Monday, November 30, 2009

When Your Client Changes the Copy

I'm sure this has happened to you: you write up a perfect home page for a client. The project is finished and everyone is happy. Weeks later, you decide to link to it for your online portfolio. When you go to the site, you find that your client has changed the copy--and not for the better.

So what do you do in these instances? Do you tell the client that there are problems with the new copy, or do you let it go? Here are a few factors that influence my decision.

Consider the client. Some clients appreciate it that you are still looking out for them, despite the fact that the project has finished. Others will be a little more prickly and might see it as pushiness. Think about whether the client considers him- or herself a writer as well--sometimes those who hold their own writing abilities highly can be territorial when you offer criticism.

Consider the situation. Did the client ask you to proofread the new version of the site? Sometimes criticism that isn't asked for can come off as rude--and that's the last thing you want. It may be better to save the suggestions for when the client hires you to do something else. Then you'll have a better excuse to mention it as an added service in addition to something else you're doing for them.

Is your paycheck dependent on the effectiveness of that writing? A few copywriters work on commission--they get a cut of what that landing page or salesletter earns. If that's the case, it's probably better to make it your business to ensure the error isn't left up or sent out--because it could damage your earnings.

How severe is the problem? If it's a misstatement or misspelling that could damage your client's credibility, or adjustments to a key headline that could seriously reduce sales, they may thank you for the unsolicited advice. If it's a small change to a mid-body paragraph, consider the damage that error is doing before you get in touch. The effect of the error or change may not be that much.

You may want to rethink linking directly to client sites for samples. Because of this exact problem, you may want to rethink the strategy of linking directly to client sites to show off your copy. You never know when the client will decide to change the headline on your home page, and add a big typo in bold-faced font--or worse. I link to client sites now, but I'm considering simply providing easily-viewable reproductions of the text on the site, with a screenshot of the site graphics to show that this is a published site.

What's your tactic when your client makes changes to something you've written?


Kimberly Ben said...

I had a client who did this from time to time. He said he was a copywriter too, but sometimes his revisions were not grammatically correct. He was a difficult client (though I don't think he meant to be). He paid his balance when he received the final draft and it was his to do whatever he liked.

I chose to leave things alone because I honestly wouldn't know what to say. You're absolutely right when you say you have to consider the client.

Mike Chen said...

This bugs the crap out of me, mostly because I know that I won't be able to point to it as a sample piece. Since portfolio diversity is a good thing in showing samples, I get quite irritated when they jack up perfectly good writing. Sometimes I'll contact them and ask if it was a copy/paste error, and if they say they did it on purpose, I just let it be.

Unknown said...

I had a client do this, only he chose to let four or five of his friends work over the copy. When he paid me and sent me his final for my files, it was identical to the copy he'd started with, only with many, many errors in it. I let it go for one reason - our working relationship had ended (amicably) because he was placing more value on his friends' advice than on my professional advice.

If he had asked, I would have told him where it was lacking. But since he didn't, I let it go. He hadn't listened when I advised him against using his friends as editors - he wasn't going to suddenly see the light and let me fix it.

Anonymous said...

You've got some helpful tips in here, nicely done.