Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Do You Take Ownership of Your Writing Projects?

I was cruising the blogroll the other day and came across this post on Peter Bowerman's blog about what clients want--and how to go above and beyond with your services. One of the things he mentioned was taking "ownership" of a project--if the client isn't giving you what you need to get it done, go out and find it yourself.

It occurred to me that I do this all the time--and it wasn't something I saw as a big benefit to working with me until now. Here are a few ways I take ownership of every project I do--and how you can add value to your services.

Do the research on your own--even if the client's supposed to do it for you. I call myself a writer, but at least half the time I spend on a project is spent on research. And some of the time, a client will tell me he's going to send me all the source material and either a). it doesn't have the specific information I need or b). he sends it a day before deadline. Good thing we have the Internet. I use web research to supplement client-delivered information on a regular basis. For commercial writing, I use it to check out how competitors are positioning themselves. Sometimes this research takes minutes, other times it takes hours--but it always adds to the quality of what I do.

Get your own sources. Got a feature article to write for a client? Sometimes they'll give you the names and numbers of people to interview, and sometimes they won't. Don't let that stop your article from being the best it can be. I gather my own sources when I need to. I use Craigslist, industry forums and websites, industry bloggers and authors--the last two are often delighted for an opportunity to get word out about their book or site, and can be very willing to do interviews. I also use Peter Shankman's excellent Help a Reporter Out site. You can query for the type of source you need, and an email is sent out to its network of professionals. I've used it many times in the past and got dozens of responses from industry experts--easily more than I needed.

Deliver above and beyond. If I find little things I notice a client needs, I'll usually help them with it--even if it's not in the scope of the project. For instance, I was writing copy for a large website project--almost a hundred pages--and I noticed the company didn't have a consistent tagline. I sent off some concept ideas for new ones, even though it wasn't part of the scope of the project. I realize a full tagline project would be a big endeavor, probably more than I could offer for free, but some initial ideas weren't too hard for me to come up with--and it added to the value of my service.

Help clients figure out where to go from here. With some clients, I spot opportunities where they could be promoting themselves better or more efficiently. After completion of an initial project, I'll draw up a "Next Steps" document outlining different ways they could take business to the next level--including things such as writing different brochures targeted to several niche markets, developing a report or e-book for giveaways, or starting an e-blast campaign to keep constantly in touch with customers. It's usually not included in the scope, but it does help clients out--and it's pretty effective in turning single-project clients into regulars.

So how do you take ownership--of projects and client relationships?


Anonymous said...

I completely agree. I think as writers we sometimes are in a situation where we feel we "need more information" to continue. But in fact, you should be able to fill in these cognitive blanks yourself and deliver content for the client without pestering them with small details. The details get worked out in the editing phase; taking ownership means answering questions yourself.

Jennifer Williamson said...

That's definitely true--and sometimes the little details you'd pester a client for are most efficiently taken care of in the editing process.

Unknown said...

Amen. Long ago I gave up waiting for clients to direct me in every sense (their idea, definitely NOT mine). I get three steps ahead and impress them because now they don't have to worry. If I tick them off, obviously the issue isn't what I can do for them but how much control they think they need. I usually rethink working with those types. :)