As a Writer, it is absolutely imperative to develop a good relationship with your clients. Without the proper foundation and care, communication has the potential to take a wrong turn into a dark exchange. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, insulted egos, and, in the worst situations, the breakdown of a professional relationship. Is there a good way to tell the User you don’t have enough information to write an article, or that the sources available may not be completely accurate? With a little kindness, a healthy dose of respect, and some good will thrown in, communication can stay positive and constructive for both parties involved.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Colin Kinner.

What to Do When the Directions Aren’t Directing

Sometimes writing prompts and Style Guides can be less illuminating than we’d like them to be. As a Writer, it is vital to have an accurate idea of what the User is looking for. Even if you’re missing vital information, steer clear of overt irritation and snippy messages. A User will be more likely to respond more quickly and more thoroughly to a well-phrased and well-mannered message than to a demanding and ill-tempered one.

So how do you get what you need without coming off as demanding? It all comes down to phrasing.

“Your instructions do not clearly state your requirements for this article; please send more specific instructions or I will be forced to drop this assignment.”

This is a little strongly worded, and leaves no room for the kind of back-and-forth conversation that forms the foundation of a strong, lasting User/Writer relationship. Sending a message similar to this can lead to a User looking elsewhere for writers to complete future assignments or projects.

Such a request might be better phrased this way.

“Good afternoon! I hope your morning was as productive as my own! As I sat down to begin your article, I found myself having trouble understanding your instructions and requirements for the content. I would greatly appreciate more insight so I am able to provide you with the best possible article.”

In this message, Writers demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively and provide the best possible service on all levels, from interaction to the delivery of the content,

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This image courtesy of www.futureatlas.com

…Or When the Citations Aren’t Citing

Sources can be pesky little things, and finding the right one can be a difficult task. What constitutes an official source, and when is it acceptable to use personal knowledge in lieu of an article with an official URL? All of these are excellent questions, and best directed at the User who has ordered the article. If a piece of content is returned to you for revision due to the lack of sources, reaching out to the User is the best course of action to clear up any confusion, especially if you think the request has already been met.

“I have given you the name of the website I used to find all the information. This frustrating process has been highly time consuming and completely unnecessary, as I have written many articles on this subject in the past! Is my expertise not enough for you? I have spent more than an hour working on revisions for this article.”

This is a poor way to indicate to a User that their request for sources may not have been entirely clear. This type of message is precariously close to entering that dark exchange territory mentioned earlier. The tone seems strongly combative and defensive.

“Thank you for reaching out to me! Any feedback you can give is very welcome. In regards to the sources you asked for, perhaps I misunderstood. Are you looking for the URL for the page on which I found the information? Will my own personal knowledge of this subject suffice?”

Here is a much better way to handle such a situation. This type of response lets the User know that you, the Writer, are willing to make the changes to get the best results and deliver top quality content.

It is good practice to mind your P’s and Q’s during any and all communication, no matter with whom. This is especially true of independent contractors and freelance workers; you must be your strongest advocate . Your word is your bond. Be sure to put your best foot forward during communication with Users, and you just might gain yourself a new long-term client.