I recently finished a big project for a client that involved many hours in the Executive Director’s office, fine-tuning copy and making sure that what I thought the client wanted to say was actually what was showing up on the page.
There was a very quick turn-around, and while the project wrapped before the hard deadline, it was exhausting, and could have been very stressful if all of the major stakeholders hadn’t had a good attitude about the way the project worked itself out.
At the end of day, the client gave me an unexpected and appreciated compliment. “You really get us. I feel like you listened to what we were saying, and understood the spirit of what we’re trying to do. And then you wrote it beautifully.”
While I am grateful for the compliment, I feel a writer can learn a lot by breaking down the components of those words. The most important job a freelancer has is to listen. Writing for a client means understanding who the client is, what they stand for, and what their main style of communication is.
As writers, we have a voice. As freelancers, we need to develop an understanding of what our voice is and what the voice is of the client we’re working for, and how those things will best mesh together. If you have the luxury of picking and choosing clients or markets, it’s probably easier and more fulfilling to write for people or organizations who represent your own views, and whose communication style is similar to your personal voice.
For example, the style you’ll find in Family Circle is very different from that of The Economist. If I had to pick between those two as to which would better match my own voice, I’d lean toward Family Circle.
If you’re working with actual clients — I do a lot of writing for small businesses and non-profits — it’s extremely important to make sure that you bring the same sensibility to your client work, and get to know the needs and the style of the organization. It’s your job to represent their voice. Not yours.
There are always going to be ideal clients and dream jobs, and the more experience you have under your belt, the better you’ll be at discerning what those will look like for you, and I hope that you’ll get to the point where you have the freedom to pick and choose the projects that will be the most satisfying. But until you get there, do a little homework, then pitch your skills to clients with their needs and their style in mind.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients tell me that a writer they’ve worked with just “didn’t get it” or “they didn’t really listen to what I was saying.” You don’t ever want to be that freelancer.[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://howtowriteshop.loridevoti.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/bobbiColumn.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Bobbi Dumas loves good writing. Of all kinds. She also loves romance, a mesmerizing story and the company of friends. When she’s not in the virtual world or one of her own making, she can usually be found in Madison, WI with her husband, two boys, and a clan of great writers she feels grateful and honored to know (some of whom you get to meet here, too). Lucky you! [/author_info] [/author]