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No One Wants Complicated Packaging


My daughter is the only grandchild on one side of the family, and one of three on the other. She has doting parents and a number of interested parties who think she is marvelous. In short, she made a haul this Christmas.

Nevermind that we have no room for all these new toys. Nevermind that she now wakes up every morning wondering where more presents are. I can handle most of the Christmas backlash. I’m just really tired of opening up the packing on all these toys.

I know parents out there are already nodding in agreement. These days, toy manufacturers care mostly about how the toy looks in the store, not how easy it is for parents to open. For example, my daughter got a toy that is supposed to be some sort of pet apartment. It came with seven little plastic animals and three accessories about the size of a paper clip for each animal. Each of these little parts was separately attached to the cardboard background, fastened with a hardcore twist tie, and encased in hard-to-rip plastic. It literally took my husband and me 45 minutes to open. By the end of it, our fingertips had been worn down to bloody little stumps. And that was only one present.

I can safely say that I will never purchase another of these pet apartment toys. It’s cute and all, but it is simply not worth the effort. I think the same can be said of freelancing.

I often come across blogs that discuss when it is necessary to “fire” a client. Clients who demand too much time, who ask incessant questions, who micromanage, or who are simply not trustworthy top the list. I’m not going to argue with this idea; I think this is a very valid part of being a successful freelancer. However, I do think that freelancers can just as easily become too demanding and find themselves not receiving repeat offers. When clients find themselves confronting their own bloody fingertips (or the mental equivalent thereof), they may wish their work elsewhere. Here are some signs that your packaging may be becoming too complicated:

You require too many project details. Part of being professional (and therefore worthy of professional pay) means knowing what you are doing. While you should never start a project without knowing what the client wants, you should have a pretty good grasp of what the outcome will be without having each little detail dictated to you. For example, if you take on a project to create a newsletter, you should already know something about basic templates and newsletter composition.

You want all the money up front. From a freelancer’s perspective, getting stiffed sucks (we know—we’ve been there). From a client’s perspective, the same is true. With the majority of business being conducted over the internet for freelancers these days, it’s often hard to know when to trust the other party and when to demand payment/services in advance. While taking precautions to avoid nonpayment is smart, demanding full payment without a history with a client can be offensive and risky. Many freelancers I know do a sort of 50/50 deal, where they get half the payment up front and the other half upon project completion.

You want your finger in every slice of pie. Oftentimes, freelancers are hired to simply work on one portion of a larger project. For example, I work as a copyeditor for a company that hires other freelancers to do their writing. While it is my job to do my best to make their final product perfect, I still find myself having qualms about the fact that they pay others to do writing that I consider to be pretty sub-par. I have to check myself every time I feel the pressing need to tell them what a waste of money their writers are. In this case, there is a fine line between being a good copyeditor and being a know-it-all prima donna.

You over-communicate. When I’m working on a long-term project for some clients, I make it a point to check in every Monday with an update of how I’m doing and how the project is going. For others, it is assumed that I’m on task, so no communication other than questions or concerns are expected of me. It’s important to know what your client expects of you concerning communication. It’s usually pretty easy to tell when a client wants to chat daily—they’ll typically initiate the communication. However, unless you’re getting that chatty vibe, chances are they don’t want to hear about each success or stumbling block you encounter. You were hired to make a good final product; as long as you get there, most clients don’t care what route you take.

Obviously, each client is different. Some may want an attentive colleague, while others may want someone who requires little or no supervision. It’s up to you to read the cues to determine in which category the client will fall. Your packaging should be tailored as much as possible to the individual needs of the client. It’s how repeat business thrives.

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    On January 2nd, 2008 at 3:19 pm, James Chartrand - JCM Enterprises said:

    Heh, so true. There are a ton of high-maintenance writers out there. Keep it simple, as they say.

    Should’ve title this one “Four Reasons Why You Should Be Fired”.

    On January 2nd, 2008 at 6:36 pm, Rachel said:

    Over-communication is something I still struggle with. I think I’ve got it down now so for most clients I write them a weekly “digest” e-mail letting them know what’s up–but often, as soon as I’ve sent the e-mail, I remember something else. Oops!

    On January 2nd, 2008 at 7:15 pm, Allena said:

    ITA as usual

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