If you’re commissioning a writing project and you’re thinking of working with a writer, here are some things you can do to guarantee an unhappy ending.
Don’t give a brief. Or a bad one. Or an incomplete one. I’ve said it before, but almost every bad project can be traced back to a bad brief, so this is your go-to screw up if you want to guarantee an epic fail.
Change your mind. Brief one thing and then, after your writer has completed it, change the brief. It’s best to do this with a straight face as if you hadn’t actually changed you mind. Don’t let the writer think you’re human enough to make a mistake or trustworthy enough to admit them.
Insist on insane deadlines. One great way to ensure a bad project is to say ‘we have to have it this week so we’re going to skip the briefing and the research – can you just put something together?’ Deadline panics, all-nighters and weekend work are well-known for improving the quality of a writer’s work.
Rewrite everything (badly). Feedback is essential, of course, but if you really want to demoralise a writer, try rewriting their copy for them and do a lousy job of it. For example, recently, I wrote “Don’t make plans in the dark” and my client rewrote it as “Limits [sic] the requirement to make plans around technology without knowing what changes are due to be made.”
Renegotiate the fee. It’s only happened to me once, but I have had a client commission 8,500 words and then, once they were written, change their mind and decide they wanted 5,000 words and would only pay for that. Getting your contractor on the phone to his lawyers is a fantastic way to bring the relationship to a crashing halt.
Pay late. Nearly all my lovely clients pay me on the nail, but occasionally some of them take three months or more. This is a good way to kill the project before you’ve even begun: ‘Your account’s on hold so I can’t take on your new project.’
So, I’d like to leave you with a positive thought – 11 things to do at the start of a new (business) relationship – and a question: if you wanted to screw up a writing project, what would you do?