Have you ever had a day like this? Your client says, “This isn’t your usual quality of work,” and you get a bad feeling in your stomach.
Maybe you know he’s right. You know it wasn’t your best. You delivered anyways – because it was the best you could do for the moment. Quality has been dropping off because you don’t like the job, or you’re tired and overworked, or your heart’s just not in the gig anymore.
What do you do?
Or, maybe it was your usual quality of work, and you feel hot indignation. Does the client not see how well you wrote? Is he blind? Why, he wouldn’t know quality if it reared up and bit him with fangs!
What do you do?
In both cases, the answer is the same. Here’s what to do:
First, apologize. It doesn’t matter who is right – the client isn’t happy, and you need to convey that you heard his complaint. That doesn’t mean you have to tell him he’s right (because he could very well be wrong), but you need to show that you understand his disappointed and dissatisfaction.
Second, find a solution.
You’re going to have to offer to redo the work and do a better job, even if you did a pretty good one the first time around. It’s crucial to your reputation and it shows you care about your client. (Yes, even when you don’t care). Getting indignant or defensive doesn’t help anyone, and it doesn’t make you a better professional.
If you can’t redo the work because you’re just not up to it, you need to find someone who can. Fixing problems isn’t the client’s work – it’s yours. Ask someone to edit and polish what you’ve written. Hire another writer to start over from scratch. Do what it takes to replace the work more up to standards.
When it’s all said and done, you have a choice to make. You may decide to take a break for a little while. Maybe you’ve been struggling and need time to rest so that you can get back on track. Maybe you didn’t like the work or the customer anymore.
In either case, part ways politely. Announce that you’ll be taking a break (don’t mention whether it’s permanent or not). Tell the client that you’re sorry for having to leave at this time. (In truth, you are sorry. You don’t have to say what you’re sorry about.) Offer a brief explanation if you’d like, but keep it short and simple. Dramatic justifications are for divas, not writers.
Then offer a referral to another writer. You may be taking a break, but that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t like the work or wouldn’t get along better with the client.
Also, a referral gives the client an option so that he’s not left high and dry, which means he’ll think better of you. You don’t want a bad reputation of being the writer who ditches customers.
Your turn: Have you ever had a client tell you that your work quality had dropped? What was causing the problem? What did you do about it, and did it work out in the end?
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