this article written – an answer for each article
  • What do you want each article to accomplish – sell, inform, etc. for each article
  • What resources do you suggest the writer look at in addition to your own website?
  • How long has the business existed?
  • What else comes to mind?

This list could, with minimal adjustment, work for almost any client who is selling products or services. If they asked me to write something about the company, instead of its products, I’d need a different list.

Writing clients are often confused

Often the folks who hire us are confused. Many of them don’t really know what kind of writing they want or need; most of them have no clue how we do what we do.

It’s really not surprising when you think about it. They are specialists and real experts in what they do which doesn’t prepare them well for hiring writers. The web is forcing more and more companies to create web sites and blogs if they want to stay competitive and that means someone has to do some writing. But how would an expert on say used equipment for the oil industry have any real understanding of content creation? The same is true for maybe even most businesses.

It’s up writers to sort them out

It’s really up to us to not only do the writing they need, but give them the information they need to help us do what they are paying for.

Successful writers know how to question a client about what they’re doing and exactly what they want to achieve. Sometimes this means a project will be delayed while the client figures it out.

Once in a great while a client will balk at this type of questioning, either fearing that somehow you’re calling into question their expertise, you’re trying to steal their secrets, or they think they’re being clear enough. That’s a client to drop – you’ll never get it right and the client will be sure its your fault even though it isn’t

The takeaway here is don’t be shy or think you should know whatever – ask. Ask the client questions so you both are truly on the same page. Your writing will be easier and you’re client will be happier.

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Write well and often,

Anne Wayman



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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori January 30, 2014 at 8:36 am

I’d add that writers shouldn’t be surprised if, after asking those questions, the client still isn’t clear. I had a case where I worked off the client’s own words and he came back saying it didn’t match at all.

Sometimes, they just don’t know how to communicate their own thoughts. And it’s okay to part ways at that point.

Cathy Miller January 30, 2014 at 4:00 pm

I never have problems playing the Duh! card. I would also suggest that even if it’s a niche you’re very comfortable in, still ask questions. Assuming you know their take on an issue can come back & bite you in the end. ;-)

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