I’m a member of several forums and groups around copywriters and content writers, and seeing the stories of the highs and lows that my online friends experience has inspired a blog about how to be a great copywriting client.
My best clients are the ones with whom I can have honest conversations about budgets and timescales. I have experienced some clients who give the impression of a large budget, but make sucking-teeth noises when I quote them a price, or agree to services and associated payment then tighten the purse strings suddenly. That’s not really fair, on either of us. If you give me an indication of your budget at the start, then I can tailor my quote accordingly, or offer a pick-n-mix quote for you to choose as you can afford.
Know roughly what you want
And I’m only saying ‘roughly’. Knowing precisely and exactly what you want, to the last comma placement, actually makes you a moderately annoying client to work with, and I’ve heard horror stories of ultra-picky clients where the copywriter has ended up throwing up their hands and saying ‘Ok, write it yourself then!’
The opposite is not really knowing what you want, and telling me your website needs to be ‘better’ or your product descriptions need ‘zhuzhing up’. This gives a lot of scope for me to go away, produce something, and for you to go ‘oh, no, not like that at all!’ This hasn’t happened to me recently, but when I was just starting out, before I learned to thoroughly interrogate new clients, it happened a couple of times. It’s frustrating all round.
Know who you’re talking to
In order to write about your business, your products and your services, I need to know who your target audience is – or who you want it to be. If you don’t know this, then I could end up writing in a style, or with vocabulary, that is not going to resonate with ‘your people’, and will actually put them off.
Simple example – describing carpets (yes, I have done this for real), if you’re selling to a family with children, then you need words like ‘durable’, ‘stain resistant’, and so on. The same carpet, marketed for wealthy second home owners might be more ‘luxurious’, ‘top of the range’ or ‘high quality’ – EVEN IF IT’S THE SAME CARPET.
Know who you are
Your tone of voice, your style, are important. This is partly going to be driven by who your audience is, but also by what you’re selling, as well as you personally. A professional counsellor doesn’t need a light-hearted jokey approach on their website, even if, in their personal life, they are the class clown. And vice versa – no clown really wants a deadly serious website!
This is why I spend a while talking to new clients, and getting to know them. I need to be able to sound like ‘you on a good day’, when you’re not rambling, or getting side-tracked, or accidentally drift into jargon the layman won’t understand.
Also, please be aware of your limitations. I completely understand that some small businesses have very little spare time to be thinking about web content, and communicating with me gets prioritised below actually DOING the work. This is fine – but please tell me up front if this is likely to be the case. Also, if you’re going to be on holiday for the whole of August, or are inclined to ramble when you talk, (so I’ll need to allow extra time for meetings, and cut down everything you say by 60% to make good web content) it also helps if I know that in advance!
Accept who I am
I am a professional writer. I am probably more knowledgeable about the English language than you are, (although this is may not be the case!) I am an expert at what I do, and have the right to be paid a fair price for good work, when the money is due. I am a sole trader, and my business and its reputation are important to me, so please be fair in what you say about me, including telling people when I’ve done a good job.
I am a human being, who occasionally makes mistakes and sometimes drops the ball, but I will do my best not to, and remedy any errors. I am a working mum, and while I do my best to balance home life and professional life, occasionally there will be times when I have to drop work in order to handle a family matter. I will communicate this to you, in advance if I can, and I will always make up work, or time, as soon as I can.
In addition to talking to me at the start, so that we know where we’re both coming from, keeping in touch while I’m working on things for you is also important. I may have questions that need answers, or points where I need a bit of steering. If you go silent on me, then I have to stop working on your project until I get the answers I need.
If you don’t pay an instalment, then I will stop working on your project. If you delay past a reasonable length of time, then I may not be able to meet your deadlines, or your work may get shuffled back down my list. I am not a mind reader, nor should you expect me to be one.
I hope that’s interesting – and useful information. I honestly haven’t had any shockingly bad clients, in the four and a half years that I’ve been HD Words. There have been a few that I might have handled differently, but on the whole you’ve been lovely. Thank you very much!