If there is one thing in freelance life that is certain young copywriter, at one point (at least) you will find yourself covered in the second hand spittle of a difficult client. There will be moments where your previously reasonable customer will turn into a teeth gnashing, tantrum-throwing crazy person. Or they’ll suddenly feel that the basis of your working relationship is akin to some form of lord and serf dynamic.
We all get them. Sometimes, we even have a hand in creating them.
But the seasoned copywriter is one who learns how to take a leaf out of the tiger taming book and wrangle (and wrestle) with the difficult client beast. It’s a matter of priority to learn this skill to minimise injury of both the financial and emotional kind.
And it’s a skill even the most gentle, peaceable and kitten-sized freelancer can learn.
Cover your fluffy butt
Terms and conditions are like safety nets against angry, rabid clients. If you have a list of things your client agreed to, then you have a legal leg to stand on.
Don’t be the copywriter who fails to include terms and conditions in either your proposal and/or on your website. You have to have something that spells out your roles and responsibilities to each other to make sure you both meet them.
It’s really that simple.
Oh, and always get everything in writing. Even if it is to immediately send an email to say “as we spoke about on the phone…”
Capture everything. Because you never quite know what you might need to tame your tiger at a later date.
Be who you are
When you first arrive into the big wide world of freelance or business, it can be incredibly tempting to put on a business persona. However, acting like ‘Connie Always in Control’ when you’re actually closer to ‘Connie the Kookie’ will not bode well for your engagement.
It’s very hard to build rapport when you are pretending to be something you are not. And without rapport, you can forget about fostering trust.
A client with no trust in you will make your life incredibly difficult.
Be the funny, furry little kitten you are. That way, you’ll know the client you have is (usually) the one you’re meant to have.
“I just assumed because I didn’t hear from you that…”
“I assumed because you didn’t email me the changes…”
“I assumed you would call or email me…”
These are all giant kitten traps waiting to be sprung. Never, ever assume. Making sure your life as a freelancer is painless means removing as many of the landmines of uncertainty from a project as possible.
If you don’t hear from your client, follow up. If they don’t send changes by the date they chose, follow that up and ask about them, too. If you are overdue for contact, waiting on information, have lost track of the date or are wondering what happened, chase the answer!
You have enough of things that could go wrong without inviting confusion and assumption. Being pro-active about filling in the blanks makes the writing part of the job easier.
Selling your writing to anyone is tough. You scoop out a tender, gooey part of yourself that you admire and put it on a platter for all to see. Then you invite comment. Sometimes that feedback is negative. And that hurts sometimes a lot more than we care to admit.
However, like any professional, you need to be brave enough to stand behind you product.
You can only do this if you keep perspective and not take things to heart.
Criticism isn’t personal. And it certainly isn’t more personal than the connection your client has with their project.
Think about that for a second. Your client has created something that may very well be their only source of income. It may be their life’s work or the thing they’ve dreamt about doing for ages. It’s their business baby.
And they’ve handed it to you.
If you don’t manage to crack the magic code first (or 30th) time, sometimes there can be more to the story. Or sometimes, you may have to swallow a little bit of lion-sized pride and realise that they have a point.
After all, even He-Man’s Battle Cat had his moments where he didn’t get it right. A copywriter who always gets it right is the stuff of faerie tales and fantasies.
Whatever the case, it’s how you respond that matters.
Follow the LAER model:
- Listen to your client.
- Acknowledge what they’ve said.
- Explore the issue.
- Respond instead of react.
Taking this step back can help you regain perspective, distance yourself from the personal affront, and find the details you need to get a few more purrs from your tiger in the next round.
The secret to standing up for yourself
Ever heard the saying “walk softly, but carry a big stick”? This is exactly how effective copywriters should manager their day to day client relationships, difficult or otherwise.
But how do you stand up for yourself if you’re worried the client may deem you difficult?
You can stand up for your rights if you remain as consistent and neutral. And that only comes from knowing what you do and don’t want from your copywriting career.
If you’re struggling with this, head on down to Hacking Happiness. We’re teaching the art of saying no, building some panther-like confidence and tackling the thorny end of entrepreneurship.
Keep studying, connecting and learning from your peers. Being a part of the Copywriting School on GooglePlus gives you the opportunity to pad in with a few battle scars and debrief. You can find others who have had to bear their claws and learn from their experiences.
And never allow anyone, no matter their size, make you feel as though what you give through your skills isn’t valuable.
Rebekah is a copywriter, content creator and marketer. As Unashamedly Creative, she’s written for startup, small biz and freelance. She also runs productivity boosting, stress reducing startup Hacking Happiness.