If you’ve been following my posts recently, especially with regard to work for a certain French client, you’ll appreciate the point that I’d like to make now.
What does it mean to call yourself a ‘professional’? The key element in my view involves the standards that you set for yourself, especially when a job is difficult to accomplish. I would even go further and ask “to what efforts are you prepared to go when you know you haven’t made the best decisions and must now work yourself out of your mess”?
Clearly the more experience you have, the more efficiently you’ll perform a job with relatively fewer mistakes. But ‘experience is the name we give to our mistakes’ and there’ll always be times when you have to work much harder than expected (or are paid for). I contend that these are the critical moments when you prove to yourself that you’re a professional and that your client will get a good job – no matter what!
Copywriting for the Web, and the SEO elements that it incorporates, is a challenging job with all kinds of potential blind alleys. I often say it’s like building a 3-D puzzle because you have to juggle the texts, keyword selection, keyword relevance, internal links and external links too. If you’re good, then you’ll also be interested in adding News items and probing your client for information so that you can populate this section of the site.
When I meet new or existing clients, I always pay a great deal of attention to what they say. But at the same time I ask myself “What’s the right thing to do”? There’s not always a good fit between client demands and your view of the task ahead. Adjustments need to be made along the way. Let me offer this example.
A couple of months ago a man contacted me about writing a small English-language site for him for the Chinese market. He wanted to offer financial services (financing management) to the Chinese. After two ‘briefing’ meetings I was beginning to get an idea about the messages he wanted to convey – but there was still a long way to go! Ten to twelve pages of copy would need to be very strong and convincing to appeal to the Chinese who now have everyone knocking on their door.
I asked the man what he was planning to do about the graphic design for the new site (since his existing site was an amateur disaster in both copy and design terms). At our second meeting, when I felt that there would be a large effort on my part to a) get the information out of him and b) prepare it in a professional way, I placed more emphasis on the design element. After all, I was not prepared to break my back for him if my content was going to be trashed by a mediocre-looking site. Everything about the job had to be tip-top, or it would surely fail.
I later discovered that this potential client backed-off from giving me the work order (which had been agreed orally before) because I was so insistent on the graphics side. I didn’t mind. Yes it would have been a lot of money and yes, at that point I really needed the work and income. But I was not prepared to compromise my standards. That made me feel good.
It’s by working according to your own internal standards that you determine how professional you are. Being your own critic can be the hardest and best thing.