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That my husband concocted a way to dangle the wireless modem from the ceiling so I could work while the floors were being finished tells you how strange the work surroundings were.
One of the more recent projects I'd completed occurred before the madness, but it stands to reason that issues will crop up when you're already in the middle of an odd situation. It's an issue that could escalate, but one in which I know I did what I could to give the client the best product I could given the information provided.
Still, it could go wrong if I don't handle it properly.
It's a situation in which the client has to answer to a third party. This third party had some very pointed instructions for my client, which I believe were passed on to me in their entirety. At any rate, I based my work on the information I received.
Now the third party is doubting that my client hired an editor at all.
You see what's about to happen, don't you? The unseen variable -- me-- can easily become the target and ensuing scapegoat for any displeasure that's being lobbed about.
Part of being a confident writing professional is knowing that you did your job correctly. Still, you are going to face those clients and situations that will have people challenging your skills and questioning your choices. In a case where you're working for one client and suddenly answering to another ---that's a minefield.
Here's how to navigate the minefield and maintain your confidence and reputation:
Answer only to the client. Your temptation may be to start defending yourself to this third party or telling them to back off. Or worse, you might think "I have to make this person happy now." Stop that thinking right now. You answer to the one paying you. The only time you answer to another is when you're contracted to do so. I call it the "posse clause" and it's in my contracts. I answer to third parties only when they're named at the outset. If they aren't and I'm now expected to work with them, that means my current contract is breached, I'm owed money, and I'm now going to work under a different contract if you want me to continue.
Step back. Don't jump automatically into defense mode. Assess the situation, the complaint, and the possible scenarios that could be influencing the entire conversation. What is the main objection or concern? Is that something directly related to you, or are there influencing circumstances? Could something you did be part of the problem? If so, how can you fix it?
Get all the facts. Don't do or say anything or offer any remedies until you know the full scope of the situation. If you're having troubles applying this advice, just imagine that you've agreed to rewrite a book that someone said was "poorly written" and then you find out it was someone who wants to be that person's editor. When responding to things like "He says there are no signs of edits or revisions" do yourself a favor -- ask for the exact copy of the document in question -- not the original or the first revisions, if there are multiples. Then you'll be working from the same information.
Address client's feedback thoughtfully. Drop the emotion right now. I don't care if that client just said her third grader writes better. A) you know better, and B) it's not relevant to the problem, which is your only concern. When giving feedback, keep defensiveness out of it, and don't use emotionally charged words. Explain why you did what you did, and be sure to cite style guides, if it calls for it.
Make sensible changes. Don't agree to a rewrite of the entire project if you know it doesn't need it. Agree to rework one section or revise certain elements if you feel that's warranted. Sometimes just offering to do this will be enough. People want to be heard. People also want to believe they're writers sometimes, so don't take personally those "I found several errors" comments. Usually, they're working off high-school knowledge of rules that have possibly changed. In one case, I was called unprofessional and the client implied I was a hack because I'd started a few sentences with prepositions, a practice that is now widely accepted.
Remember where ownership lies. If it should get really contentious, remember who had final approval over your work. Remind the client, if need be, that you had their final approval and that you thought, as you should at that point, that the project was completed satisfactorily. That's why I always check back to make sure clients have received the project and are putting their stamp of approval on it.
You can't please every client. It will happen that someone will express displeasure, concern, or upset over what you've given them. When you can, work with them to make sure they're happy and you've understood what they want and have delivered it. When you can't, make sure not to shoulder unnecessary blame, especially in the case of a third party giving feedback. You answer to your paying client, not their friends, family members, professors, employers, or networking circles. Your worth isn't determined by people you've never worked with -- it's determined by how you rise to meet challenges and how you wear that professional hat when things get tough.
How do you handle unpleasant client feedback or situations?