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Archive for May 5th, 2009

I have been blessed with pretty decent clients. For the most part, they “get me,” and they “get it.” They understand the process, what works, what doesn’t, etc. And they are usually pretty good at explaining the process to their clients, and managing their expectations.

But sometimes, you get a client who refuses to be managed. I think they don’t want to look like they don’t know what they are doing. Which ends up being pretty ironic.

Here are some warning signs that you hopefully won’t need, but probably will.  Note: these aren’t a collection of examples compiled over the years. These all came from a single phone call!

Mission Uncertainty:
Client: “Who are we? What’s our mission? We don’t know. Really, it’s all over the place. We will be looking to you to help us figure that out.”
Me: “So, you want me to brand your company in the course of writing your About Us page? That could get expensive if you really don’t know what your mission is.”
Client: “Huh? Oh, we know what our mission is. We have it pretty well figured out.”
Me: “Respectfully, WTF?” Which brings up the next warning sign:

Downplaying the Complexity of the Job:
…even if that contradicts the thing they said 5 seconds ago.  The point here is to get me to lowball the estimate, and somehow hold me to it when the complexity triples. Which leads to…

Poor Mouthing:
Even though this is a totally revolutionary concept, certain to corner the market, sure to be bigger than Cool Ranch Doritos AND cure cancer too, right now we’re just a poor, struggling startup. Keep this in mind as you write stirring, evocative marketing copy for the most awesome website ever.  Interestingly, they usually say this right after they say, “Money is not an object—we just have to get it right!”

Expecting Me to Beg for It:
Me: “OK, I get it, super important gig, no money, prestige project, no money, cure for cancer, no money…oh, what the heck, I’ll do it.”
Client: “Whoa, slow down, tiger! I will be disrespecting interviewing several writers, openly doubting their experience, methods and cost estimates and whether or not I will be their top priority for the next 11 weeks of this supposedly 4-week gig!”
Me: “Yes, well, good luck with that.”

So, no, I did not take the gig—and you know how I feel about saying “no!
Looking back, I should have seen where this was going. The first thing this potential client said was that he had “a deep respect for writers and the job that they do!”

Nobody has that much respect for writers. Not even me.

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