Communication 101: How Straight Talk with Clients Can Make Everyone Happy
When you accept a writing assignment, remember that you and your client have a shared goal: You both want the finished product to shine. Your reasons may differ. You may have your eye on establishing a quality body of work or even on securing future assignments, while your client may simply want the high-quality article they envisioned when they first placed their order. Whatever your separate motives, however, you both want the project to succeed.
The first step toward that success is clear and open communication, both before you start writing and during the writing process. The following tips will help ensure that the lines of communication between you and your clients stay wide open:
Ask Questions – If you are unclear about anything in a client’s instructions, contact them. A few simple questions early on can save hours of frustration and wasted effort later. Does the piece need a casual tone or a more formal one? If you don’t know, ask. Does the client want the article written in first person or third? Ask them. Does the piece require the attribution of sources? Again, ask if you are unsure.
Be Clear – In an effort to be polite and accommodating, some content writers may tread too lightly in their communications with clients. They may use phrases like “if you don’t mind …” or “I was thinking …” These phrases are fine if you are simply making suggestions and will be content with any answer, but if that is not the case, choose stronger words. If you really don’t have time for an assignment, for example, or need more pay for extensive research, come right out and say so. Use unequivocal statements like, “I can’t …” or “I need to have …” These will leave no room for misunderstanding.
Let Your Client Set the Tone – As a content writer, you will meet all kinds of clients. Communication with your clients will be more successful when everyone involved feels comfortable. Being too formal with a casual, laid-back client can be off-putting. Being too casual with a more formal, businesslike person can come across as unprofessional. If your current client calls you by your first name and sprinkles their orders with exclamation points and emoticons, be cheery and upbeat in your responses, and add a few smiley faces of your own. If, on the other hand, your client’s instructions are formal and businesslike, then you should respond in kind.
Practice Gratitude – Sometimes, it’s hard to remember that behind every client order is a real, live person – one who will likely respond well to gracious treatment. If you receive a bonus from a client for work well done, send them a quick thank-you note. If they have taken the time to rate your article or offer a critique, thank them for that as well. Treating your clients like real people who deserve recognition will not only make them feel appreciated, it will remind them that the same is true of you.
Never shy away from reaching out to your clients. Successful communication will ensure that you both get what you want from the relationship.
Kate C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.