The Never-Ending Client

Occasionally, as a freelancer you will encounter a client that stick to you like lint to felt and may be frustrated by what to do. I recently had a client who hired me to do a small job which I turned out for him in a couple of days and which he said he really liked. However, rather than paying the balance due, he kept coming back with little niggly things. Could I change the emphasis on this? Could I shorten it to accommodate more formatting tags. Each time, I did as he asked but he kept coming back. Again with little things.

But little things add up

The problem wasn’t the requests so much as the client’s apparent refusal to accept that the work was done. He felt he could freely change his mind and I would willingly continue to make changes ad infinitum.

Coming from (originally) the hospitality industry, the concept that the customer is always right has been ingrained in my mind. So my tendency is to bend over backwards to accommodate my clients and make them happy.

However, there comes a time when you must put your foot down and gently tell your client you fulfilled your end of the bargain. It’s unfair for the client to keep adding things to a job that strictly speaking weren’t part of the agreement.

What to do

If you have such a problem with a client the following may help you:

1. Before you take on a job you must define the parameters of the work. A contract should do this for you.
2. Resist the urge to keep working until the client is happy. Of course you want your client to be satisfied with your work and you should always strive for that. But some people will take advantage of your good nature and have you working forever on a project because they changed their mind mid-stream.
3. Gently get the client to accept responsibility for changing their mind. In the kindest yet firm language you can muster you need to remind the client what the agreement was and the parameters of the work established before you began. And show them that you fulfilled your end of the agreement.
4. Worst case scenario, refund their money. No freelancer likes to do this, especially if the work is already done and has been given to the client. However, it may be better to give a full or partial refund rather than have a noisy, complaining client out there in cyberspace trashing your rep.

One of the pitfalls for freelancers, especially when first starting out is that they are so happy to get a job that they often don’t take the time to specify the parameters of the work and find themselves in this situation. However, if a job that should take four hours ends up taking twelve hours then you can easily end up making less than minimum wage.

In my case whenever I run into a snag like this I review my policy and terms and refine them to include the snag so that they don’t reoccur. Freelancing like any business is a matter of trial and error and refinement.

In the meantime, here is a decent sample of a contract you may want to use as a template for freelance writing gigs.

How about you? Have you ever had a never-ending client? What happened? How did you handle it? Did you change the way you operated your business because of it? Feel free to share your tips in the comments.


What’s Your Business Story?

business story writing

In today’s world, the Internet is to business what water is to a duck.  And although electronic communication has increased our reach around the world it’s also made doing business less personal than it used to be.  Despite all of the technological advances we’ve made and will make in the coming years, nothing has really replaced human contact.

When I was a kid growing up in the Midwest, there was a Mom & Pop business on every corner.  And we all shopped at these neighborhood establishments, knew the owners, usually on a first name basis, and liked it.  It was nice to know the people you did business with.  They were neighbors, friends—people we knew and trusted.  A handshake was the contract and you never dreamed of going back on your word.  Few businesses follow that neighborly model anymore.

We don’t write letters, we send emails.  We don’t meet for lunch, we tele-conference.  We don’t make deals on a handshake; we hire teams of attorneys to draft 100 page agreements, covering every possibility under the sun.  We don’t know our customers but we’re obsessed with the numbers and getting more.

Tell a story and your customers will know and like you

Your business has a story, a narrative that started long before anyone knew who you were.  You worked hard.  Maybe you worked your way through college because you had a dream.  And that dream kept you going through the night, over the weekends and kept you up at night more often than not.  You knew if you just kept at it, you could realize your vision and your dream.  But do your customers know that story?  Do they know you?  Yes, you probably have an About Page on your website and have sent out press releases or post cards telling people all about your business.  But has that story been distilled down to the facts, accreditations, and the obligatory bio with as much life as a cardboard cutout of who you are?  Your public persona?

A perfect example of a company that has used the story approach to expand its business is Trader Joe’s.  It started out as a local convenience market in California in the 1950’s and now has hundreds of locations, thousands of employees and does billions in business.  Trader Joe’s story is told in a unique, refreshing, and down to earth way.  And goes even further with their timeline narrative.  After reading their story, what shopper wouldn’t want to at least go there a have a fun shopping experience?  Their primary form of advertising is a circular called the Fearless Flyer – word of mouth pretty much did the rest for them.  Wouldn’t you like to have people flock to your business because your story was as appealing as Trader Joe’s?

Every business has its own story – tell yours

Despite opinions to the contrary, people don’t respond to sterile bios and dry copy.  Despite all our gadgets and techie toys we still want to know the people we do business with.  We want to feel that we could be friends and neighbors—we want that connection.  It’s just human nature.  So what is your business story?  Do your customers know who you are, what you believe in, and how you feel about the world?  Don’t you think it’s time you did?  I promise you if you do tell your story that people will want to do business with you.  And they’ll tell all their friends too.

Disclosure: In my freelance writing business one of my specialties is business story writing and I have linked to that site in this post.

Writer Chick

copyright 2013




No, Dear Client, Your Website is Not All About You

Does your website speak to your fellow professionals or your potential clients?

your website is not all about you

While my first true love is fiction writing and I am pursuing that actively (yes I have a new book which should be on Amazon by December), I’m also a freelance copywriter.  Specifically, I write content for websites and business blogs .  I write for a variety of professionals, like attorneys for example.  However, regardless of the profession or industry there seems to be a common misunderstanding about the purpose of website content.  And that misunderstanding is that the client believes their website is supposed to be all about them.  But the truth is that’s not really the case.

How to get people to leave your site quickly

Professionals, like attorneys, spend an enormous amount of time learning their craft, honing their craft and building up their practices – and it’s natural to want to brag a little bit about all that hard work.   However, law is a very competitive field and every day another 100 attorney websites debut on the Internet.  In fact, I read recently that there are over one million practicing attorneys in this country alone.  The problem then becomes, how does one stand out from the crowd?  The simple answer is you have to have a website that is more appealing to your potential customer than your competitors have.

Most attorneys I’ve talked to believe that the important things to put on their websites are their:

  • Experience
  • Accreditation
  • Awards
  • Peer reviews
  • Peer ratings
  • Media about them
  • Bar Associations
  • Memberships
  • Other important professional accomplishments or accolades

And while it’s true that the above are important things to include on website and should certainly appear on your profile page, that doesn’t mean that information should appear on every other page of your website.  You see, the above is what a copywriter calls a feature.  A feature is something about the product or service that is being offered.  However, features are rarely also benefits.  A benefit is the thing that your service or product gives your potential client.  And prospects are attracted by the benefits more than the features. Examples of features an attorney might offer are:

  • Can negotiate with the insurance company to get your settlement
  • Has won multiple jury verdicts for plaintiffs
  • Has obtained multi-million dollar settlements for clients
  • Can settle your case quickly
  • Does all the paperwork
  • Has a proven track record in  your type of case
  • Handles all the headaches connected to the case so you don’t have to
  • Handles creditors

Your prospect does want to know who you are, but only because they want to know what you can do for them and that they can trust you to deliver.

Hard as this may be to hear, people don’t come to your website so they can admire you or be impressed by you and become your fan.  They come to your website because they need something.  They come because they have this idea that you can do something for them – solve their problems or show them how to solve their problems.

However, if your website is all about you and never about them and the problem they have come to solve, they won’t stay long.  Actually, it’s the quickest way to get people to leave your site.

Want them to stay on your site?  Then speak to them in their language

Copywriters know something that most people don’t.  That copy is written for the people who the product or service serves.  It’s not written for the CEO of the company, it’s not written for the department head or even the owner.  Copy is written for the people who are the potential customers of the product or services that the company offers. Period.  End of discussion. It really is as simple as that.

To be successful in your online marketing, you have to tell a story that your potential client wants to hear.  A story your prospect can relate to because he or she is living that story. If you’re a lawyer then you’re telling a story about a person suffering because of some legal problem in their life, which by the way you can solve for them.  If you’re a business consultant, you’re telling a story about a business owner who is failing because they don’t know how to turn their business around,  which by the way, you can help them with.  Do you see the difference?

If you talk to them, they will come

If you want the world to know about how great you are, then feel free to fill your website with copy about you and your many accomplishments.  (And this may be effective if you are a celebrity. ) However, if you want the people you serve to find you and do business with you, then you have to show them that you know who they are, that you understand their problems, and that you’re just the person who can solve those problems.  If you can do this with your website, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Writer Chick

Copyright 2013