“My Client Just…”

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I’m trying a thing here. If you like it, I’ll do it again.

Illustration by Ramiro Roman.
Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

I get a lot of questions (usually via e-mail) from readers. Sometimes I answer them as a blog post and sometimes I answer them as a videoThis time, I’m taking a lump of similar questions and answering them all at once.

Make sense? Great.

Here we go!

“My client just… used a terrible image to accompany my writing.

Oof. Been there.

A lot of times this is simply a matter of taste. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who will look at the image that accompanies this post and deem it “terrible.” (But they’re wrong. Cat butts are hilarious).

You were hired to write. And if the client is happy with your writing and is paying you well, you should be happy too! It’s their website, so they get to choose the images. That’s just how it is.

However, if your writing is attempting to help them sell something (copywriting), and you know the image they’ve chosen will hurt their sales: Speak up.

For example, if you’ve written a sales page for a client who’s hoping to sell a water purifier but they use an image of someone drinking filthy water to advertise it…that’s just not going to work. Politely bring this up (Seriously, be polite! They’re not trying to damage their sales or annoy you, I promise). If they still won’t change the image, that’s their choice and not. your. problem. Take a deep breath and hope you have more creative input next time.

“My client just… told me to do something stupid.

How “stupid?”

If something seems strange to you, it could be just a miscommunication. Ask more questions.

Of course, if your client is asking you to do something degrading or being otherwise abusive, stand up for yourself.

“My client just… changed what I wrote for the worse!

Again: Been there. More than once. And it stinks.

First off: Ask them why they changed the piece. Often, if you know why they changed your writing — what they were trying to go for when they made it “worse” — you can make adjustments on your own to suit their style preferences, leading to less editing in the future. (Or, if it’s really, really bad and you know it could be detrimental to their business: Speak up!).

Then again, some clients will simply get a wild hair and edit your writing as part of a power trip. They like to feel like they did something/had a hand in the writing. In which case you just have to smile, nod, and hope they paid you well.

You probably won’t want to add this particular piece to your portfolio. And, in some cases — if they’ve really butchered your work — you might want to give up your byline or request a pseudonym ala Alan Smithee.

“My client just… told me they refuse to sign my contract.

Then don’t work with them.

Or, ask them why. If they just want you to change one thing — and it’s a reasonable one thing — rewrite your contract and try again. If they sign it, great; if they don’t sign it, don’t work with them.

“My client just… asked me to keep my work for them a secret.

Are you a ghostwriter? If so, then secrecy is kinda part of your job (depending on what type of project it is).

As a ghost, it can be frustrating trying to build your portfolio when so many of your gigs have to be kept secret. If you can, ask your client for a testimonial in lieu of portfolio clips. Often, clients are willing to say that you’ve worked for them — and that you’ve done a fantastic job! — so long as you don’t reveal specifically what you’ve written for them.

If that’s not a possibility, then, again, just do your best to make sure what they’re paying you makes it “worth it.” And try to score some bylined work on the side. Try guest posting on blogs!

However, if they’re asking you to keep your work for them a secret because you’re doing something illegal: Run.

As a good rule of thumb for most client issues: Say your piece, respectfully; but, so long as you’re not doing something illegal, let your client have the final word. Even if they’re wrong.

Your Turn

Did your client “just” do something that totally baffles you?

How did you handle it? Or are you still trying to figure out how to handle it?

Share your experience in the comments!

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