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Yes, a good copywriter “paces and leads” the reader in the copy that she writes for her clients. But did you know? She must also pace and lead as part of successful copywriting project management.
If you’re a copywriter, you know the frightening feeling of having stated on paper that you plan to have a project completed for a client by Date X, and then knowing that client is not rolling out feedback and updates fast enough to make that deadline reality. If the client is someone familiar and trustworthy, okay, no big deal. But if it’s a new person on whom you want to make a favorable impression and do a good job, this can be quite a predicament.
So, what do you do? Bite your nails and suffer through sleepless nights? Start work with someone else, hoping that if your client has gone away, she’ll “stay away” until you’re ready to resume the work?
No. Unfortunately, you’re going to have to be proactive in pacing and leading that project. If your client is clearly waffling along, then you have to take matters into your own hands. Is she withholding information that you need to progress further? Then you must clearly state that in writing. Remind her of her deadline, which you committed your signature to.
Give your client constant progress updates along the way and request more information repeatedly. If the information is something that she can provide in bulk, ask her to hit you with it all at once and then pace and lead yourself. If she refuses to relinquish control, then do your best to keep at her, keep at her and keep at her some more.
Your client cannot fault you for being fastidious, or for requesting needed information. Even though you may feel like a pest, if you’re not receiving, then you must ask. There is no way around it, if you ever expect to make the completion date.
If the deadline is fast approaching and the project goes unfinished, you must beat your client to the punch and let her know that the work has not been moving along at a desired pace. Again, state in writing that your needs have not been met, and have your email and drafted evidence stacked up in case she tries to put the blame on you for not being vigilant.
Pacing and leading the project is NOT one of the most exciting parts of being a copywriter, but it’s something that needs to be done if you can see that your client has no sense of timing. Do not think that if your client pulls a disappearing act, you’re permitted to do the same. It’s not responsible, and it’s certainly not professional.
Better still, avoid signing any contractual agreements that lock you into a final due date. You really never know what circumstances could throw the project off course. Whether it’s a difficult client, an unexpected illness, or some other unforseen event, just about anything can throw your schedule off course.
If your client does decide to stick you for the last payment because she’s arguing that you didn’t make the deadline, consult with a lawyer if you have one. Otherwise, cut your losses and make a promise to yourself to pace and lead every project from now on. Better still: next time, don’t commit to a deadline in writing!
Copyright 2005 Dina Giolitto. All rights reserved.