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Sunday, August 6, 2006

It Shouldn't Happen To A Freelance Writer

Now that I'm a freelance writer, I'm happy doing what I've always wanted to do, but that doesn't mean it's always easy. For the first time in a long time (and I mean LONG), I had a piece of work returned to me for revision. It's a research job, looking for additional information to accompany articles. The irony is that I'm the one who set the standard for this particular type of work, so you'd think I'd know how to do it right. Not necessarily - and here's why.

The Writing Brief

As a freelance writer, the writing brief is the most important part of your job. After all, how else are you to know what to do? But briefs aren't always clear and when you're working through an intermediary (as in this case) you don't speak to the person giving the brief. So it's a bit like pin the tail on the donkey. You might get it right, but you have an even greater chance of missing the mark completely. (By the way, this isn't the intermediary's fault, but if the client doesn't brief the middleperson correctly, then the middleperson can't brief the writer correctly.)

Now, don't feel depressed by this. Once you're an experienced writer, or you have experience with certain types of writing, your chances of getting the job right first time increase. But this job is an example of being lulled into a false sense of security. See, I did the sample topics, found lots of info and links, but what I didn't realise is that I was tapping into the client's unspoken criteria. And those are the ones that bite you in the butt.

Some clients know what they want and give a clear brief, but they are in the minority. Others have an idea of what they want which becomes more defined when they don't get it. In this case, the client wanted a certain number of links in a certain number of categories, but this had never been put in writing or articulated. The upshot of that was that I submitted one article (that I couldn't find a lot of links for) and had it bumped back to me.

Working Through Rejection

I'm only human. I don't like having work returned. It wasted my time, because I had to spend time redoing work that I thought I had finished. That stopped me from doing other jobs. As a professional, though, I have to be prepared to revise work if it's not right. If I do it quickly and without complaining (except to you), then I'll continue to get work from that source.

The good thing is that now I know what the criteria are. That means I can work more efficiently. And I hope I won't get any more work returned for this particular job.

The moral of the story:

  1. Try to find out as much as possible about what is required (it never occurred to me to ask how many links the client wanted).
  2. Where possible, deal directly with the client (middlepeople sometimes make for misunderstandings)
  3. If you have to do a rewrite or revision, don't complain or argue, just do it (freelance writers need thick skins).
  4. Even an experienced writer can have work returned

Have you had work returned for revision? How do you deal with the knockbacks?

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