How to handle those pesky ASAP copywriting requests
Rush work. We all hate it, but it’s a fact of life for freelancers. Trouble is, some clients abuse our good nature with repeated requests for quick copy.
Sara Lancaster takes on this problem and provides a few suggestions for dealing with it.
On Monday, a client sends you an e-mail requesting brochure copy. The company’s sales team is going to a conference next week. NEXT WEEK!
On Tuesday, a potential client calls to ask if he can have 50 articles about cell phone repair ASAP.
On Wednesday, an old co-worker IMs and asks you to be a professional reference. She’d love it if you could review her résumé that afternoon.
On Thursday … oh, never mind. You get the point.
What is with all these rush copy projects?
More to the point, how do you handle situations like this?
Why clients need ASAP copywriting services
Turns out clients are people, too. They’re forgetful. They’re procrastinators. They’re ignorant about things outside their world. Like, for example, how long it takes to write five pages of web content.
Some clients are also a little rude. Maybe it’s how they’ve gotten things done their whole life, and they just don’t know any better. Maybe they don’t mean to be abusive, but that’s how their boss and their boss’s boss act around the office, so that behavior trickles down, all the way down to the independent contractors who are clueless about that company’s internal culture.
All of these reasons are possibilities, but I actually have a different theory. I believe clients and potential clients ask for an ASAP deadline because of the “delayed construction epidemic.”
When I was a kid, my parents built an addition on to our house. They hired a construction company to make a beautiful family room that extended beyond the kitchen. They thought that within a summer’s time, they would have that wood burning fireplace, picture window, and abundant space for their oversized recliners. But, no. Months passed. Progress moved at a snail’s pace.
By September, my father decided the best approach was to be a pest. He called the contractor every day. He came home early from work to monitor progress. He told the contractor to get it done ASAP or else.
Whenever we hire a service provider to do an important job, we often feel vulnerable. We feel that if we don’t ask all the right questions, then it won’t get done. We feel that in order for a job to be done right, we must do it ourselves or at least micromanage the process.
How to kindly say “no” to ASAP requests
If you accept an ASAP request, your writing quality may go down because you’re rushed. You’ll neglect your patient customers, the ones you enjoy working with and are most willing to pay your full rate.
Say no to 95% of ASAP requests, otherwise you will set a trend. The client you say yes to will repeat that request over and over again and there’s an opportunity cost associated with that. While you’re manic trying to get work done, you’re risking your reputation. You’re also wasting time you could be spending trying to find clients that make you happy.
The solution? Say, “I schedule projects one week in advance (or longer if you need longer) and require three days to provide a first draft (or longer if you need it). I’d be more than happy to work on your project beginning DATE, and if I can get to it sooner, I will. Should I schedule you in?”
Tips for preventing ASAP copywriting requests
Dean posted an excellent article about how to deal with freelance clients that suck. In the post, he’s clear that we, as freelancers, have to adjust our attitude to make clients happy. In addition to attitude, it’s also strategy. Here’s what I suggest you do to prevent ASAP requests.
1. Set boundaries. Answer phone calls during regular business hours. Make weekend deadlines and evening meetings a very rare occasion. Prove you’re a real business.
2. Charge an expedited writing fee. Earlier this year, I started an emergency writing service to discourage ASAP requests. The new service hasn’t cured the problem, but it has earned me a few more dollars and eased some pressure.
3. Don’t neglect your clients. On every project, give the client status reports. It doesn’t have to be formal, but updates should be frequent. I’ve found that a quick e-mail letting him or her know of my progress often eases anxiety.
Certainly, there are more ways to discourage ASAP writing requests. How do you handle it?
Sara Lancaster, through her agency, No. 2 Pen, writes website content and other online marketing materials for businesses.