I have been a freelance writer for over 10 years now. Before becoming a freelance writer, I was a journalist for more than 30 years so to say that I have a little bit of writing experience…well…it would be an understatement to say the least. Still, here I am, years later, still learning things. Recently I got schooled in a subject that one would think I would already have a handle on…clarity.
I work with many different people on projects that are near and dear to their hearts. Some of those projects come with tons of handwritten notes while others I have to work with the person one on one to pull the story out of them. It is much easier to work with someone whom the notes have to be pulled out because when a person takes their own notes they are often unsure what exactly it is that they want done with the notes….case in point….a recent freelance job that is now costing me money.
A client, we will call him Doug….came to me wanting to write a book. His concept is unique and he had done a ton of research on it. When we began the project Doug handed me over 200 pages of handwritten notes to be gone through and used. It was a bit overwhelming at first but when we spoke it was understood that I would impute his notes into the computer and then create his book from his notes…made sense…it is, after all, his book.
After months and months of transcribing Doug’s work I sent him the first section to revise and add to. Doug had a reaction I wasn’t expecting. He wrote back, irritated that I had “transcribed” his notes instead of just wading through them and creating his book. Doug is now refusing his monthly payment until I create the first 100 pages of his book.
The issue here is clarity. Doug and I missed each other in terms of what his expectations were. (I hope) While he was apparently thinking that I would just create his masterpiece from the tons of handwritten notes to be used as research, I thought that he wanted his book to be his words…now I am in a quandary….do I continue the work with his change of pace and lose money or do I let the project go? I will end up writing Doug’s book but he clearly didn’t understand the process and I clearly failed at explaining it.
My advice today is to make sure that you are clear with your clients in terms of the process through which you work a project. Every project is different so this is very important. Sit down and talk to the client ensuring that he/she knows that needs to be done and what the outcome should be. Doug has a great book if it is told in his words, as a ghost writer that is my job…let’s hope that Doug understands that so that his book sees the light of day.
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