What’s on the iPod: Sleep Like a Baby Tonight by U2
What a week. I started by spending what I thought would be ten minutes looking for a hotel room for the upcoming conference at the end of April. That turned into two days of hunting. No luck. I can get a hotel close to the convention center ($1,019 a night) or two miles away ($300 a night) or across a highway and not easy to get to from there ($189 a night).
Or I could stay home.
It’s my big push for new client work, this conference. And judging by the number of sold-out hotels, it’s going to be well attended. So I’ll find a way. Even the B&Bs are sold out. It could be I’ll be staying miles away and taking taxis.
Beyond that, I’m working on a number of projects for new/existing clients. I’m getting plenty of interest in my pitches and via referrals, so I’ll spend time today and tomorrow trying to get commitment from some of the prospects.
In a client interaction recently, I realized the expectations they had of what I’d be doing weren’t just a little off — they were worlds different. So I had to reiterate what I knew to be the terms of our arrangement and do so in a gentle way.
That’s a big deal when you and your writing client aren’t on the same page or even in the same book. You agreed to (and priced for) X. They thought they were getting Y.
Time to introduce Z.
Navigating these sticky situations isn’t tough, especially if you’ve left a paper trail. Still, it’s one thing to know you’re right and wholly another to point that out tactfully to the client who is wrong. Here’s how I manage it:
1. Apologize for the confusion. I never assume someone is trying to pull a fast one on me. In most cases, it really is just a misunderstanding. Your client hires a proofreader, yet sends over a ton of unedited work. It could be as simple as they don’t understand the difference between the two functions (most likely) or they don’t know what they really need. Either way, apologize that there’s confusion. Don’t take the blame, but do say something like “I’m sorry there’s some confusion here. Do you have time for a quick conversation?”
2. Repeat back the terms agreed upon. I’ve had to say “I must be confused – I thought you needed this….Are you saying you need that….?” No need to do a copy-and-paste of the evidence just yet, but I do refer to specific emails or contract sections in conversation.
3. Offer to revise the terms to include the change in work. I offer this up with a “Happy to take on that part, as well. Let me rework the price estimate and get back to you this afternoon/tomorrow morning.” There’s no reason why we can’t come to terms that are agreeable to us both.
4. Give evidence when there’s push-back. I did this once in my career (the client was changing the contract terms in her head), but it isn’t something that’s usually necessary. I don’t like to wave evidence in front of clients. Instead, I give them the chance to save face first (and remember their agreement). If it does come down to someone adamant about what is expected, I would say something like “I looked at the agreement, and here’s where I’m seeing our disconnect.” (I didn’t in that one case because that client was attempting to avoid payment.)
Writers, have you had to clear up any project misunderstandings?
What’s your process?