Working as a freelance writer, whether you’re a ghostwriter, a commission fiction writer, a digital content writer or otherwise, can be tough sometimes. One of the toughest things of all is learning what your clients actually want. Everyone is going to have those problem clients that simply don’t know how to accurately express how they want and never seem to be happy, but by clearing up the lines of communication, you can make those encounters as rare as possible. This blog outlines better ways to learn what writing clients want.
Know how to make your content ‘pop’
Unless it’s for any kind of technical or more formal writing, you have to be able to make your writing engaging, especially as a ghostwriter for a fiction or nonfiction book. The client is counting on you to do what they can’t, don’t want to, or don’t have time to do. Even website copy and blogs have to pique the (ideal) reader’s interest instantly, even in an overcrowded digital space. A writer’s job is definitely not easy! Attention-grabbing, binge-worthy content is king right now (just look at how many series there are on Netflix!), so knowing how to make your content ‘pop’ is crucial.
A few recommendations that will help you craft ‘popping’ content:
Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller
Save The Cat! Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody
Write to Market: Deliver a Book that Sells by Chris Fox
Content Fortress by Martin Huntbach and Lyndsay Cambridge
Keep the lines of communication open
As a freelance writer, you need to work out what each client wants, which means effective communication. Establishing this from the outset is crucial to the success of any project. You want to give them the option to get in touch when they need to and, in parallel, you may ask them to respond as quickly or as with as much consideration as you personally need. However, beware of keeping the lines of communication constantly open. You don’t want to allow clients to contact you multiple times a day at any time of the day (or night!), or the writing won’t get done! For that reason, it’s a good idea to use website chat tools that show when you’re available. When you’re not, you can take a message and get back to them just as easily.
Ensure they know what they want
One of the most important questions you can ask your clients is to define the scope of their own project. This means they should have an idea of what they want the piece or book to be, for example:
- how it’s going to be published (digital upload/download, ebook, print etc.?)
- where it’s going to be published (website page, Amazon, direct sell etc.?)
- who the target audience is going to be (the more specific the better!)
- when the deadline is (ensure this is realistic for both them and you!)
Once the basics have been established, there are more precise questions you can then ask to help you get a better idea of their wants, needs and expectations, depending on the project’s specifics.
Know how much input they want to give in
One of the problems new writers face is that they find it difficult to take the initiative, out of fear of getting it wrong. So, to learn what writing clients want, talk to them about who the editor of the project is going to be (especially for ghostwriting projects – novels and nonfiction books always benefit from a separate editor). However, if they expect you to edit it, then make it very clear how much you’re willing to revise for free after submitting the first draft (two rounds of revisions is reasonable but you may choose to offer more initially). However, charging an extra fee for any additional work is good practice from the off!
The better you can clear up miscommunications and understand exactly what your clients want, the easier you will find it to find work and to satisfy expectations. You need to work on this skill too, not just writing itself.
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