Monday, November 15, 2010

When Expectations are Unrealistic

I've been running up against unrealistic client expectations lately. It can be a frustrating thing--especially when you don't realize how unrealistic those expectations really are until you turn in the first draft. When I first started freelancing, I believed that I should try to do whatever I could to satisfy client expectations. Now I know that some are just not possible. Here are a few of my favorites:

This copy will get a specific result. Whether it's supposed to out-pull the current copy or get the client an interview in one month flat, it's unrealistic to expect a certain result from any advertising or marketing effort. You can reasonably predict results, sometimes--but you can't state them for certain. All sorts of factors--from the job market to the reliability of the information your client gives you about the industry--can affect the results of a project, and many of those are out of the writer's control. Be careful about getting yourself into situations where you have to predict results for certain.

You will be available all the time. Sometimes clients misunderstand the relationship with freelancers. They think that because they've hired you, you're now their employee--and able to be available at their beck and call. Occasionally I've had to set firm boundaries about when I can take phone calls and do IM chats--and I try to set a precedent of keeping most correspondence done via email. Email is less intrusive and easier to deal with on a daily basis--and it also provides a record of what went on, just in case it's needed.

You'll get it perfect the first time. Occasionally a client will get upset because the first draft isn't exactly what he or she expected. Part of this is my fault--I failed to prep them beforehand to expect revisions. But sometimes you wonder whether these people ever submitted research papers in high school and college--and ever had to revise a paper. What happened to the writing process? Nobody's perfect, and nobody's understanding of another person's concepts and ideas will be flawless.

You'll guarantee your results. Very rarely, I've seen job postings that offer pay based on results. This is similar, to me, as asking for a guarantee of results--or the writer doesn't get paid. In my opinion it's an unrealistic and unfair way of paying for copy or any other freelance work.

What do you consider unreasonable expectations in freelancing?

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