The most important requirement for a successful writer is to meet all of the client’s requirements and expectations. Making your own checklist will serve as a roadmap as you craft your article.
I write for several clients every day and as obvious as this may sound, the key to keeping them happy it to meet their expectations. To do that on a consistent basis, I’ve developed a simple system.
First, as I enter into a new assignment I ask questions. Occasionally an experienced client will have specified everything that is important about the writing I’m being asked to perform, but usually that’s not the situation.
Two weeks ago I bid on a fairly substantial job—10 articles a week. The client contacted me and said that he really liked my work, but my price was higher than others. Would I mind writing fewer articles? he asked.
So many questions
I said that would be fine and he sent me four topics. I looked over the topics and asked him the following questions:
- Where are these articles going to go? On the client’s website or be posted elsewhere for backlinks?
- Is there any SEO you need?
- What would you say is the main purpose?
- Who’s the audience?
His response to me was, “Thank you for asking all the right questions.”
Sometimes our clients don’t realize that they haven’t verbalized all of their requirements. Sometimes they haven’t realized everything that must be included in the piece they want written. These truths make it imperative to dig more deeply at the beginning of a job. It saves a lot of rewriting at the end.
I wrote the four articles, hit his targets and he realized that he made a mistake trying to get a less expensive writer to do the work. He said, “I will certainly stop being stupid and move all of my content needs to you….”
Creating a specification
There are two more important steps I take to be sure my writing meets the needs of my clients. I gather all of our correspondence—all the notes that have gone back and forth—and put them into one document. I read it through and bold everything that smells like a requirement or desire to me. I keep that document under my nose while I’m working on the project and refer to it often. It serves as a kind of checklist or specification for the job. Some experienced clients will have a detailed spec prepared, but even then be sure you fully understand what it requires.
When I’m done I review all the bolded points in our correspondence and make sure I can find a specific word, sentence or paragraph that satisfies the requirement. If I can’t put my finger on the exact place where I’ve satisfied each requirement, I’m not finished writing. It’s not good enough to think, “Well, this requirement is implied in this section.” Good writing today needs to be direct. Save the subtleties for your Great American Novel.
This formula works for me. It’s simple and I’m sure that it or some variation would work for you too.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mwichary/2827326852/ “Checklist,” © 2008, Marcin Wichary, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/