Companies from many industries hire writers to create content for their Blogs or to create their website content. Most of the time, the work is pretty straightforward and the client’s instructions are clear, so the writer knows exactly what they want. When a client throws you a curve ball, their request sounds like they grabbed it from left-field at a ball park — or maybe from another planet.
I thought I was losing my mind when a client who owns a construction company around Washington D.C. wanted me to write about summer landscaping ideas. I thought it would be super simple — since I built my writing reputation writing on green living, home living, and gardening.
The instructions asked that I use the following keyword phrases 3 to 7 times in the text: exterior remodeling contractor, home improvement contractors, brick masonry, and brick Masonry in Northern Virginia.
Facing a Challenge
I really like this client and I’ve worked for him before. Moreover, I always want to impress my clients enough to get repeat work, but this was bizarre, to say the least. How the heck could I come up with summer landscaping ideas that included those keywords? Worse yet, I had to mention some of their products (windows and doors) and trying to connect those with the required keywords was beyond weird. It was ridiculous, but I accepted the assignment and was determined to do it — and do it well.
It isn’t a secret that I love to tackle a challenge when it comes to writing. I think of challenges as intellectual stimulation and recognize that diversity is the key to making sure that I always give my clients the grooviest stuff I can, and that my life as a writer is never boring. For this assignment, I was going to have to take a unique approach — maybe even do something bordering on revolutionary to make the weird keywords work with the title — even though I had no idea what I would write or how I could make it work.
Figuring Out The Approach
Then I had a brainstorm. Since my sister lives in Virginia, I tried to visualize some historic buildings I saw on a recent visit. I remembered that Northern Virginia has a rich architectural heritage, including brick sidewalks on some streets in Old Town Alexandria. I searched for brick sidewalks and streets. Then I thought about the architecture of the University of Virginia campus, knowing that Thomas Jefferson was responsible for much of it.
Finding Ideas to Use
I turned to the HGTV and Houzz websites to look at outdoor landscaping projects using brick. I found outdoor patios, kitchens, fireplaces, fire pits, and even outdoor living spaces, all of which could easily use brick masonry, adding character and durability to a project. I even suggested creating brick seating walls in areas where chairs would take up too much room.
After submitting it, I realized there were several possible outcomes. The worse case scenario was that the client would hate it and think I was silly for coming up with such a far-fetched idea. Then I’d risk losing out on a potential regular client. That would have been a disaster. The client could have requested revisions because my idea was too weird. If I was lucky, the client would like it, accept it, and just maybe give me “Exceeds.”
Thankfully, the outcome was the best one. I realized that, sometimes, you just have to figure out a way to get around a difficult assignment that doesn’t make any sense. I had to walk away from my computer to let mental images come into my head, but I was thrilled that I could work around what was arguably the most difficult writing challenge I’ve faced in a long time.
Susan B is a full-time freelance writer and researcher extraordinaire. When she’s not working, she’s taking care of tropical plants, looking for new ones to lure hummingbirds, or obsessing about ways to bring more hummingbirds to the small garden outside her apartment.