When you finally have client work, it’s tempting to dash off an email, quick like a bunny to them, enthusing about how much fun it was, painting castles in the sky about your loooooong and fruiiiiitful relationship now and in future, forever and ever and …
Mmkay, but don’t.
I know this temptation well. Even though I’m no longer a copywriting novice, I can genuinely say I love working with my clients, whether they’re with me for one assignment or three years. It’s fun; it’s satisfying; it’s awesome to know you’re good at something.
It is, however, pretty not-awesome to screw up – especially with a new client, who may not give you a chance at a second assignment. So after you finish editing that last word and before you fire off that email, check out these seven essential tips. I learned them the hard way, but I’m hoping if you commit them to memory you can avoid the pain I’ve known.
I mean, obviously you’ll have new pain, special pain of your own, but at least you might avoid the mistakes I list here.
That’s all I can promise. Now grab a cup of tea and check it out.
Some assignments don’t have much in the way of instruction, and some have absolute rafts. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. Some clients send me assignments along the lines of “write 700 words about sweet potatoes.” Check.
Others send me instructions that are quite literally longer than the word count they’re asking for. (I hate those clients).
Especially in the latter case, but also in every case, you should check the instructions before you submit. Sometimes I miss a request to use a certain style (AP, Chicago, AMA), or I might miss a crucial keyword. It doesn’t matter what it is; it still makes you look like you didn’t read them carefully enough. Because you didn’t.
We’re writers, and as writers, we suffer from pretty massive egos (in between the crippling bouts of insecurity, of course). One of the most common mistakes to which we writerly types fall prey is assuming that our work is tickety-boo just because we’ve reached the last word.
Dude … it’s not.
Almost certainly, you have simple errors lurking within the text that make you look like an asshat. (It’s cubic feet of water … did you know? Not pubic. It is NOT pubic feet of water).
It’s also easy to spell names wrong or to mix up words when you’re writing quickly. Just the other day I saw an email I’d written back to an author sending me her book for review, and instead of saying, “thank you for the offer!” I’d written, “thank you for the author!” That’s the kind of idiotic mistake you make if you don’t let your work rest and return to it with fresh eyes.
For this reason, I not only give myself at least a day before sending an assignment off, I also budget extra time in when I quote a delivery date.
This should be pretty obvious, but … try your links. When you CMD-K that shiz, it’s easy to add an extra space when you don’t mean to or cut off the “h” at the beginning of “https,” etc. Check. Your. Links.
Yep, you have to check your sources too. If you cite a study or quote an expert, return to that source and make sure you have, a) quoted the person/study/whatever correctly, and b) that you’ve actually pointed the reader toward the right source. I screw up links and sources all the time (see above), and only find out during the checking phase, so don’t skip this.
I have a contract. I sure hope you do too, and if not, I cover that topic quickly in my detailed post on copywriting productivity. Your contract specifies who is responsible for what, as well as what each party is not allowed to do. You, for instance, are not allowed to share proprietary information with your hubs just because you think it’s hilarious. Believe me, this is sometimes hard to resist, but it’s important.
(Note, however, that it does protect you in the event that you wildly misquote someone, are accidentally libelous, misrepresent a product or falsely advertise, and so on. For that you need biz insurance, a topic for another day.)
Anyhooters, check your contract or contracts (in the event that your client had you sign one too) to make sure you’re all above board. Did you keep language within specified bounds? Have you misrepresented a product? Are you sending it on the right timeline? Have you waited for all the necessary documents before completing the assignment? Did you talk to the right people? And so on. Some contracts are very simple, and some very detailed, but either way you gotta respect them.
Before you send, you also have to make sure you’re protected financially. If you haven’t already agreed upon a final price – which you should have done in your contract – don’t deliver. Instead, talk to your client first and make sure you’re agreed. (If you’re using subcontractors, which complicates things, here’s a quick guide to profitable quoting.)
Only once you have in writing an agreed-upon price should you deliver. Never hope; never submit a bill afterward. At least not until you have a very solid relationship with your client and they have paid promptly every time.
Hey, guess what else you’re not allowed to do? Email your client’s information to someone other than your client.
Mm-hmm. It’s a thing.
Exactly once in my life, I have sent a client’s work to a different client. This is bad on so very many levels. Firstly, it makes you look stupid to the non-client client, who is receiving what to them looks like extremely random copy, probably on a timeline they weren’t expecting anything from you. Secondly, it’s illegal.
That’s probably the bigger one, come to think of it. Maybe I should have said that one first.
Anyway, don’t do it. Check yo email addresses, yo.
And that’s it! For today, anyway. Are you feeling frisky and ready to get all badass, copywriting-style? Head to the Free Resource Library for more information about how to become a professional writer for life.
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