When do you listen? When do you decide? When do you give in to “buyer’s choice?” When do you “stick to your guns?”
The content platform allows clients to give a general idea of what they want so writers can pitch more developed ideas that satisfy their desires. I pitched an idea that centered around a narrative. The client responded, “Absolutely love it!” and then went on to request modifications that would weaken the narrative by shifting the focus. Against my better judgment, I gave the client exactly what they said they wanted. Their response was “This is terrible!” and they rejected the piece outright because they could not envision a way that it could be modified to meet whatever it was they actually wanted.
Now, I admit that it was not my best work. Instead of focusing on the narrative, I tried to provide the narrative as well as their “additive.” It didn’t work very well, but it’s what they wanted. The end-result is that they don’t get a piece and I only get paid half of what the article was worth. On the upside, I can reuse the idea in its original form with a different client—perhaps a competitor. They wouldn’t like that if they saw it, but they can’t do anything about it because they didn’t buy the article and so they do not own it.
The point is not to proudly vindicate myself. I really don’t care what this particular client thinks. I’m a little annoyed that the piece was rejected outright, but it saves me the trouble of editing it on their timetable. All things considered, my ego is just fine, thank you. I have plenty of clients who would be more than happy to give me an ego boost if I was into that sort of thing; though, if I was into that sort of thing it might be a different story. I developed a thick skin early on in my writing “career”—I started at the age of twelve, after all, and I received a LOT of rejections—that makes me rather immune to both criticism (unless it’s constructive) and praise (unless it’s instructive).
The point is that I ignored my instincts. It’s amazing how I tend to do this and almost always want to kick myself afterward, and yet I do it anyway the next time around. I have no problem listening to clients. I’ve gotten rather good (most of the time) at giving them what they want, even when what they want is so inanely stupid that I gripe my way through the entire project. Most of the time, the clients appreciate the output, even when I don’t. I’ve gotten good at swallowing the necessity of “buyer’s choice.”
The problem I’m having is that I’ve spent several years developing and establishing my expertise. I don’t know everything, of course, because nobody does; but, I do know a lot, particularly about marketing. What I enjoy most is finding those precious clients that are good at what they do and have enough intelligence and talent to recognize someone else who is good at what they do. These clients are precious, in part, because they’re willing to take good advice when it’s given, they can recognize a good idea, and they can entrust someone with talent to execute it. These clients are precious because they let me do the job they hire me to do, which is to provide them with exceptional marketing materials that are worth paying for.
I know I tend towards modesty to the point that I annoy certain people with my ambivalence to praise, but I do know a few things about myself. I know I’m a good writer. I know I’m an exceptional marketer. I know that I know how to use those skills to benefit a client’s business. And I know that the clients that let me do my job are better off than those that don’t. So, why, oh why, don’t I follow my instincts? Why don’t I stick to my guns and decide to give them what’s good for them and make it so good that they can’t help but recognize it? Or is it just that I need to stick with those precious clients that remind me why I really do love my job, which would, of course, involve finding more of them?