The Running Brief – Lessons I am Learning…

I have a client at the moment who is bursting with big ideas and full of enthusiasm. How wonderful, you think, just the kind of client we love. Well yes…and no.

The problem is that my client can’t make up her mind what she really wants. We’ve gone through numerous iterations of the content and each time it sparks a fresh new idea . Now we’re at risk of the content being stretched so far out of shape that it doesn’t do anything very well. It’s being asked to wear too many hats and carry too much weight. I know that, as the writer, it’s my responsibility to rein this in and let the poor content breathe and get to doing its job. However, I can’t quite convince the client of that …yet.

It takes me back to some tips I learned at the Creative Freelancer’s Conference in June about questions to ask in the first conversation with prospective clients. The questions are simple but the impact is profound:

  • Source – how did they learn about me
  • Need – what are you looking to accomplish? How are you addressing this now?
  • Timing – when’s your go-live date?
  • Decision process – are you deciding on price? Are you also talking to other writers?
  • Budget –
    • What budget do you have to work with?
    • Have funds been allocated?
    • Offer a ball park estimate ( and then shut up) : That sounds like it would be about $X

If I had asked these questions up front with this client ( alas, agreed to this before I went to the conference), I’d have understood that while the client was definitely excited to get started, there really wasn’t a concrete need or a go-live date to work to, and that I was stepping into something potentially troublesome and open-ended. So that would have been a red flag and I might have side-stepped my current dilemma!

Since I started using the questions on a more regular basis , I find that I’m much better able to sort out the serious clients from the excited-but-not-quite-ready-yet clients. Independent business is a long series of learning new things!

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