It wasn’t a comfortable conversation to have. The client wasn’t happy, and I was somehow at fault for this.
“It’s not working,” the client said.
I heard it as “this isn’t working out.” You know, the thing they say before they dump you. It’s not you; it’s me — that kind of thing.
“What isn’t working?”
“Your content isn’t making sales. We’re paying you to write these blogs, and we’re not seeing any sales from them.”
This was the first time we had a conversation that what I was writing was weighed with the expectation of selling more. We had been working together for six months and this was the first time he mentioned ROI before page views.
It was also the first time I realized I might have been going about this all wrong.
The client had the assumption in his head that more blogs would lead to higher search rankings and that would secure more sales for his widget. He knew his idea customer was “automotive people who liked to fix up cars.” I never thought to ask, “do automotive fixer-uppers read a lot of blogs?”
(answer, after the fact: kinda, but you’re much better off in the forums.)
As a freelance writer, I had been working under a lot of assumptions. I always placed myself at the bottom of the scope. I went into every conversation thinking the company had done all of their market and audience research and had their strategy in place. All they needed was someone to provide the well-written story.
Today, I know this is never the case.
Today, I know most small companies and brands look for freelance writers because they aren’t entirely sure where else to start. I wasn’t the apple that fell off the tree; I was the seed Johnny was planting.
I turned everything I was doing on its head.
There are a lot of questions that happen before I write the first word. About audience, and delivery, and effect. About the expectation, about page views versus ROI.
I know prospective clients will still find me because they search for a writer because they don’t know what else to punch into the search box. My approach is now from the Creative Direction standpoint. I am not making content for the sake of making content. Maybe not even producing content at all. Instead, I aim to deliver the most beneficial audience to the client - whoever they may be.