How to Read the Minds of Your Clients
The life of a freelancer—it is never the same from one day to the next. As a freelance writer, I never know if I will be writing for a construction firm, furniture store, doctor’s office or for a blog like this one. The variety of my work is one of the things that appeals to me the most. However, since I work for such a varied group of clients while completing my day’s work, the instructions I am given are always different.
Some of my clients give long, detailed instructions because they know exactly what it is they want in terms of content. On the other hand are my dear clients who are less wordy; at times my job involves a bit of detective work. When I provide web content services, I want to produce pieces that my clients will love, even if the client does not provide the ideal set of instructions. While there are always going to be those projects where you are just plain confused, these tips will help you decide what to do when you get a project that has less-than-detailed instructions.
- Send an Outline – One of the most difficult things a writer faces is trying to create content for a client that simply has no idea what he wants. When I am faced with this, before I write a single paragraph, I put together a quick outline of my ideas/plan and send it to the client. This works well because a client then gets a basic idea of what the final project will look like, but I do not waste my time creating a full piece of content that winds up being “wrong.” In many cases, the client will be able to tell if I am covering all the points that he or she had in mind and then my final product is exactly as he or she desires.
- Ask for an Example – The format or layout of a piece is often one of the most confusing aspects. In many cases a client may not be a writer himself, so he has no idea how to put into words what type of piece he is looking for. However, he has probably seen an article or post that inspired him. Ask him to send an example of an article or project that is in the style he’s looking for—the content does not have to be pertinent to the subject at hand
- Look for Clues – Read and reread those brief instructions that came with your piece. Are there clue words that can help you determine what direction you should take? Words like “personal” may mean that the client would like you writing in first (or at least second) person. Pieces that emphasize “sales language” are often best written in second person. Does the client want “web-friendly” content? This is when you should employ short paragraphs and simple formatting. Other clues like this are present in nearly all instructions; you just have to learn what to look for when you begin your project.
There are many strategies for “reading minds” when it comes to understanding your clients. However, remember that most clients are not apt to be upset if you drop them a message to ask for clarification. Remember that you and the client both have the same goal of creating useful and interesting articles, posts or other content, so the only stupid question is the one you do not ask.
Tracy S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.