Know Your Client – Become Your Client

Amanda Smyth Connorhero

It’s always exhilarating to take on a new client. I personally enjoy taking on clients who specifically want to focus on site copy. It gives me great joy to be the voice of a company. To create the tone, the style and the narrative for a website feels powerful. I feel like the company’s success is somehow riding in my hands and flowing through my pen. But the mistake many freelancers make is in not learning to write in the client’s voice.

You can’t just describe the company. You can’t just talk about the company or your client. You have to become your client. Think how they think. Speak how they speak and represent the company as though you had worked there all of your life.

Nailing down the tone, style and narrative of a company’s voice is really tough. I’ve seen companies plow through a dozen freelancers in an effort to find just one who could carry the perfect tone and style that the client demanded.

I managed one project for client “Anonymous-Huge-Nationwide-Chain” whose list of writing style guidelines was like nothing I’ve seen before.

1. No word shall exceed three syllables.

2. No paragraph shall exceed 200 words. NOT 201.

3. You shall not ever use more than two adjectives in a given paragraph.

4. Do not ever use the past tense when writing.

…And so on and so forth. Flash forward to me, rocking in the corner with a bottle of Excedrine, sobbing on the phone to my eighth writer (EIGHTH) begging them to take another stab at the project.

Lucky number nine came to my rescue. This writer was no more talented or experienced than any other writer I had called upon. What set this writer apart was their zen-like ability to not only research the company and learn the style guidelines, but to actually put themselves in the shoes of the client and the customers who would be reading the copy. Once this amazing writer let go of all they had learned about writing through the years and had simply embraced this new, outlandish style of writing, we were full steam ahead. The writer made a killing on the project and further made themselves indispensable to both myself and the client.

What’s the moral of the story? Once you have embraced the client and proven that you can do the job as well, if not better, than the client themselves can, you’ve essentially got the client, and your editor, by their sensitive areas.