Spidey Sense – Why I won’t take that job

Knowing when my writing won't fit your needs

Have you ever had that Spidey Sense that something isn’t quite right? Recently I had a great conversation with a potential client who had a useful product. He’d put a lot of time and thought into the website. The website had been several years in the making. The older work was a custom website database. Ongoing work included a partial rebranding of the company. The product served a need, but the sales were low and the website needed “something” to grow online sales.

Spins a web any size

This blog is written for my potential clients, my current clients and my fellow writers. I know the temptation to “spin a web any size and catch jobs just like flies.” I believe that my Spidey Sense is my comfort level with the type of writing. I value my ability to connect with the audience reading (and using) the material I write.

Several months ago I was under pressure to get a full-time job after my husband had been out of work for many months. I had to confront why I work for myself after more than 5 weeks of applying for full-time positions.

“…I thrive on recognition and feel the need to be productive. …”

My real talent is translating complex ideas into Business English. I know what an executive, a sales professional or admin staff wants to know to use your product or service. My writing style has evolved to deal with matching logical products to business activities. My most effective writing has been with software products, industrial services or business to business products. That need to serve you is why I write. My desire for recognition drives me to choose jobs I can do well. 

Efficiency is rewarding

In the previous 2 years (2014-2015) my efficiency went up. My instinct is that referring jobs and stopping work on bad jobs improved my billable hours. My completed jobs and happy paying clients have made up 60% to 70% of my available hours. 

Managing the types of work I accepted also allowed me to be available for jobs that were full-days for 4 and 5 days a week. I have:

  • Referred 3 potential clients onto writers with the right experience and style
  • Chose not to continue 1 writing job
  • Had 1 client accept my deliverables and not use it (not pay for the work either)

My rewards drive me to do quality work for you. I find the act of writing is very rewarding. The process of writing and delivering finished work fulfills me. Receiving a fair payment for my work is also important, because it gives me that sense of success and completion. 

I can do the writing and editing, but …

I can do the writing and editing, but I will be learning and experimenting as I go. Using your job to learn or experiment is not an ethical reason to take the job. I won’t bluff you and risk delays, repeated work or low quality to try something new on your job.

I learn and experiment on my own website. Or, I volunteer to do the new types of work for community project. I’ll even approach a trusted colleague and gift my writing in trade for real-life experience.

I won’t take the job, but I will “pay it forward.” Where does that leave you when you need the work I cannot do? I take pride in introducing you to people I know with better matching experience. Let me network you with a writer who does advertising and ad copy.Connecting you with a writer, web designer or advertising consultant who can address your needs will be a better, faster solution. And, I’ll openly share the small items that need to be updated on the website, so you can prioritise the on-page text and image updates.

Shauna McGee Kinney in a subway in Seoul

In contrast to the difficult job

There is a difference between knowing when the job is difficult and when the client needs a different type of writer.

I am one of those people who doesn’t mind taking the occasional difficult job. I even will put up with a difficult client — up to a point. Many web developers and ad agencies bring me into a job in progress to get a stalled job completed. Many of the clients on the jobs that are behind schedule make their frustrations personal.

The numbers of clients I service and the number of clients that I cannot service cannot be easily quantified. The data is hard to measure. Because I am a sole trader, I can be “fully booked” as a technical writer for 6 to 12 months with as few as 1 client. Other times, I can have up to 5 marketing and social media clients in a month with 2-6 hours of billable copywriting work per client. 

Why I won't continue a job

When I estimate a fixed-rate per page job, I let the client know when the files will be delivered or text will be loaded. I state the number of revisions and how long the client has to request the revisions. Even when I am not billing by the hour, I still track the approximate number of hours I am spending on the phone, email, research and writing.

My fixed estimates are padded to allow for 20% to 30% of the time to be used for communication.I have enough experience to know how long a typical writing job should take. I will stop a job, when the amount of time spent responding to the client drops my hourly equivalent. I take the amount of time and divide it by the estimated fixed-rate. I look at my equivalent hourly rate.

My target is to use 60% of my available working hours for billable work and 20% of my available hours for sales, admin (bookkeeping, marketing, training). The remaining 20% of my target is lost to rescheduling, cancellations and delays. I built my pricing around this approximate billable work ratio and I value keeping my tech writing and copywriting rates affordable and competitive.

If you are a client or a writer, be aware of the temptation to blame and criticise the people involved.

Angry clients are easily provoked. Frustrated agency employees and contractors start to resistant to changes and work slowly.Focus on the brief. Speak and respond to the issues – what deliverables are outstanding, are the change requests logged and have any changes in the scope been summarized? Next, look at what you can put back into draft to get the “minimum viable product” published. Add the draft items to the change log and summarise the down-sized job scope.

Spiderman Cartoon

At the scene of the crime

Many of us have that instinct to hide and get away from the scene of the crime.

However, I believe that the next step is to speak with the client, web designer or agency on the phone. The human voice is important to working through the final stages. I’ve 1 to 3 hostile clients over 10 years who won’t pick up my calls. I leave my number and only state I am calling to speak about why in my decision of the job. And, this same minority of unhappy people tend to send scathing emails instead of returning calls or picking up.


Trust Your Spidey Sense

4 of the 5 leads that I’ve followed up with to about their referral to another writer have been happy. And, honestly, the web designers, agencies and clients that I have stopped work for have broken ties with me. The lesson I learn from the stopping a job is to be more choosy about which jobs I accept. Writing is an art and a talent. The art doesn’t fit everyone’s style or needs. The reason why you won’t take a job may be similar to the reason why I won’t take a job.

Don’t hide from that phone call. Don’t stay on the phone if the client is belligerent or a bully either.

Trust your Spidey Sense. Let’s work with each other to do effective work and catch the clients you want. I believe in an ecosystem of honesty. I believe that discussing our gut instinct (concerns and expectations) helps us refine our jobs and briefs. Often talking to a colleague or supplier leads us to the simple, larger issues that trigger your unspoken sense.