I sometimes find myself reading through feedback for a piece I’m working on, whether it’s via email or as comments directly on my working document. I look at them all, give myself a minute, then get a little verbally cheeky at my computer. It’s not that the feedback isn’t helpful, but maybe it’s not delivered in the best way. The hard thing is that, as a freelancer, I’m automatically not the subject expert. I may know a little, but I don’t know everything my client does about their brand or their industry. If I worked at the company, full-time, I’d know more. I’d have more clout to push back a little or even disagree. It can become an internal struggle, gauging when I should disagree and when I should just edit.
Feedback you can reject
The only gray area for me when it comes to feedback is grammar. That’s most certainly my area of expertise as a copywriter. If a client comes back to me wanting too many commas or is insistent that it’s two spaces between sentences, I’ll push back. Some situations require me to politely explain the current trend for clarification, sometimes I just reject an edit and see what happens. Other times I have to ask for clarification, when edits don’t align with the overall format. This is usually to do with the Oxford comma. “I see you’ve added in an Oxford comma to this particular sentence, but we didn’t use it anywhere else, which style would like me to use?” (I’m pro Oxford.)
Acknowledging that you aren’t the subject-matter expert, but you are the English language expert gives you a little freedom when dealing with a client who uses a heavier hand to edit content.
Feedback you should accept
Any feedback about products, topic, services, or industry should be accepted. At the very least, if you have doubts, ask follow-up questions or do some additional research. Don’t reject anything. I recently got into a discussion with a client about a particular term they were using for a product. They called it one thing, but my research told me it should be called something else. I went in and made changes, only to have to change everything back when they explained to me they were correct and why. It created extra work for me when I could have just asked for clarification before I’d started writing. They’re the client, and they know what they’re talking about in this regard. Don’t accidentally make them feel inferior in their area of expertise by not being accommodating when it comes to their feedback.
Feedback isn’t always pretty
No matter if the feedback is appropriate or not, it’s harder to process if the giver lacks a certain amount of finesse in their approach. If you happen to ever be on the other side of the fence, giving feedback to others, these simple strategies can prove beneficial.
- Feedback that hurts someone’s feelings. This means feedback that is based purely on emotion. Comments like, “I don’t like that,” aren’t constructive, they’re emotional and hurtful. Taking that sentiment and transforming it into something a little more positive and helpful creates a much better situation. Something like, “I really like how you started this paragraph, but toward the end it shifts off message a little. How about you focus on this aspect instead,” and elaborate.
- All negatives and no positives. When I receive positive feedback from a client, it makes my entire day. I recently was told that a piece I submitted was “EXCELLENT.” It’s was in all-caps. They really meant it. Had that been followed with a litany of constructive edits, I would have been happy to do them. Being told I’m on the right track makes a world of difference in how I interpret the need for edits. Tossing in a truthful, positive comment among edits of what needs fixing inspires me to tackle those changes more quickly and intricately. A list of negatives and fixes can sometimes sting and lead to distracting frustration.
Not everyone is good at giving feedback, but it’s your job as a freelance content creator to be professional and ingratiating. Spend more time gently agreeing if collecting verbal feedback in person. You can always go back with an email that says, “I’ve been thinking about what you said in our call/meeting, and I’d like to suggest THIS…” or “I did some additional research and I think we might not want to change X to Z.” Allow your clients to be heard and take time to really think about their feedback before deciding it’s not the right direction to go.
Feelings aside, respond to edits promptly
Good, bad, harsh, or kind, feedback is a necessary element to any copywriting job. You’re a writer and your client is a professional in the industry you’re writing about. There has to be some give and take so that both your strengths transfer into the piece. What’s important, and will keep clients coming back, is that you address the feedback in a timely manner, handing off a polished, edited draft in a short time frame to keep the project moving forward.