In part one of this three-part series about the value of negative feedback, I talked about one particular instance where I wasn't able to satisfy a client, and why I think the engagement went wrong.
Here, in part two, I'll share yet another painful, personal example of a failed client engagement. In this instance, I really did know the project was wrong for me right from the start. But, as freelancers newly starting out tend to do, I ignored my gut in search of a paycheck.
Here's what happened.
Unhappy customer #2: Online auto sales assistant “memberships"
As I mentioned, I should have known right from the start not to take this project. The client had an online website selling “memberships.” Membership entitled customers to:
- "Insider" ebooks on how a car dealership really works, teaching readers how to get around sales tactics and pay the best price
- The ability to post free classified ads on the company’s website (there was but a single ad posted there at the time)
- Six months’ worth of email consultations with the website owner, who used to work at a car dealership
- A chance to win "a special prize"—awarded to every 100th new member
Well, I thought the ebooks might have a *chance* to sell; I read them and thought they provided useful information. But I couldn't see selling "memberships" -- memberships to what? So I recommended that my client sell the ebooks and give the memberships away as bonuses, instead of selling “memberships” and giving away the ebooks as bonuses.
After much discussion, my client warily agreed. I wrote the copy.
Guess what? I hated every minute of it. And in the end, my client was unhappy because what I wrote “didn’t sell.”
First, unless he had a constant flow of site visitors, there was no way for my client to know if the content "sold" or not after just a week of it being live.
Second, assuming a steady flow of traffic, then I still think the content didn't sell because the whole concept stunk, which is why I hated writing the content in the first place. I, personally, would never buy such a product, yet here it was my job to convince others to shell out their hard-earned money for it.
Third, the the site was also full of hideous banner ads from companies my client was affiliated with. It screamed "SCAM!" Despite my warnings, my client kept them there.
Fourth, the classified ad section was a joke. Why would people looking to buy a car and save money at a dealership want to post classified ads? Especially on a site with only one … ONE … ad listed?
Lessons learned: Set and respect your professional boundaries
These lessons apply to me, and perhaps to you. First, no matter how hungry I am for work, I will never again agree to write for a product or service that I would not buy for myself, whether in a business or personal capacity. If you get a bad feeling about a potential client’s product or service, for whatever reason, do yourself a favor and pass.
Second, if I think someone’s offer stinks and makes no sense, I need to tell them right away, before I begin working. If the client is resistant to changes that I know would be in their best interests, chances are good that I’m better off not taking the project. What you can take away from this is not to work with clients who hire you for your expertise but who refuse to listen. If she tells you her computer is “too slow” and that she wants you to fix it by removing a bunch of programs, when you know that what she needs is more RAM, you’ll either fight with her to get her to see things your way, or you’ll do what she wants and she still won’t be happy.
And third, if a client is coming to me with the expectation that the words I write will either make or break their business, then I’m not the right writer for them. I believe a product or service must have merit in and of itself. The words I write don’t sell people—people sell themselves. My words only serve to educate and communicate benefits—clearly, concisely, and persuasively. For instance, if you’re selling IT services and a prospect is on your website, your copy doesn’t need to convince them that they need you; they already know, which is why they’re on your site in the first place! What your copy needs to do instead is to lead the reader to YES by convincing him that he'd be a fool to do business with anyone else.
For my most painful and shocking lesson--ever--head on over to part three of this three-part series.
Image Courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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