On a coaching call yesterday afternoon, I had a conversation that I have much more often than I would like.

This freelancer had a client that had landed themselves with a cold email–the first of the kind for this writer–and landing the gig filled her with so much pride and positivity.

At first. (There must be a but coming, right?)

The bumps started small. Her client insisted on providing her all of the blog post ideas, but would only give them one at a time. And not always on-time.

This left the freelancer constantly having to rush to complete the blog posts assigned, often dropping other things to do so. We talked about how to move the client into giving her batches of post ideas at once, and that helped. For a while.

Now, the client is getting her edits on posts in (again, often late) and expecting the freelancer to have the posts up on the blog immediately after sending in the edits.

Yesterday, we talked about letting her client know that she is instituting a policy with all of her clients that if she receives any piece of the client contribution to her work late, that automatically pushes her deadline back by the same number of days.

To make this more palatable for the client, she’ll outline how she would never want to have to do a rush job on the work for this client because another client got something in late, and she wants to make sure that all of her clients receive her best work, and that’s why she schedules each one to ensure it has the amount of time from her it needs and deserves.

Quick note: if you don’t already have such a policy in place with your clients, whether in your initial proposal and contract or on you “How I Work” page on your website, I highly recommend it.

Scope Creep-Induced Client Hate is the Root of So Many Problems Freelance Travel Writers Face

I actually started crystallizing this theory originally while listening to a group of writers and bloggers at TBEX talking about the meetings they had during speed dating.

Some newer ones were incredibly hopeful about new prospects, but many didn’t even really want to meet brands because they felt like things never worked out, or at least not in a way that benefited them.

This is an incredibly real and dangerous issue for the future hope and earning of so many freelance content creators.

I’ve watched it happen again and again with writers I know.

They pitch and get a blogging gig (often quoting a low rate because they think that’s the going rate or the most they can get) and then end up in a hornets nest of following up for information they need to get their work down, being expected to provide photos even though they didn’t include that in the rate, or having to go out on tours (a.k.a. 4 hours of their time for free) to take notes and photos for one $20 blog post when that was never discussed upfront.

Then, there is the every increasing common situation bloggers find themselves in when they go on a tour as part of an itinerary organized by a CVB and owners of various stops on the tour *demand* the photos they took for their own business use as a quid pro quo for the blogger visiting their establishment as part of the tour.

And those are just the more obvious iterations of this issue!

In the legal issues session at the last Women in Travel Summit, my eyes were opened to many different types of photo rights (I am more versed in the licensing and sale of text from my own work) that I have not even heard the big photography-focused bloggers and Instagrammers clarify in their brand engagements.

There is, in the larger community of travel writers and content creators, thankfully an increased attention, group support system, and general movement toward charging rates that are more reflective of the value creators provide, but if we are not clarifying the scope of those engagements, writers still risk getting screwed on their hourly rate.

Combatting Scope Creep-Induced Client Hate is a Huge Priority for Me

There is a regular cycle when people begin working with freelance / brand partnership clients.

They spend lots of time learning and doubting and finally pitch in person or online. Often one of those early pitches will work out, and they are elated. They stress about each phone call, email, and deliverable. Often, unfortunately, the client isn’t getting back to them in the time frame they want.

They think it must have something to do with them or their work. The other option is that they client writes and calls them A LOT. And keeps adding more and more things for them to do, causing them to be a $5/hour slave to this project that they are so excited about. After either path, they are nervous to take on more clients of this kind.

Most frequently, these issues pop up with questions of who is responsible for:

  • generating post ideas (and how many the client is required to accept from the writer)
  • keyword research
  • providing photos
  • on-page search engine optimization
  • uploading the posts to the content management system
  • providing accompanying social media copy

I have heard of this happening so many times from bloggers and writers, and have spent dozens of hours on the phone working through what happened, how to set up new engagements to avoid this issues, and how to adjust one’s mindset to keep the cycle from ever starting in the first place.

It all comes down to scope–the intricately clear expectation setting of exactly who is responsible for exactly what exactly when and exactly what happens if any of those things do not come to pass. And you can’t just set the scope and try to hold the client to it later, you must walk them through it and explain it and answer questions on it in the pre-signing stage.

While many writers are worried that being “demanding” in this way will scare off clients, they’re actually missing out on the beauty of clear scope. On the one hand, you are protecting yourself (and your client) in the future. But, more importantly, clients don’t know how to or can’t do what they are partnering with us on themselves.

By demonstrating that you have a clear, thought-out process for completing the engagement, you show them you are a business, and engender incredible trust before you even deliver a thing.

The problem, unfortunately, with “scope creep” or when brands expect more than was clarified upfront, is that it is only one side of the equation.

The other side of the discussion of brands/those working with contractors is the additional expectations that they have that they don’t voice to the creator–the instances when they don’t respond to emails or approve work because it isn’t what they wanted and don’t want to or don’t have the time to critique in detail with the writer.

Part of what is going on here is an education issue–not just for writers, but for the brands they are working with.

All of these factors bubble up to a dark side to the excitement around the proliferation of working with brands that we can help stem by increasing awareness and providing clear education about not only the legal rights that need to be negotiated, but the aspects of the partnership process, negotiation, and workflow that creators need to be aware of (even if they’re never done a partnership before and haven’t been burned by these issues enough to think to discuss them) and discuss upfront when creating partnership deals or blogging gigs.

“How to Scope Your Brand Contracts (So You Don’t Get Screw and Hate Yourself and Your Clients!)”

This is the title of a new workshop that I’m developing for the Women in Travel Summit this year. Here’s the full brief:

Many writing, blogging, or influencing brand engagements don’t work out. Or they don’t lead to future work. Or you realized you were working at $5/hour and can’t do it anymore. Writers often blame themselves, but it all comes down to scope–the intricately clear expectation setting of exactly who is responsible for exactly what exactly when and exactly what happens if any of that does not come to pass. In this session, we were explore all of the aspects of your work process and deliverables you’ve never considered to clarify at the outset to ensure you and your client are ecstatic.

Key takeaways:

  • Grasp the very real repercussions of failing to minutely clarity the scope at the beginning of every client engagement, both on a work and personal level
  • Create a clear, personalized list of the scope items that matter to them in negotiating with brands
  • Understand what levers they have at their disposal to gain more money, comfort, or leverage out of their brand engagements

If you’ve attended the Women in Travel Summit (WITS) in the past or are on their email list, they had a big discount offer for Black Friday/Cyber Monday that went out recently.

We’ve developed something very special for our readers as well, but since we don’t have the power to offer a deep discount on the ticket price as they do, we wanted to wait until their offer was done.

If you’ve like to get a ticket to WITS with a whole pile of goodies from us–including a coaching call both to set up for the event and plan your next steps–keep an eye on our 12 days of holiday specials, coming soon.

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