What's on the iPod: Falling by Desmond Myers
I'm still experiencing post-surgery fatigue. They told me when part of the liver is removed, there's quite a curve toward feeling energetic again -- six months out, they said, should be when I start to regain the strength. Not to mention that a gall bladder surgery, which I also had at the same time, nets a similar state of weakness. I thought I was doing fine, but in the last month I noticed a drop in my ability to finish all circuits in my exercises. I wanted to, and in fact had managed to do so about ten weeks after surgery, but lately, my legs and arms feel weighted down. So I've backed off a bit. Listen to the body, I say.
I was relating to a writer friend one of my more, uh, interesting client interactions of late. I won't go into detail here so as not to embarrass the person if he/she is reading, but it was clear from the get-go that we weren't a match in several ways. So it occurred to me that after years of negotiating with clients and handling all sorts of writing projects, I've have sort of a checklist by which I measure whether a client will fit. Maybe my checklist will help you decide if that writing client is worthy of you (and vice versa). So I ask these things:
Is it legit? Usually, this one is easy to answer. It doesn't require a ton of thought or attention to tell when a client is either being straight with you or not. However, there are people in this world who are ridiculously convincing liars. I've had a few. I'm sure you have, too. Mentally hold up the conversation to the figurative light -- is it believable? Why? Are the facts really facts? What kind of checking can you do to make sure the person is whom he says he is?
Who is the real client? I've been hired to ghostwrite for a client who was writing for another client. No big deal if I know about it. If I don't, that ticks me off. Is your client really the end user of your writing? If not, did they tell you so? Are you okay with ghostwriting for another writer, if that's the project? This also is a question to ask when you're working with companies. Your point person may not be the one you have to please. Find out who is the decision maker and have at least one conversation with that person.
Can they afford me? Every writer should state their price early in the negotiations. If the client can afford you, you can then move into the details. If not, you save a ton of wheel spinning and tire kicking.
Can I work with this person? I like to ask questions of clients on the first contact so that I understand the project, but also so I can gauge how they respond. Do they communicate well? Do they fly off the handle or answer cryptically? Do they ignore your notes or phone calls? Also, I usually suggest how I work best -- I hand them a draft, they go over it for changes, and I do the revisions. I tend to give them a schedule if they're wanting it turned around quickly --will they meet their deadlines? If not, will they fuss when I bill them after waiting two weeks? Spell all this out at the outset when you can. Their acceptance or push back will answer the initial question.
Is this a project I want to do? I've turned down about six projects this year, mostly because I knew the work wasn't for me. In a few cases, it was because I knew someone else who specialized in that area and who would rock the project, but there were a fair share of projects I wouldn't touch if they were glued to thousand-dollar bills. If you're not happy with your work, it will show. Why freelance just to be miserable?
Will this client pay? After a while, you get to know the types of people who won't pay you. The patterns are similar -- they want immediate discounts upon meeting you, they brag about their growth and profitability only to low-ball you on your fee, they use vague statements suggesting payment will come when they're satisfied (and they use creative wording to tell you you're about to get stiffed), they refuse to sign contracts....If the client in front of you exhibits any of the behaviors of those before him who had to be wrestled for payment, turn it down and walk away.
What's on your client checklist? How do you decide if a new client is a good match?