How to not get offended when clients don’t like your copy (and an example of when I didn’t)
June 18, 2015 • Glenn Murray
I’m always disappointed if a client doesn’t like my first draft. But I’m rarely offended (anymore). Because usually they have a good reason.
It’s not always clear what that reason is, but I’ve learned over the years that if a client doesn’t like what I’ve written, it’s usually because I’ve missed the brief somehow.
For example, I wrote some IT copy for a client recently. In her brief for the home page, my client said,
“When the reader arrives at the home page, I want them to be challenged as per the attached slideshow. Main point: Cost effective, immediate ROI.”
She also said she wanted me to address these challenges:
I was very chuffed with my first draft. I thought I had delivered on the brief perfectly:
Unfortunately, my client wasn’t as happy with it as me. This was her feedback on the first draft:
I was definitely disappointed when I read this. I’d put a lot of time and effort into the copy, and I was frustrated that I had to rewrite it. Especially as the client’s feedback didn’t really give me any clues as to what I’d done wrong.
But I assumed I had done something wrong, so I set about finding out what it was. I replied with this…
(It’s a long email, but I chose not to call the client to discuss, because I knew she’d need time to consider her answers, and I didn’t want her to feel I was pressuring her.)
Later that night, my client replied with this:
And there I had it. She didn’t like the questions in the copy; she wanted statements. So I addressed that and tweaked the style to be a bit more informal (and made some other more technical and routine changes). This is what we ended up with:
And I’m pleased to say, my client was perfectly satisfied:
The moral to the story? Don’t assume your client is saying you’re a bad copywriter just because they didn’t like what you wrote. Instead, assume you missed the brief somehow or that maybe the brief was lacking. (Clients don’t always know exactly what they want until they’ve seen what they don’t want.)
It works for me. Quite a few of my clients have disliked their first draft. But most have loved the final outcome, just as Melissa did.
Sure, I still rant every now and then about the pedant who forbids me from starting sentences with conjunctions, then tells me his copy sounds a bit disjointed. Or about the non-native English speaker who engages me to fix her English then corrects my grammar. And yes, on those occasions, I suppose I am a little offended that they’d ignore my professional opinion because of something their English teacher said back in high school.
But mostly, when my clients don’t like what I write, I assume they have a reason other than “you’re not a good copywriter”.