Ever Been Asked to Do This? If So, How’d That Work Out for You? ;)

I got an email from a reader recently, spurred by one of my newsletter pieces (the “Appetizer” course of THIS issue). It’s a subject a bit different from the usual commercial freelancing fare on the blog, but thought it was worth running, given that it’s something any reasonably experienced commercial writer has no doubt encountered—whether a scenario like hers or one like mine.

She wrote:

Several years ago, a writing conference director sent an email inviting all to view the new conference website and let him know what we thought. I followed the link, and immediately saw a word had been left out of the first sentence. A few sentences below, the wrong verb tense had been used.

I emailed and suggested he might want to correct the mistakes. His reply? A glib comment about being in a hurry and no one else would catch the mistakes. Really? I had served on faculty for this conference a number of years so it wasn’t like I was unknown to the director. The next year, I was not asked back to teach at the conference and the director no longer speaks to me.

I had a similar experience with someone who was starting an editing service. He invited comments about his new website. In the first sentence on the site, he used the wrong verb tense. Another error, a wrong/mistaken use of a noun, was in the next paragraph. I emailed him, mentioning the errors.

His response: “Yeah, I asked my wife, and she said it supposed to be that way so I’m going with what she said.” Really? A startup editor is going with grammar errors on his editing site to please the wife? Needless to say, his editing business never got off the ground! He became the owner of a small press instead, which consistently publishes books with grammatical errors. No surprise there. And he ignores me when we happen to be at the same writing conferences.

What I’ve learned: Even when people invite critique, they really don’t want critique. They want validation for what they’ve done, whether correct or not, and view anything else as personal criticism. Folks are interesting!

In response, I shared a story of my own:

Reminds me of a lovely woman for whom I wrote a column many years ago, for her local monthly rag. A few years after I stopped writing for her, but while we still considered each other friends, she asked me to critique a novel she was working on. I said I would be happy to take a look, though quickly realized what a bind I had put myself in.

It wasn’t just bad, it was really, really bad. Incredibly clichéd, poorly written, poor character development, uninteresting, and most of it no better than a seventh grader’s essay. After getting her assurance that she really did want me to be honest, I was. I wasn’t brutal, but I made it clear I thought it needed a lot of work to get it to a viable stage.

She thanked me profusely for being honest, going on and on about how much she appreciated the input and feedback, and…I never heard from her ever again. Remember, we were far better than acquaintances, though perhaps less than good buddies, and we talked pretty regularly. But after that, we never talked again. So I hear you!

Ever been asked for feedback from a writer or friend?

How did you handle it?

If the writing wasn’t very good, and you were honest, how did they receive your feedback?

Any suggestions for dealing with situations like this?

Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.

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Ever Had Freelance Moments Like This?

(Apologies for the LONG hiatus from the blog. Been up to my neck in selling my home of 26 years, shedding tons of stuff, packing, moving to a much smaller place (very liberating…), and getting settled in. So, to ease back in, I thought I’d keep it light…).

So, a few weeks back, a dear friend and fellow commercial writer out in the Midwest, shared a snapshot moment of “singledom” that was truly laugh-out-loud funny. She wrote:

Occasionally, I get a startling mental snapshot of my life as a single person as I go about my day. This morning, the one I took was of breakfast, at 12:15 p.m., consisting of coffee with last-resort powdered skim milk and farmer’s market croutons (big and hard!) dipped in foie gras mousse, followed by morning meds washed down with the wine left in the glass from last night.

Time to buy some real groceries…

I couldn’t help but think this hilarious account could just as easily have come from a freelancer, working out of their home, and living that more…unstructured existence that in my mind anyway, is one of the biggest pluses (and yes, one of the most formidable challenges) of the life of a freelance commercial writer.

Anyway, it got me thinking… We’ve all no doubt had those moments that epitomize the freelance life—moments that make us laugh or cause us to be grateful, or happy, or fulfilled, or serene, or giddy, or yes, frustrated.

For me, one of them is that transcendently contented feeling of waking up and hearing people outside get in their cars and drive to work, knowing it’s nothing I’ll ever have to make a habit of.

It’s the immensely gratifying feeling of being able to take good care of my health, through regular, non-rushed meals I make, and the time to exercise.

It’s knowing, workload permitting, that I make the decisions about when I take time off, and for how long.

What experiences have you had as a freelancer that spawn any of the reactions above?

What do you love most about this life?

If you’re not living the life yet, what do you most look forward to?

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Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.

“Well-Fed Writer Blog” Subscribers: PLEASE UN-Subscribe and RE-Subscribe

As many of you might know, I recently updated my blog to a new theme. In the wake of it, some subscribers reported having trouble viewing the email feeds.

I’ve since switched from Feedburner (the feed mechanism through which virtually all of you who get email notifications of new posts get those notifications) to Feedblitz. Feedburner has basically become an unsupported platform. SO…

To continue enjoying The Well-Fed Writer Blog, please UN-subscribe from the Feedburner feed (there should be a mechanism for doing so somewhere on the email notification page you received of THIS post).

Then, once unsubscribed, just re-subscribe in the subscribe box in the right-hand-side column of the blog’s main page or any post’s page for that matter (and you’ll now be subscribing via the FeedBlitz platform).

Thanks for your patience, understanding and collaboration during this transition!

Does Service Like THIS Give You Any Ideas?

(Sorry for the delay in posting, but was in the process of upgrading the blog to a brand-new and far more stable WordPress theme. I know it looks very similar but that was one of the challenges. Hope you like!)

Okay, so this isn’t a commercial-writing customer service story, but as an impressive example of Unexpected Outstanding Service, it’s a great lesson for anyone running a business, including commercial freelancers like us.

A few months back, my car went temporarily kaput (ignition-coil issue). As an AAA member, I called for roadside assistance, but due to a roughly 24-hour outage in the automated roadside-assistance system (they weren’t having a good day, either…), members in the affected areas had to pay for their tows up front, and then submit the bill for reimbursement.

A bit of a hassle, but given AAA’s historically tight ship, I didn’t mind all that much. I had a check in hand in a few weeks. And I promptly forgot about. But they didn’t…

A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail from AAA. After explaining the unfortunate string of events on the day in question, here’s a screen shot of the operative paragraph:

AAAServiceLtrClip

Wow. As noted, I’d forgiven and forgotten, and the incident would have weighed on me not at all come renewal time. So, this mighty magnanimous gesture was quite the breath of fresh air. They didn’t have to do it, and I wouldn’t have held it against them. And that’s the point, and what made it so unexpected, and, by extension, so special.

You can guess what I did when I got the letter: Yup. I shared the story with several friends, and, needless to say, thought enough of their gesture to give them some additional publicity on this blog.

I have no idea how many AAA members were affected in those states during that period, but I have to imagine it wasn’t a trivial number. But they unhesitatingly took a likely sizable financial hit, in the interest of doing the right thing.

As freelance commercial writers, offering up a similarly impressive and unexpected act of service would likely cost us far less, while still buying us a more-than-healthy measure of goodwill and client loyalty.

Sure, we can’t give away free stuff all the time, but assuming were talking about a good commercial copywriting client—one that pays us well and keeps hiring us—a periodic affirmation of their decision to work with us is never a bad idea.

Have you ever delivered an unexpected bonus to your clients – either to make up for a mistake, or as simply a random act of kindness?

If so, what happened as a result?

Can you recall a time when you should’ve done so, but didn’t?

Does this story give you any ideas?

Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.

Are You Seeing this “Client Expectation” in Your Market?

Got this email from a budding commercial freelancer in New Jersey, who wrote:

I am in Central New Jersey, and I am seeing people who were previously “writers” now resurfacing as “marketing experts.” I’ve had a couple of them tell me that it’s not enough just to be a writer anymore, that you need to provide analytics and in-bound marketing plans through platforms like Hubspot. Are you seeing this in Atlanta or other markets?

My reply?

I’m definitely not seeing this. That said, being able to offer things like that can only help a given commercial writer’s marketability, but no, certainly isn’t something I’m noticing more and more of. Over time, you may choose to expand your offerings beyond just copywriting, but I wouldn’t feel the overwhelming need to do so right out of the gate.

I am seeing more and more, the important of SEO (Search-Engine Optimization) to an overall marketing plan, BUT that skill is coming from other people. While a commercial copywriter who has some of those skills can definitely be an asset to a client, in the projects I’m working on, no one expected me to have those skills, and it was just assumed that there’d be another person (i.e., someone who ONLY does that) handling that piece.

And that was being driven by the fact that Google keeps changing rules to the point where an SEO layman just isn’t going to be able to keep up.

Also, don’t get all caught up with “trends.” Sure, anything you can add to your services can potentially make you more marketable, but you only need a teeny bit of the business out there to make a good living, and you can get that in any number of ways. And, in my experience, plenty of clients JUST need writers.

Are you seeing this trend where you are?

Has your business suffered because you were “only a writer”?

Are you doing fine even though you ARE “only a writer”?

Are there certain services clients are expecting you to deliver that they didn’t used to?


Want to be a guest blogger on TWFW Blog? I welcome your contribution to the Well-Fed writing community! Check out the guidelines here.