The “Changing Mind” Client

Forrest ReadingAs a freelance writer and editor, I have had the luxury of working with a variety of clients ranging from the well established to the just getting started. Each client comes with its own set of pros and cons, needs, time constraints, and idiosyncrasies. But none is more frustrating than the client that is unsure of what it is that he wants.

As a professional freelancer, I provide services based upon a contract that outlines my responsibilities and how I will be paid for them. Rarely is it ever as simple as I just stated, especially in the forefront of working with a new client. It takes time to get to know each other and build the level of relationship where I just immediately recognize what a client is comfortable with and what is going to set him off.

The most difficult situation to handle as a freelancer, is a client who constantly changes his mind. Most often, it is because he has no real conception of what it is that he is seeking or what is entailed in providing him the end product that he seeks. This is why I always ask for a summary of what my client wants when it is all said and done. I’m talking about the “big picture,” not just the part of it that I will be participating in.

By having the client provide me with a summary of the “big picture” I have a better idea of how to fit my little part into it. Here are a few examples of what I am talking about here:

Example #1

“I am looking for a professional editor to edit my book”

Okay, we all know it isn’t as simple as that. There are many levels of editing…

“I only need light editing”

From there, I always ask how many times the manuscript has been edited prior to sending it to me.

“Oh, well none, I just want you to check for spelling and grammar,” the

Let me be clear on what the outcome of taking that contract will be. Unless this writer has published before, it is more likely that the “editing” required will be much more than just your simple spelling and grammar check. So I clarify with the client that at this point, he is only interested in getting the manuscript ready for major editing by another individual prior to submission or self-publishing.

“Why, no, this is the only editing that I thought I would need”

Guess what, no it is NOT the only editing this manuscript will need before either of these situations occur. Frankly, I have had a few clients that have published on multiple occasions that publish in this manner and wonder why it is there books aren’t selling. Sometimes a writer gets it in his head that he is the best judge of how the book flows, that the choice of words are the best ever, but somehow, he is just not a good speller and manages to get his “tenses” wrong. This is why the manuscript only needs a one stage editing process.

One of two things happens with this client, you take on the job (not me) and end up doing multiple editing stages for a single contract price far below what you should have charged. The client is unhappy because it took too long and you just cost yourself money for time that you cannot get back.

Solution to this problem: Ask for the first 5 pages of the manuscript and the last 5 pages of the manuscript before you commit.

Example #2

“I need a writer to make me a business brochure”

Okay, again, we all know that it is not that simple. What kind of brochure, bi-fold, tri-fold…, whose providing the pictures, is it a mail-out brochure that he wants to use as a counter brochure as well, and so on.

“Oh, I need pictures? Does it cost extra for the brochure to fold differently? What difference does it make if I want to mail them out?”

This is a common misunderstanding among businesses, that there is a simple “standard one-size-fits-all” approach to creating a quality brochure. Let me assure you, he has a picture in his mind of how that brochure is suppose to look when you get done with it.

Solution to this problem: provide this client with a variety of examples. This will give you a much better idea of what is going to make him happy. It will save you countless hours of changing and rewriting content. There is a big difference in writing content for a brochure and actually creating the entire brochure. Many clients are unaware of this…not to mention new freelancers.

If you are new to freelancing and want to write marketing content, be sure you know what you are getting into. Not all marketing content is created equally. This is a very diversified field and you should ask a lot of questions before you sign on as a freelance contractor.

Both potential clients and freelancers need to realize that neither of you is a mind-reader. Take the time to communicate openly and clearly. If you have any question, ask it…don’t wait for the issue to arise and then say to yourself “I knew that was going to happen.” Time is money, if you are not clear on what it is the client wants and the freelancer is unclear on what the service considerations are that they are providing, then it can be recipe for disaster.

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