Clients: Why Your Projects Aren’t Successful

Right now I’m in New Orleans. The conference is kicking off today, and I have meetings and parties scheduled. It’s a great time to make new acquaintances and connect with companies that have expressed interest in working with me. Any time we have a chance to be in front of potential clients is an opportunity. This one is ideal — they put a face to the name and background.

Maybe that’s why I get so frustrated whenever a business person asks me for help, then dismiss everything I offer. I didn’t invent marketing, but I do know what I’m doing to some extent. Nothing frustrates me more than a blanket “No, that won’t work” to ideas that have worked plenty of times for plenty of other people, writers included.

The latest was someone who’d contacted me and asked for some advice. I may learn some day to charge for the advice. That way when they reject it, I won’t feel like I’ve just wasted a lot of time and energy for them to go deaf and reinforce that wall between them and a new idea. After multiple contacts, I was told something akin to “No, I’m doing it my way after all.”

It’s happened with paying clients, too, which is even more bizarre. Easier to get over as I’m being compensated, but equally frustrating when I hear “No, we don’t want to try that” or “That won’t work” and they end up doing exactly what they did before they hired me.

So clients and potential clients, listen up. Here are a few reasons why your projects aren’t successful (and it has little to do with your writer or other help):

You’re too comfortable. You send out that same, tired mailer, the one you’ve sent for ten years now. Why? Because occasionally someone remembers to look at it and call you. It’s easy. It doesn’t require additional thought or an examination of what might not be working with it. Yes, new ideas are going to require effort, but what would you do if you had more customers? You’d sure as hell find the energy to make that effort then, I’d bet.

You’re overwhelmed. Yes, you are. You see all these ideas in front of you and instead of looking at each one more closely, you shut the door and go to another room. If it’s too much too soon, do one of two things — 1) stop asking multiple questions at once, or 2) ask for one or two ideas and for a discussion around them. Let your writer do their job — often, they know the questions to ask to get you to a plan that fits.

You think you know best. And in many cases, you do know best your customers. But if you’ve come to your writer asking why you can’t get more results or how you can increase your business, listen to the advice. Join the conversation. Don’t expect a recitation of ideas that you can shoot down like clay pigeons. Think out loud. Brainstorm. Partner with your freelance writer. Admit, even if it’s just internally, that maybe someone else could have a better idea.

You’re scared. Doing something new requires some courage. Here you are about to put money into reaching out to clients in a different way. That’s scary shit. But you’re not going it alone. If you’ve hired the right freelance writer, you benefit from the experience that person has built up over the years, and you have in front of you a resource of information. Take the leap, but let that person help you understand how far the leap is and what’s required to make a more successful landing.

You never really wanted to change. Maybe you’re the person who wants a cheerleader. I remember having worked with one or two people who really only wanted affirmation and “atta boy/atta girl” responses. When I edited or presented other ideas, they got insulted. If you want a cheerleader, show it to your friends and family. If you are committed to changing in order to draw in more business or improve the relationships you already have, drop the emotional connection and work with your writer.

You’re a control freak. Look at where you are right now. Are you thriving or are you struggling to get ahead? Are the people around you offering ideas, or did they stop making suggestions ages ago? What do you do/say when someone offers advice? If you can’t wrest control and open yourself up to new ideas, you’re not going to see the positive change you want. While your writer isn’t your therapist, they can help you if you let them. If you go around thinking you know best all the time, you’ll never see those opportunities whizzing by.

Writers, what more can you tell clients about why their projects sometimes fail?

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  • Anne Wayman April 27, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    You pretty well covered it and if they're closed to all my suggestions I drop them and move on

  • Paula April 27, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    Luckily I haven't (yet) had this issue with clients. Only friends. One has an excuse ready to dismiss any suggestions I make…but later boasts about what great advice another friend gave her. I've gotten so used to it I say, "Oh – yeah. That's exactly what I suggest a year ago. Glad you finally took MY advice!"

  • Lori Widmer April 29, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    Anne, I think that's an excellent way to manage it. Sometimes they must be left to deal with their own issues.

    Paula, I had something similar. I had a guy hire me to rewrite something. I sent him my version, and he sent it back with multiple edits from his friends. He paid me, but he kept what amounted to his original document. They had given him two pull quotes — apparently, that was better than my writing! LOL Sometimes they do just want validation. He paid, so no problem on my part.