Wasting Time Equals Frustration

Is there anything more frustrating than wasting time and energy on a potential project or with a client who’s unclear on what he/she wants to accomplish? I’m sure many of you have experienced this on occasion. It usually turns into a patience and mind-reading game if you hope to move forward.

Perhaps you can relate to this: we hope the client will smarten up and get with the program at some point. But it doesn’t happen. They’ve come to the table empty-handed. They’re unable to present anything of value to help unravel the mystery of what they want. And before you know it, you’ve already eaten into your profit margin. At what point is it no longer worth pursuing this project? Cuz frankly, ain’t nobody got time for that!

Allow me to share an experience. A potential client connected with me by phone for ad copy. That’s fine. Initial half-hour phone consults are not charged. However, he can’t articulate his ultimate goal or understand his audience profile, or convey critical details so I can move forward even just a bit. This, after two conversations, lasting close to an hour each at which time his meagre budget was divulged. I should have ran right there and then. 

To top things off, he has no computer.

Wait…What!? You read that right. NO COMPUTER!

His partner (George, we’ll call him) does though (Oh, that’s a comfort) so George forwards information that in no way conveys the client’s intent or message goal. Sigh…I’ve still got questions for him. Here’s to hoping they will turn on the lightbulb. Unfortunately, this is not a productive process so far.

Here’s what happens next. I sent key questions (via George) so I could prepare the proposal (I promised) from an educated position. I love going through a third party with questions, hoping they’ll make their way to the client (well, not a client yet..still a prospect) and back to me with useful responses. 

The client’s answer? Hey, let’s have another lengthy phone conversation where I get to write down vague answers to my questions. How about no! That’s not a good use of time, resources or expertise – for either of us. He wants to continue talking, and we have no contract yet. I like to help clients to move forward, but there’s a limit to my in-person availability for free. Please send me an e -mail with the answers so I have reference to prepare a proposal. That never happened.

In the end, how would I deliver the project copy for review, let alone get a proposal to him, get it signed off, scanned and returned? Yikes. Alas, I’m wasting time waaaay beyond the value of this very small potential contract.

Ultimately, this was a frustrating and unproductive exchange for both of us. I sensed it at the beginning and should have moved on sooner. I won’t let this kind of thing happen again.

On another note…How the hell do you even conduct a successful business without a computer these days anyway? Just a thought…

But I digress…

There Goes The Reputation

Wasting time is a pet peeve of mine. Can you tell? So I make every effort not to waste clients’ time, or anyone with whom I’m having a meeting or discussion – be it on the phone, in person, or on-line. It’s about respect. 

Is it our responsibility (as the consultant) to guide our client through the process? It is to a certain extent. I do all I can. There are pointed questions to steer the client in the right direction, to help them better communicate what they’re seeking from us. Now I’m pretty skilled at helping a client to strategize and come up with an approach or method once I have what I need. But when the client can’t provide input on the crucial piece of the puzzle (i.e. the actual message he hopes to communicate), then there’s trouble. Copywriters are not mind-readers. Oh, if we only were. 

The solution is to be prepared. Have questions ready. Have answers ready. Be clear on goals and desired outcome. Have a vision for the end-product. Copywriters create copy according to the instruction and guidance clients provide. When requirements are unclear, the results show it. And that’s a shame, because then the copywriter wears it. And there goes their reputation. 🙁

It's Wasting Time When You Don't Know What You Want

I Can’t Help When I Don’t Know What You Need

Help Me To Help You

All that to say, talking to a consultant (any consultant) about a project when things aren’t clear in your mind is simply wasting time and a useless exercise for both parties. So before you make that call, or send that initial e-mail, consider mapping your idea, and creating an outline of what you hope to accomplish.

When you’re working with a copywriter, you can help fill in some blanks, by thinking about:

  • Your intended audience
  • Your message intent (i.e.the promise or solution you want to share)
  • The overall vision (what do you wish to accomplish)
  • Previous examples for reference or additional support
  • How do you wish readers to respond to your communication
  • What format, length and medium do you intend to use
  • What tone and level of formality will you use

These are great details to start with.

The more direction and clarity you provide, the better you can expect your results to be. Working with a consultant (be it a copywriter or other) is a team effort, and if you’re not wasting time, you’re chances of making money are greater. And after all, aren’t we in business to make money and earn a living?

If this article resonates with you or is helpful in your business activities, let me know. Your comments and questions are always appreciated and welcome.


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