Six Tips For Freelancers To Handle Horrible Feedback From A Client


Nothing quite prepares you for horrible feedback from a client. You might be writing for some of the biggest names in the industry, or you might be getting consistently good reviews, still, one harsh feedback is enough to burn a gigantic hole in your confidence and make you wallow in self-pity for the longest time.

It happened to me about a year back. I was already working with this content agency for more than a year, and everything was going well. But the editor was unhappy with one particular assignment for a new client. The worst was this editor didn’t even allow me to revise the content. She just assigned it to someone else. I was legitimately horrified and the incident pushed me into a state of shocked numbness for a few days.

The reason writers and freelancers are so scared of negative feedback is that it can potentially tarnish your reputation for a long time. It is not just about that particular piece. And just like positive feedback helps you land new clients, a negative one will continue can haunt for a long time.

Here are a few strategies that can help you cope better with a harsh edit and hopefully stop those nightmares:

  1. Take it as a learning opportunity: A critical thing to remember is that the best of copywriters have received lousy feedback at some point in their careers. It is best to take negative feedback as a learning opportunity. The editor or the client is not out to embarrass you but genuinely believes that the piece will improve if particular edits are carried on. Once you think of it as a learning opportunity, it is easy to execute the demands of the editor and keep the feedback in mind the next time you work with them.
  2. Take responsibility: If you realize that the error is on your part, it is best to own it up immediately and suggest ways to rectify the situation quickly. Apologize if you have to. Clients respect freelancers who take responsibility for their actions and you will only gain by owning your mistake.
  3. Ensure respectful and positive interaction: Even when you are rattled by the negative feedback, ensure that the interaction with the client continues to be positive and respectful. Never, ever lose your cool.
  4. Ask questions: You need to be absolutely clear about what the client is looking for in the revision or what is the thought behind the harsh edit. Ask questions so you are crystal clear about what the client wants. It will make it easier to ensure that the revision is in keeping with what the editor or the client has in mind.
  5. Talk to another writer: If you find yourself struggling with the revision, you might consider consulting a fellow writer. Yeah, yeah, freelancing is hugely competitive, but even so, a friend or even a senior writer might be able to lend a helping hand. This is a particularly beneficial strategy during the initial years of freelancing when you are still learning.
  6. Think of letting the client go: This, of course, is the toughest of all and should be the last resort. The thing is that your writing style might not be compatible with the client. Let me give an example. You might believe that direct and to-the-point writing style is likely to create the most impact. However, the client wants an ornate kind of writing, which doesn’t come easily to you, leading to substandard work and, consequently, an unhappy client.

In this situation, it is best to accept that working with this client will be stressful and so it might be better to let it go. It never comes easily to letting the client go but believe me there are hundreds and thousands of potential clients out there and it is counterproductive to work with the wrong one.

Harsh or negative feedback can hurl you into a panic but believe you me it, it is not the end of the world or even the end of your career. More often than not it is an opportunity to sharpen your skills…that is, if you handle the feedback in the right manner!

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