When you are starting a project, even more so if it’s for a new client, the etiquette around the writing can be tricky to navigate. On the one hand, you are the professional they have called in. On the other hand, they have a particular vision that they want to achieve. Finding balance between your expertise and their needs comes down to boundaries, trusting yourself, and honouring the outcome.
Yes, you are the professional. They have hired you for a reason. You have talent, knowledge, and a flair for the written word. Language is a passion of yours and understanding the market is like second nature to you. Clearly defining the creative process at the beginning of your project will help to maintain the boundaries. You will need a discovery and brief, certainly, but you are also going to need to have time to yourself to shape and to write. Be sure to plan in time for feedback from your client at regular -but not obnoxious- intervals. Once before completing the rough draft, to make sure you are headed in the appropriate direction, and once again when you are finished, for final suggestions for the last edit. If they want daily progress reports or unrestricted access to your process, it’s time to find another client.
That doesn’t mean that your client isn’t owed some level of transparency or involvement in the project. While you are the wordsmith, they know what it is that they want to say. You are going to have to honour that in the project and not get hung-up in your own ego. They don’t like the phrasing? That’s fine, work with them. Objections about the tone? No worries, nothing a little fine tuning can’t fix. They want to completely re-work the final draft? Now you have a problem.
Both you and your client must understand and respect the fact that you are putting your time and talent to work. You have ideas, creativity, and ability when it comes to writing. This isn’t effortless, no matter how much you make it seem like it is. And they are paying for your service, not to be your feudal ruler. Make sure you address those boundaries in the contract, and if they want more control or more time, they are going to have to pay for it.
Starting a project with clear boundaries and direction will only help you and your client to collaborate successfully.