Bumps Along the Writing Road
As an editor/writer, I often receive requests from everyone I know to look over documents to make sure all of their i’s are dotted, t’s are crossed, grammar is intact, and the words in their documents flow coherently. And I don’t mind doing this at all. In fact, it makes me feel good to know so many people are confident in my ability to help them correct those minor, and sometimes major, details in order to make what they plan to present look and sound as polished and as professional as it can. Being this “go to editor” for so many made me confident about what I’m able to do as a writer/editor. That is until I met my brick wall.
My brick wall came in the form of a client who wanted me to edit a short manuscript slated to be released in a short amount of time, four weeks to the date of contact, to be exact. I agreed to work the project, and to produce a completely polished product in the time allotted, but deep in my gut, I knew I was going to run into trouble, mainly because the manuscript wasn’t complete. Rather than tell the client, “Let’s reconvene when the project is 100% complete”, I donned my SuperEditor cape and forged ahead, running right into my brick wall called dissatisfied client.
I spent three sleepless nights editing and re-editing drafts that seemed to change with each reading (I’m not offering this information to make excuses about my mistakes, only to show you the deep lengths I went to meet my client’s deadline). After presenting my final set of edits, I received word that I had missed several sets of typos within the text. This was the first time I had received a complaint about my editing work, and I was MORTIFIED. So much so, that I removed my cape for a minute to regroup.
After a couple of days of sulking, and my husband telling me to snap out of it, I began to see the lesson in the middle of what I had perceived to be failure. Here’s what I learned:
1. Be Honest
Honesty is the most important component when dealing with clients. Many will come to you with grandiose ideas about their books, and with unrealistic expectations about the amount of time it will take to edit their materials. Be honest about their level of writing, and what it will take to get it ready for a publisher. They may be disappointed at the news, and the timeline you present, but, in the long-run, you are helping them to present a polished product.
2. Be A Strong Pillar
Stand firm to your timeline. People can become anxious, especially when they hand their “baby” over to you to edit, but they hired you because you know what you’re doing. In the end, they will appreciate the time you took to ensure their project is error free.
3. Accept that “No” Can Be Your Friend
Don’t be afraid to tell your client what you can and cannot do. Most importantly, if they ask for something you cannot do, say No. Never take on a project you can’t handle. That only causes you stress and wastes your client’s money.
Now, in full recovery mode, the memory of this experience still causes me to wince, especially when I think about the potential clients I lost because of it. My emotional band-aid is off, but I know, had I been totally honest from the beginning, I could have saved both of us some valuable time. The experience has caused me to re-evaluate what clients I bring on, focus on being honest about what I am and am not able to do, and has eliminated my fear of saying NO when I know I’m unable to produce what my clients want.