I’m a southern girl. I was raised to believe that manners were the most important thing in the world. Other than wearing clean underwear. And lipstick…even if you’re just going to the mailbox. But I digress.
There’s a time to be indirect. After all, that’s what, “Bless your heart” is for. (In case you don’t know, that’s a southerner’s polite way of calling you an idiot.) But you get to the point where you have to stop wasting everybody’s time and spit it out like we’re all grownups. So here it is:
There’s a huge disconnect between content creators and the clients who buy their services — a lot of times, neither seems to understand the other’s business model. They’re just not speaking the same language. So let’s set some things straight. (And if you can’t handle straight talk, you should stop reading now.)
- Value proposition and budget matter more than your resume. I don’t care how awesome your portfolio is. If your prices exceed the perceived value to the client, you’re not going to get the job. It’s never going to happen. And, if the budget for content writing is pennies, they’re not going to make an exception just because you’re awesome. So start looking for clients with bigger budgets.
- The client is not there to serve you. The client is not an employment agency. Nor is the client your mother, your college guidance counselor, or a charity. Business needs change. Don’t get on social media and badmouth a client who isn’t sending you enough (or any) work anymore. If you have a contract, you have every right to insist that the contract be fulfilled. If not, don’t complain. The client doesn’t owe you a steady stream of work. With all due respect, buck up.
- Your client isn’t your college professor. If your content doesn’t meet the client’s needs, the fact that your English professor would have given you an A+ for style, grammar, and creativity is irrelevant.
- You can be replaced. Yes, you know the topic. You know the preferred style. You have a great relationship with the account manager/editor/client, etc. But there are other writers who could get there pretty quickly. It may take a few weeks, and it may be a pain — but not nearly as much of a pain as dealing with your missed deadlines, whining over edits, etc.
- You have a brain…use it. If something doesn’t make sense, ask. Don’t write something that makes a client look stupid just because that’s what the content brief said. People make mistakes. If said client reacts rudely and tells you to just sit there and look pretty while you write what they told you to write — fine. You’ve done your due diligence. Unless you have a byline, and then you’re going to have to negotiate. Don’t let a client make you look stupid.
- Don’t be sloppy. Just don’t.
- You get what you pay for. Sure, you can find somebody to write a 500-word blog post for $5. And if that blog post meets your needs, there’s no reason to pay more. But if you keep getting content that stinks, that’s because the pay stinks. The best writers won’t even consider a 500-word post for under $100 or so.
- Reality exists. Let me start with a disclaimer: I worship at the altar of merit and accountability. (Well, I’m actually Catholic, but I’m being figurative.) When my husband and I got married, we decided that our family motto would be, “Always take the high road, and do what you’re supposed to do.” But…reality. Writers who make pennies have to complete more assignments if they want to eat. And there are only so many hours in a day. Despite the fact that I believe that, if you accept a job, you should do your very best…a writer who makes $.01/word isn’t going to spend as much time on your content as a writer who makes $1/word. It’s just math: Lower revenue per customer = serving more customers in the same amount of time. Period. Reality.
- If you change your mind mid-project, that’s not a revision. To put it simply, it’s the writer’s responsibility to deliver what you asked for, and any truly professional writer will do as many revisions as it takes to get to that point. But if you asked for the wrong thing, or your directions were unclear, or the executives above you changed their minds — that’s not the writer’s fault, and those changes are on you. If you were building a house, and the builders put in exactly the counters and cabinets that you asked for — would you expect them to start over at no charge just because you changed your mind? I didn’t think so.
- Pay your bills already. It shouldn’t take weeks to get an approval on a simple piece of content. And, if the review process really is that slow at your company, pay the writer and stipulate that there may be revisions afterward. It’s not fair to leave the writer hanging just because the executive who approves content is busy handling a PR crisis.
- Be flexible on method of pay. There are lots of ways to pay a writer: check, PayPal, Stripe, etc. Some of them have fees. If you mandate a method that has fees, that’s on you, and you should bump the total up to compensate for that. If the writer mandates a form of payment that carries fees, that’s on the writer.
- No, you don’t need a subject-matter expert. You need a business expert. If you need a bylined article for a professional publication — yes, you need an SME. If you need content marketing, you’ll be much better off with a writer who understands business than with a writer with expertise in your industry. It’s a lot easier to teach somebody the particulars of your niche than it is to teach a technical expert about P&Ls, ROI, EBIT, margins, etc. You’ll be far better off with somebody who understands how your company makes money and how the content they’re writing will help accomplish that than with somebody who can wax rhapsodic about the wonders of whatever thingy you’re making but has no clue as to how that thingy generates revenue.
It’s really pretty simple: Be a grownup. Use common sense. Do the right thing. And if you’re working with somebody who doesn’t do the right thing — whether it’s a client or content creator — don’t work with them anymore. It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that.