By Amanda Smyth Connor
Don’t move past this blog post – it’s not quite what you think. I’m not going to lecture you on personal empowerment or taking a stand against taking orders. Heck, we’re in the business of taking professional orders. Who isn’t, really?
What I’m up on my soapbox about today is identifying the difference between when a client wants/needs you to take charge and make suggestions versus dealing with clients who know what they want and simply want you to deliver.
Identifying the two is not easy. You may find yourself in a meeting in which a client wants to be in charge and wants to make clear demands about what they expect, but it becomes evident that they don’t actually know what they want.
On the contrary, you may find yourself in a meeting with a client who says they are open to your suggestions and creativity, but upon closer inspection, you find that they already had a road map in their heads as to how they wanted this to go and no suggestion you offer seems to appeal to them.
The best approach to identifying a “take control situation” or a “take orders situation” is to come prepared for both. Do your homework before the meeting, as any good freelance writer should. Learn the client/product inside and out so that you can show up to said meeting with a list of ideas. Feel out your client and be prepared to present your ideas, but also be prepared for a situation in which your suggestions may not be encouraged. If you are working with an editor, reach out to your editor ahead of time to ask in-depth questions about your client. Are they looking to you to take a leadership role or to simply deliver on a specific list of demands?
The ideal situation, of course, is to find a client who offers that perfect middle ground whereupon your ideas are welcome and respected, yet your client brings great ideas and suggestions and is able to meet you halfway in planning the course of this writing project.
Client relations are such a tricky thing, but this specific area of professionalism is one of my favorite things in the world. You may have to stroke egos and you may find yourself doing some hand-holding, but when you have achieved a perfect balance with a client you’ll find yourself developing more long-term relationship with clients.
Amanda Smyth Connor is a community manager for a major publishing company, owns her own business, and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies. She has been a professional editor for more years than she can remember.