Give clients what they want: Show them the copy

a black and white photo of typewriter keysSo you have a new writing client?

Great.

It’s exciting to get that new project in. Soon, you’ll either meet in person or interview your client over the phone. You’ve got your list of items to cover and begin asking questions. One of two things will usually happen during this process: They’ll either dance around these items with generalities or give you seemingly specific instructions that end up becoming generalities.

Post-interview, you decide to take a stab at the copy. The client sends over some reference materials. You’ve leafed through the copy and feel you have a good sense of what the client wants, right?

Maybe…

My experience is most people who are new to writing projects have trouble asking for what they want and have an even harder time explaining what they want. And the reason is simple: They don’t know what they want (or don’t want) until they actually see it.

On an old re-writing project, I was having trouble wading through all the project emails, so I called the client to get clarity on some of the instructions. We had a great conversation, and I felt like I had a better sense of the direction they wanted us to take. Their instructions were simple: “Make it light, breezy. Take out the snooze factor.”

Another Dragonfly writer and I worked on this project together. She wrote one sample, which took the basic copy and punched it up a bit. And I crafted a complete makeover and removed the snooze, just like the client asked.

When I sent both samples to the client, she actually went with the punched-up copy and offered specific feedback. I relayed this to my teammate who then adapted her copy to reflect the tone the client actually wanted.

In the end, our client was pleased with the final copy we submitted and appreciated having a few samples to choose from. I have my teammate to thank, along with my good sense to make sure we sent her a few options to look over before submitting the finished product.

So next time you’re working with a new writing client, remember to show them the copy–while it is still in draft form.

 

This post was written by Diana Ceres, an editor with Dragonfly Editorial. When she isn’t showing you the copy, she’s writing it.

This post was originally published in 2012, and has since been updated. 

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