Monday, March 5, 2012

Careful Who You Recommend

When clients come to me with requests for services besides copywriting, I don't recommend just anyone. Fair or not, I'm aware that who I recommend will reflect in some small way on me--and I wouldn't want to be associated with a negative experience in a client's mind, even if I wasn't the one giving it. I also don't want to look like I don't have the client's best interests at heart--it's possible the client could suspect I recommended someone inexperienced just to help them out, rather than pointing the client toward someone who would truly do a good job.

Here are a few questions I ask when deciding whether to recommend someone to a client.

What were my experiences working with this person before? I love to bring business to other people. And I frequently recommend clients of mine to others looking for certain services. I feel totally comfortable recommending clients I've worked with in the past, because I know how they work, I've seen how professional they are, and I know they'll do a good job for the person who asks me for the referral. Of course, not everyone I recommend is someone I've worked with in the past.

Do I like their work? The people I recommend to others all tend to be people I have a history with--even if I've never worked with them in the past. They're people whose work I've seen and respect, people who have clear experience in the industry and the area the client is looking for.

Are they courteous and professional? This is big. Even if they do great work, I'd have a hard time recommending people who seem to have difficult personalities--at least not without a huge caveat to the client. I'd also have a hard time recommending someone I know isn't that strict about deadlines or asks for extensions fairly regularly.

Do they have the needed expertise?When I recommend copywriters for a job, it tends to be for a type of copywriting I don't offer--and that I know the other person has specialized expertise in. The reason for this is that I'm a generalist, which means I'm not as picky about the assignments I take on as some others. This isn't to say I'm not picky, but I won't turn down a brochure project or a radio spot just because I don't do that type of copywriting. I don't, however, do technical writing, or pharmaceutical writing, or user manuals for engineers, or writing for a highly niche-educated audience that doesn't compensate adequately for the amount of research I'd have to do. I also am not crazy about doing press releases. I'll do them, but if I"m swamped, a press release job is something I'm likely to pass on to someone I know specializes in that area.

How do you choose your referrals?


Unknown said...

I'm the same way, Jen. I can't say "Oh, hire this one because he tells everyone he writes this stuff all day." I want to know they're good at what they do.

I pay attention to friends and colleagues for how often they have tussles with clients and how they solve them (important, for not all tussles are writer-related); what kinds of work they're doing; how much new business they're attracting; and how they conduct themselves in public. You can get a good sense of someone's work ethic just by being around them and listening to their responses. There are writers I'd hire instantly despite not knowing much about their work (they're THAT professional), and writers I love whom I wouldn't recommend to a soul (they're that flaky).

Jennifer Williamson said...

That's a great point--paying attention to the stories they tell. I have a few writer friends who always have a horror story--and while that's funny and entertaining to listen to, I have to wonder why these things seem to happen to them all the time, you know?