Tag: copywriting

The Quick Turn: Writing to Meet Crazy Deadlines

I don’t prefer last-minute projects. But as a freelance writer, I understand that most of the time, sometimes it’s a necessity because that’s where clients need me the most and that the turnaround time may be out of their control. It can happen when a last-minute project (sometimes called a “quick turn” as shorthand for “quick turnaround”) lands in the client’s lap or the usual writer is unavailable.

Fortunately, writers are used to getting last-minute requests. While they’re not the sought after jobs, we do them for many reasons:

  • We have availability!
  • We excel at meeting deadlines.
  • Quick turn projects are an opportunity to connect with a potential long-term client.

So having worked on quite a few quick turn projects myself, success is more likely with these elements.

1. Meet in person. I like meeting clients face-to-face to kick off a project and get the download as quickly as possible. I can ask questions as they pop into my head, and I can see any visual examples immediately (on a shared laptop, for example). A meeting for even 30 minutes can avoid missed information later and establish a better level of trust and understanding.

2. Communicate often. Writers, be upfront that you will be in touch often, and ask for the best number to call or text. Ask questions for clarification. Provide updates. Send a rough draft or outline. Repeat.

3. Be candid about the results. If you have three days to turn around a 15-page proposal, as I recently did, tell the client that you cannot guarantee the quality of the final product. This acts as a disclaimer for the quality of work you provide and will give the client a graceful way to back out or kill the project. Get it in writing as part of the estimate you send to the client.

4. Agree on a final product you both can live with. If your client can live with a final, presentation-ready copy that may not be absolutely perfect, and you can live with some extra or late evening hours rewriting and responding to client requests, then go for it.

5. Call in another writer for final or concurrent review. This helps with quality control and will help make the final product even better. A second writer can proofread copy and catch any glaring errors and point out inconsistencies. He can write headlines and check for compliance with the project’s requirements. He can be moral support and be there at the end to say, “I can’t believe we did it.”

6. Price accordingly. Like the 1 a.m. call to the plumber when your basement is flooding, emergencies ain’t cheap. Make sure your quote includes an opportunity cost (because this job requires 100% of your time that will require you to turn down or defer other work) and reflects the unusual nature of the work and turnaround time (e.g., a stress surcharge).

I hope this overview helped you!  If you’ve worked on (or solicited) last-minute projects, what are your thoughts?

What’s in a Name? How to Choose a Title for Yourself.

“…that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” Yes, but if you ask for a tulip and get a misnamed rose instead, you may be a bit disappointed. I don’t think anyone would dispute Juliet’s claims that a name, a word, doesn’t really get at the essence of a thing. Calling a rose a tulip doesn’t change the essential rosiness of the rose. There are even times, such as with Romeo’s last name, when the word for a thing can get in the way.

What do you do?

One of the first things that people usually ask is: “What is your name?” Followed hard on its heels by “What do you do?” These things are pretty tightly wound together, because I think when people ask “What do you do?”, they’re really asking “What additional name should I apply to you? How can I distinguish you between the other Shawns that I know?”

It wasn’t so very long ago that people tended to end up with surnames related to their work–such as Smith, Carver, or Cooper–or their relationship to other people–Johnson for John’s son and Carson for Car’s son. I think people still want the comfort of having a name for someone else that defines them, a kind of mental shorthand for thinking about and remembering other people.

What do I do?

I have lots of ways that I can answer the question: “What do you do?” I could say, “I’m a writer.” Unfortunately, this only conjures up a very vague and general idea of someone typing away at a computer somewhere, probably wearing glasses, like I do. I could say, “I’m a freelance writer,” in which case, the person might picture me at home, in my pajamas, writing away, perhaps with a cup of coffee. Ultimately, the answer to this question doesn’t matter too much when making small talk at a party, but when looking for prospective clients as a freelance writer, the name that I choose to describe the work I have done and will do is essential.

If I describe myself as a poet, then a client looking for a technical writer won’t give me a second look, because they’ll most likely imagine me swanning about in graveyards, flirting with some wasting illness. If I describe myself as a technical writer, and a client is looking for someone to write humorous ad copy, they may not be interested, because they’ll imagine me as someone who doesn’t focus on what’s funny and entertaining.

I struggled with this question of what to call myself when I first started considering freelance writing work. I’ve done many different kinds of writing in my life, from blogging to poetry, playwriting to short stories, and I’ve even got a novel rolling along slowly in the background. Professionally, I’ve written instructional content, but most people aren’t really sure what that means.

The name I chose

Ultimately, after hashing it out with an acquaintance of mine, I settled on the name “Technical Content Creator.” As far as I know, it’s a fairly novel name for what I do and want to do, and that may have its downsides. “Technical Content Creator” doesn’t conjure up a particular image, but, for me, I think that’s its strength. My hope is that it will function as a kind of speed bump. That when people encounter it, they’ll pause for a moment to consider what it means.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s easiest to just say, “I’m a technical writer” and leave it at that.