Writing: trying not to look a gift horse in the mouth
I like to write. I have great clients. But it really is a steep learning curve when you begin writing, copy editing, proofreading, ghostwriting, or formatting for a new client. There are pitfalls when starting a new relationship with a client; and like all relationships, open communication is key.
I help people with fleshing out novels and biographies. I correct alot of verb tenses. Paid by the hour for most projects, I try to tactfully remind them of the corrections I'm making: sped, speeds, speeding. I try to help them write consistently. Then I usually give up. I completely understand writing as stream-of-consciousness and then letting someone else clean it up. That's what I get paid to do. Still, I figure that maybe I can save them a little money by reminding them of verb tenses and the difference between they're, their and there.
Some clients don't know which of my services they need, and I charge different rates for research, editing, punching up copy, etc. So many times, getting clarification on what they need is like pulling teeth. And I think I can be annoying because I ask a whole lotta questions, trying to determine what they really want and need from me.
I write web copy that needs to adhere to formats, but then it can't be too formulaic. Those are tough. Each entry needs to sound unique, but the strict guidelines I'm given don't leave much leeway for avoiding the same old descriptions with a adjective or two changed.
Consumer vs. non-consumer copy: clients like to use those phrases but I don't think they understand really what they mean. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they're selling something; they're trying to get the reader to consume a product or service, even though they want to give it an informational slant. It can't be too dry; it can't be a hard sell. A fine line, but I wish more clients can help you find that line on the continuum so that you can satisfy them.
When I have to write a bazillion entries for similar products, I usually give them a sample, ask for very specific feedback, and then when I get it, get going on the rest. I ask for brutal criticism, and sometimes I get it. Saves everyone time and effort.
I'm finding more and more that the majority of them (the salespeople, webmasters, authors, etc) don't know what they want. They can only react to what they don't want, which is again why I like to start with a sample of what I do.
I get sent articles from publishers, and some of the material really blows. I have to take a breath and try to figure out if it was written by them or a writer they hired, and react accordingly. I've said "This article needs a complete overhaul. I mean it needs to be completely re-written, it makes no sense, is full of cliches and doesn't get the point across." And then realized that I put my foot in my mouth when I saw the byline in print.
Obviously, writing isn't just writing, I spend alot of time trying to read minds and revising and learning. I probably low-ball my time, because I don't really 'charge' clients unless I'm writing, or performing whatever service they've asked me to do.
I'm not sure if I'd be a good client, but I hope that being on the other side of the client-vendor relationship has taught me a little. At least I don't yell or call anyone an idiot. Well, I do in the comfort of my own home, and my pets know I'm not talking to them. They know I'm venting about a client who says I didn't mention the product name enough when I'm limited to 45 words per entry, and I mentioned it three times.