What to do when your client gets back to you with negative, soul-crushing feedback that makes you question whether or not you really have what it takes as a writer.
“It’s okay, but what we’re really looking for …”
The sting! The horror! The response no writer wants to get from a client.
This, after we’ve combed through client testimonials and tussled with taglines. After we’ve written, revised, walked away, revised again. Finally, at some wee hour of the morning, we shared the Google Doc and BOOM:
“It’s a start, but this isn’t quite it …”
Jiminy Cricket. The client has pulled out the headlamp and scalpel. Multiple stakeholders have descended on the document like ravenous blood hounds. Subject matter experts, content strategists, THE CMO.
They gnash it all up, sentence by bloody sentence.
All we can do is sit there gasping as the cabin loses pressure and the ego enters a terrible flat spin. In an instant, a once promising career in professional writing is careening toward the cold, unforgiving flames of imposter syndrome.
The clock has struck amateur hour.
The cursor blinks back cynically.
The first impulse will be to react—to disagree, contend, and combat. Sidestep this impulse! Instead, step away. Jog to the breakwater and back. Sip on a Yoohoo (remember Yoohoo?).
Given time, the sting fades. In its place sprouts acknowledgement and acceptance. The level head regenerates like a severed gecko’s tail, which is exactly what the battered writer needs.
Because negative client feedback is not a death knell. It’s a natural part of an iterative writing process. It’s the writer’s opportunity to make a good faith effort to meet the client’s expectations and see the project through—to deliver a quality deliverable that supports larger business objectives.
As long as the writer communicates clearly, articulates the reasoning behind their choices (where tenable), and makes every effort to address the client’s concerns, the project will move forward, one way or another. The professional writing life, too, will go on.
Of course, this curious melodrama happens less often as one grows and improves. And there is always room to grow and improve. One might argue that no writer is even supposed to get it right the first time.
An iterative process, writing is. Healthy and natural, as is feedback.
The difference is how the writer handles the situation.