The Unspoken Side of Web Writing

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Great! You just got off the phone with a dream client who offered you the project. You can’t wait to start. After doing a little dance, you write up your proposal and send it off that same day.

Then, you wait.

And, you probably wait some more. It’s not exactly a dirty, little secret, but waiting is part of the writing life few talk about. The truth is, a significant amount of our time is spent waiting for:

  • A scheduled consultation
  • Confirmation of a proposal
  • Answers to questions, or return of a creative brief
  • Feedback on a completed project, or revisions

Waiting is stressful. If you’re like me, the worst part of waiting is having nothing to do ― this leaves my mind much too much room to start second-guessing and undermining my self-confidence. The cure I’ve found is to stay busy, but in a productive way so I’m better able to provide value to my clients.

Let me share some of the things I do in each of the situations above.

A scheduled consultation. If a potential client contacted me, chances are I have some idea of what they have in mind based on an email or brief phone conversation. Here’s what I’d do to prepare for the consultation:

  • Check out the company’s website
  • Read the product or service descriptions for the topic we’ll be discussing
  • Read relevant press releases, case studies, blogs, etc.

Depending on the client and project, I might spend 10 minutes preparing, or a half hour. The purpose is to be able to discuss the project intelligently with the potential client, not research for the writing of the project ― not yet!

Confirmation of a proposal. So after the consultation, the client says everything sounds good, just send over a proposal. It seems like a done deal. But a day goes by, then another, and still no response. Instead of twiddling my thumbs, or slowly working myself into a state of panic, I try to be proactive during that time. (And yes, following up is part of it ― but that’s another article!) What I do is:

  • Keep the proposal handy so I don’t have to search if the client calls to discuss it
  • Review the proposal and make notes of possible alternatives if the quote doesn’t quite match their budget
  • List opportunities for upselling (adding work) to increase the value of the proposal overall
  • Determine my bottom line

Knowing what the project is worth to me helps give me confidence during negotiations. And I know when to say no, so I don’t get pressured into a project at the wrong price point.

Again, I don’t spend a lot of time doing these things. Just enough to be confident and prepared when the client responds to the proposal.

Answers to questions. So my project is underway, but I’ve hit a snag. I need clarification, or I still haven’t received the creative brief back from the client. In almost every case, I still move forward on the project by:

  • Researching the topic, current promotions, or web copy, gathering statistics from reputable sources, looking at the competition for the keywords
  • Creating an outline of the project, then a more detailed outline
  • Mind mapping or brainstorming headlines
  • Writing a first draft ― if I have enough information to do so

Sometimes you need the client to provide “critical” information such as the tone or intended audience. In these cases, you can wait, or go with your instincts. If you go ahead and write, sometimes you’ll be wrong. But, changing the tone of the project might be easier than trying to write the whole thing quickly. Deadlines aren’t always extended ― even when the client is the one who caused the delay.

Feedback. For me, this is by far the hardest waiting to do. I’ve poured my heart and soul into a project and finally sent it off. Will they love it, hate it, or somewhere in-between? Agonizing over what I sent isn’t productive for me, or the client.

So, the first thing I do is … let it go!

Getting distance between me and the project releases the anxiety. It also enables me to look at it with fresh eyes when the client finally does send feedback. To help with letting go, I’ve found the following works for me:

  • Doing laundry, baking, exercising, playing with the kids ― any physical activity that redirects my thoughts away from the writing I’ve been immersed in
  • Marketing ― working on my own marketing materials, website, or networking focuses me on getting the next project and away from the current one
  • Another client project ― making progress on another project during the downtime of one project feels good (doesn’t progress always feel good?). And, it keeps my mind active and ready for revisions should they be requested.

So, while waiting is an inherent part of a web writer’s life, it doesn’t have to be wasted time. Look at where you are in the process, and then decide what you can do to be prepared and keep the project moving.

Now, what about you? What do you do while you’re waiting?

Crystle Pishon

I'm a creative geek - a rare breed. I use my skills to help IT companies market their products and services on the web - with as much personality as they can handle. My mantra: "Tech doesn't have to be boring." It's possible to have a personality and be professional at the same time. If your content puts your prospects to sleep, contact me. I can help.

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