As writers we’re taught to think about our audience’s perspective and to write just for them. That’s awesome advice, but what we keep forgetting is that freelancers have two audiences, and one of them is our client.
Being former humanities majors, a lot of us tend to carry a weird juvenile grudge against businesses and corporations, because we see them as “the man”. We tend to ignore the fact that we have a job precisely because they’re “the man”, and “the man” needs help communicating with normal “Hyu-mons”.
The people who pay your invoices are usually immersed in their field 24/7, and that can result in them losing sight of what normal people will be able to understand about their work. It’s our job to do the research to understand what the client is trying to communicate to their target audience, and then to build that bridge between the two.
If we don’t successfully reach both audiences, the whole thing falls into the water.
Making your Client Happy
As writers we’re usually taught to “put a little of ourselves” into everything we write. That still sort of applies, but impressing your client is more about putting a little of them into your writing.
Just BS-ing well enough to convince laypeople is a great way to irritate your client and lose contracts. Making sure that you really know what you’re talking about is key to earning your client’s trust.
There’s no way that you can communicate your client’s knowledge and expertise to their audience if you don’t have access to it yourself. The first thing we need to do is to demand information. It feels weird to ask for something from someone who’s giving you money, but you won’t be able to give them what they want if they can’t tell you what they want to communicate.
Next we need to listen, and then do research on, the information that clients give us to make sure that we actually understand what we’re going to be writing about.
Achieving Long Term Success
Making your client happy is your first goal, but you can forget about getting hired back if your work doesn’t make an impact with your client’s audience.
Most of the time you’ll be trying to reach out to laypeople who have no special knowledge about your client’s field. To reach them, you’ll need to take your client’s message, and what you learned in your research, and figure out how to get the unwashed masses to care.
Your client lives in their industry and is inherently interested in their own work. We come in as outsiders and figure out how to translate the client’s needs for their audience. Your relatively recent ignorance in their field, combined with your communication and writing skills, gives you the necessary perspective to know what will and won’t speak to laypeople.
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