When you write for others (people or businesses) there are a lot of thin lines you need to navigate. For example, how much work should I take on without getting overwhelmed and without going broke? How do I schedule my time around a household of kids. While these are two important considerations, one that I have finally gotten a grasp of, yet still need work, is finding those “perfect” clients. I’m happy to say that as of right now I have a couple perfect clients and several very good clients. In fact, I can’t name one client that is difficult to work with. So, that’s good. What separates good from great or perfect? I’d say a good client has aspects of each of the attributes on this list, while a great one fully embraces these attributes.
So, apparently, people read my blog and have read my older blogs. I don’t know why this surprises me, but it does. And when I was once told, “Well, some of your stuff can be pretty dark for anyone who is looking to hire you,” I realized I needed to change. The comment came from a blog I wrote and managed to help writers understand the real life of working from home. Some of the information was upbeat and some of it was dark. I wanted to provide an honest resource for people considering leaving their current jobs to work from home as a writer. The blog post that the reader was talking about was, “Letting Go. When a Working Relationship isn’t Working.” To be fair, I am a working writer, so I can see how a blog post like this could turn some potential clients away. But, in thinking about it more I realized that the people I am turning away are likely the clients who are difficult to work with and at times face irrational dispositions. In fact, I put this to the test in a quiet poll two years ago when I had a varied mix of good and not so good clients. The end result proved my theory. So, in the future this is a blog post that I’m sure will re-emerge on this blog.
Yes, I have a few posts about the negative side of working with people. But, it is the business and this blog is here to help other people who are looking to get into writing as a profession.
In this post, what I would like to do is give a shout out to all those great writing clients out there and the things that make you great. You all know who you are!
Working with someone who is really interested in working with you is a wonderful feeling. It’s like eating cotton candy as you slip-slop down a chocolate waterslide. And I don’t mean that plain old chocolate. I am talking creamy, rich, and delish! Projects flow smoothly and you can’t wait to jump on the work or talk to the client again. And, yes, that happens. Whether the project ends with a pat on the back or a lifelong friendship, I can’t express how nice it is to work with people who share the following traits.
Values your opinion
I can’t stress how much of a joy it is when a client asks me a question and really wants my opinion. It is common for people to test your knowledge by asking questions they think they have the answer to. I try to offer as realistic a response as I can when I’m asked questions. That might even mean you’re not going to hear what you want to hear. Sure, I try to be polite. I also try to explain, an amazing book doesn’t mean people are going to be dodging land mines to publish your book. There are many obstacles. What I can do is help you try to navigate your way to a position ahead of others.
A client who values your opinion is someone who understands that this isn’t your first time around the bases. You’ve knocked the ball out of the ballpark, stolen a few bases, and sacrificed for the team before. (I apologize. I’m watching the Cardinals game while I write this). Someone hires you for a reason, and hopefully, that reason is that you understand the product better than the person hiring you.
Wants to be a part of the work
I’ll be careful here – I promise! I have a varied list of projects I work on. And, some clients will simply say, this is what I need, please do it. Sure, no problem. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there are a ton of legitimate reasons why someone would hire me and not participate in the project much. However, a client who wants to be a part of their project shows that they want to be vested. They want to share their opinion, have a vision, and are passionate about doing a good job. It’s safe to say in any industry that is a person we all love.
Does not micro-manage
There is a fine line between participation in a project and micro-managing. Writing is a career requiring patience and is often fraught with direction changes, new ideas, and rewrites. A great client will understand that trying to micro-manage can cost and waste time and cause a good project to drive south like a snowball teetering on an icy peak. So, when someone comes along who wants to be involved in the project, but allows you to control the progress, it is a nice feeling.
Have a realistic budget, and don’t haggle
I get it when someone doesn’t know how much I’ll charge. After all, writers are annoying in saying, “I’d like to talk to you more before we discuss cost.” But, that is necessary. There are a lot of variables in determining the cost. So, when a client comes up to me and says, this is what I can afford for this work. Or, “This is what I have saved for the project and my budget going forward is…” They are giving me something to work with if I do happen to cost more than they expected.
The other part of this is that a client should never pay a writer to write a book if that money should be used to pay their utility bill. That happens – surprisingly a lot. Pay your bills, then decide if you can afford a writer. At best, if the book turns out to be the next Harry Potter it will be a couple years before you get any money for it. So, you might as well hold off. Sure, J.K. Rowling has a great rags-to-riches story. But, life is much better for people if they have an “I always had food and a place to live while writing my story.”
Prefer quality over cost
There are some stories I’ve heard so many times I can practically repeat them verbatim. Number one on the list is, “I went for the lowest bid and they did a horrible job. Then I went for the lowest bid again.” Yes, it is enticing when someone says they can write a book for you for less than $500. Especially when other writers quote into the thousands and higher.
But, the unfortunate part is that the same person who was duped will often expect for the new writer to drop their price by the amount they lost on a less-professional writer. I feel bad. I really do. I’ve heard the story so many times and continue to.
Sometimes it is just better to work with a good writer at their cost and figure out alternative payment options to keep the cost budget friendly. This can be done by doing some of the work yourself or extending the timeline. A great client will understand the value of hiring a professional writer over a less expensive one.
There are some caveats here. First, a low price does not always mean a bad writer. The person could be a great writer who lives in a lower cost-of-living location. Just do your research. Also, a high-priced writer does not mean quality. Again, do your research.
The biggest thing is putting cost a few notches down on your list as you look for other factors that help you determine your writer. I’ll give you a good example. Last year I spent countless hours speaking with a potential client who found herself in this position – now for the fifth time in ten years. To date, she’d spent over ten thousand dollars, or like she expressed, I spent enough to buy a small car, and am no closer to my end goal from where I began. The problem was that she never learned from her first mistake and continued to approve it which was exactly what she did when we didn’t work together. The most common theme I see with this type of client is that they are so concerned about money they will toss it away on the cheapest writer only to hire another and another. It costs a lot more that way.
Pay on time
Well, you knew this was coming. If a writer is working full time, on time payments are important – it is their livelihood. This goes with any business. But, a great client will not only pay on time but will also understand the value of a deposit.
A deposit is a way to ensure I am blocking off time for your project. I probably use deposits more now than ever. And for scheduling they are great. I’ve even had people contact me and say they won’t be able to start for a couple months but pay me a deposit to ensure that in a couple months I will have a space for them.
Yes, there are obvious concerns from a client’s perspective. But, if you have done your diligence in interviewing and collecting work samples, etc., you should be okay.
Have fun with their project
Most of all, and why I saved it for last – If a client is pleasant and excited to work with me then I know the project will go well. In anything you do, if you have fun with it, you will be successful. As will the people around you.
And, for those wondering the traits of a good writer, that blog is coming soon.
These are the traits that help a working relationship thrive. That is if you are working with me. Other writers will have other thoughts on the subject. And I would love to hear those ideas. So, please feel free to message me or leave a comment.