Changing Scopes and Difficult Clients

Question: Becky Lash of Epic Trends was trying to meet the needs of a young, successful customer with a widely-known product. He changed his requests about writing style in the middle of the project and had detailed, somewhat controlling comments about things like bulleted lists and present tense. He expressed complete disastisfaction with the second rewrite. His comments and the responses they required were taking up too much of Becky's time for the rate she was charging. Suggestions & Comments Get a deposit. That was Becky's first mistake. 🙂 Start charging by the hour, instead of a flat rate for the project. In general, do not price projects with a flat rate. Use an hourly estimate instead. Make sure the contract or estimate includes a statement about providing three rewrites and a stop-work clause. Determine what the customer wants before starting the project. Ask "feeling" words. Use a design document with a section for "feeling" words from the client. In your interview with the client, fish these words out and put them on paper. Then, as you interview, ask "When you say 'fun,' what does that mean to you?" Take that conversation as far as you can, even in email, until you might have a prototype of what the customer wants. You can even get them to sketch something out for you to view or write a short paragraph. Consider the possible difficulties in communicating only by email with someone who uses English as a second language. Do not try to charge different prices for different levels of difficulty. Charge a consistent hourly rate. The customer is paying for your expertise. A majority of the folks who responded to this thread advised Becky to find a way to disengage herself from a customer like this. Claim your schedule does not allow your continuing the project, you are not the best person for the job, or your bookkeeper or partner has said you must stop the work. Make sure you clearly explain why you are writing in a certain style or structure to the customer when he/she objects. Some good references on the subject of difficult customers: The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell Making Money in Technical Writing by Peter Kent Getting Started in Consulting and Independent Contracting, written by veteran CIC SIG members (http://english.ttu.edu/gscic/).