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One type of difficult client is the one who can never be pinned down on what they want to say. In the same category is the subject matter expert who claims to be so busy that there’s no time to brief the writer.

Instead, they send you two endless PowerPoint presentations that are so text heavy they’re actually documents, a long research paper (as a pdf of course, so that if I do find anything that’s usable, I get to retype it), and a few links to more deep background.

They send me these saying that I’ll find everything I need to complete the copy. I’m sure that’s true, but it’s a classic information dump. No insight. No narrative. No value. It’s like telling someone your life story in real time.

I usually find a good portion of what I need in those documents. Most writers are intelligent and they’re capable of research. Sometimes it’s the right call to have them go out on their own to gather insight, especially if at this stage you need some outside perspective.

But clients need to understand that if they don’t make time for their writers, they end up paying more.

Paying for my education

Pouring through PowerPoints and raw information that are outside of my experience is like starting a new research project. First you have to get acquainted with the literature. If I’m completely new to it, it takes hours of searching for definitions, re-reading, actually discovering the subject matter and getting up to speed with the expert who dumped it on me.

You are the expert. When you engage a professional writer, even just a little initial guidance lowers your final invoice.

Tell your writer exactly which slides are relevant to the project at hand. Explain why it’s important that the writer understand what’s on them. Cover some historical background that puts this unsorted information into context.

Even a 15-minute conversation about the documents you’ve sent helps us frame and prioritize. Think of it as the executive summary. That 15-minute conversation may turn out to be good start on the first draft, and guess what? You’re already closer to that summary you need, and you’ve minimized billable hours.