What I’m listening to: Heathen by twenty one pilots
We’re four days into 2017 and already the possibilities are encouraging. Some easy marketing has netted some scheduled follow-up calls, and the calendar is filling quickly. There’s potential on the horizon.
There’s also a shift in my own attitude, one that was small, but one that I felt was necessary. It’s a change that will help me protect my business and get me off the familiar hamster wheel of putting out fires I didn’t start.
Here’s where that change might make any writer a little nervous:
Dangerous thinking, isn’t it? When we work with freelance writing clients, we want to protect their image, and often that means taking the heat when they need a scapegoat. It’s our position as the lowest person in the food chain that pretty much guarantees when things go wrong, it’s falling on us (corporate gravity is a lot like physical gravity in that way).
It sucks, but we clam up and take it.
In many cases, I’m still in that position. I’ll let them blame me when someone else messed up. If it happens often enough, I work that additional aggravation into the quoted fee.
If, however, it happens repeatedly and the client is less than cordial, I’m no longer interested. In fact, it happened that way not long ago.
A client had me in on a project. It was our first time working together. The project was straightforward, and we’d discussed it over the phone (I record conversations and take notes). I sent my usual follow-up note, repeating back the parameters. No problem.
First draft, also not a problem. Nor were the revisions. It was only later that things blew up in a big, messy way.
The details aren’t necessary to know, except for this — the client handled it badly. The project parameters, which were agreed on and spelled out earlier, were now morphing into something else upon an “emergency” revision that never needed to happen. I was accused of some pretty terrible things, all of which were untrue, and the client was now treating me like a disobedient child.
I did one thing wrong — I let the emotional outburst influence my decision to give a rewrite that wasn’t necessary. I stuck with the project until it was excruciatingly obvious that no amount of additional work was going to satisfy this client, despite having taken the extra precaution of running every step past the team before tackling the work.Writers, sometimes you simply cannot hit a moving target. Nor should you keep trying. Click To Tweet
Fast forward to this week. One of the sources I’d contacted saw the final product and got in touch, upset that his contributions weren’t included.
There it was — my moment to decide.
I could have fielded the upset, taken it as my own fault, and let him walk away thinking I wasn’t a person of my word. Or I could tell him the truth.
I chose the truth.
But it wasn’t an emotional dumping of every single thing that bugged me about that project or the client, for that, dear writer, is nothing more than childish. If I were still in high school, I might get away with that kind of immaturity. But in business, not a chance.
Instead of the emotional stuff, I stated fact. Fact — the client changed the parameters. Fact — the client had issue with these things. Fact — the client changed the product based on misconceptions, and I didn’t agree with that assessment.
It was honest. And it was refreshing to be able to tell this source that the real reasons behind his contributions being absent weren’t decisions I was in a position to make.
But what about future work?
I can almost hear the panicked thoughts some of you may have — she won’t be able to work with that client again!
Very true. And that was a decision I’d made months prior — in fact, the moment I decided to pull the plug on further revisions — for no one, no matter what their reasons, should ever bring emotions into a business relationship. I don’t care if I was being accused of lighting this client on fire — taking someone to task, particularly without a valid reason to do so (and despite this client’s insistence, there was no valid reason at all), is never acceptable.
That’s when a client is no longer part of my professional orbit.
Besides, I have plenty of clients who know my work, know my strong ethical stance, and know I’ll get the job done accurately.
What about you? Have you had instances in which you refused to cover for a client’s bad decisions or behavior?
Where do you draw the line with protecting your client’s image?
Where do you draw the line at revealing details that could harm your client’s image?
What change are you making this year that could improve your business?