This weekend I was reminiscing about what I was doing this same time last year (I do that a lot toward the end of the year). Unfortunately the memory that came flooding back wasn’t all that great. Last year I was working on a huge project with a client. The project had turned into a nightmare because of rewrites.
As a commercial writer, I anticipate a few rewrites now and then; I’m certainly not perfect and you can’t win ‘em all. But this rewrite situation was just plain ridiculous. I’d been working with the client regularly for over a year with very few issues up until that point. We spent a lot of time on Skype and the phone discussing the issue; him trying to communicate what he wanted and me trying desperately to give it to him.
What went wrong?
In the end I realized that there were two major things wrong in this scenario: (1) I should have asked more questions about the project instead of assuming it was just like all the others; and (2) the client was quietly attempting to change the scope of the project – he really wanted one thing but had paid for something else hoping to save a few bucks. Better communication on my end early on could have avoided the whole situation.
Lost time and money
Although it was a big project that paid well, in the end it was costing me because of the extra time spent cleaning up copy and explaining to the client repeatedly that the type of copy he really wanted would cost more because of XYZ. I even ended up having to turn down other projects to complete one that I originally estimated would take much less time than I ended up spending on it. I also had to remind my client that per the agreement he’d signed he was only entitled to two complementary rewrites – not five, six or seven. More than two would be billed at my standard hourly rate.
Some clients don't know what it takes
I used to send out a project questionnaire to clients, or discuss the details of the questionnaire by phone if they preferred. It worked well with some, but unfortunately there are some clients who are not very forthcoming about the details of the projects they need completed. It’s as if they assume that there is no real work involved other than the writing. I even once had a client get frustrated when I explained that I couldn’t turn his project around in 24 hours because it required research. He impatiently responded, “Research? What research?!?” If I had accepted that project I’m sure I would have ended up knee deep in rewrites.
I’m curious to find out what methods other writers use to get the information they need from reluctant clients to complete a project. Do you find asking your clients specific questions cuts down on the number of rewrite requests you receive?