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EPISODE 35: Communicating Reasonable Content Expectations

by May 25, 2021Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • What content creators can and can’t promise their clients
  • Managing client expectations for content
  • Setting clear boundaries
  • Getting content expectations into your contract

Sometimes, clients ask for guarantees writers can’t really make, like promising a specific conversion rate for an email sequence, or a certain profit from a launch.

And while writers can promise a lot—quality content, created according to best practices, written in the voice of their client—they can’t promise specific outcomes from their copy.

It’s not always easy to tell a client these things can’t be guaranteed. So today, we’re talking about how to keep your clients happy, without over-promising something you can’t deliver.

 

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • What content creators can and can’t promise their clients.
  • How to manage client expectations for content.
  • How to incorporate clear boundaries and content expectations in your contract.

Remember, your integrity as a writer comes from the quality of content you create, not from the success or failure of the businesses you work with. Make sure you’re only shouldering your true responsibilities!

 

More help with boundaries and contracts:

Brand Your Voice podcast episode 20: Upholding Boundaries as a Content Creator

Brand Your Voice podcast episode 27: Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries

Destination Legal

 

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell, so you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Jessi:
All right. Hello there and welcome to a solo episode, this is Jessi speaking, and it is just me today talking about how to communicate reasonable content expectations. And I'm actually really excited about this topic because I feel like it hearkens back to past episodes that we've done about boundaries. And it's something that keeps coming up again and again. And, this is why we recorded two episodes on boundaries, right? Because I think as a writer and as a content creator, it's so important to the work that we do. And I think this is probably true of any done-for-you service provider, where there needs to be a really clear set of expectations right from the beginning, and they need to be reinforced throughout. So we are going to touch on boundaries again in this conversation, but I also want to talk a little bit about the promises we make and the promises we keep.
So I'm going to dive right in with a quick story about this. This actually happened to us a couple of times. Especially when we first started serving business owners where we would have a sales call with someone who really wanted us to make guarantees that we couldn't make. We would have people say, okay, well, if I hire you to write my sales page, can you guarantee that I'll have a six-figure launch? If I hire you to write my sales emails, can you guarantee a certain conversion rate? And this was frustrating for us because no, the answer is we can't, we can't make those guarantees. If anyone listening has helped run a launch before you know that there are so many different working pieces to a launch, that one piece cannot, can help the impact of the overall launch. You can definitely move the needle, but we could write the best sales page in the universe. And if you don't have the list to support a six-figure launch, it's not going to happen. If you're not running the ads, if you don't have a good sales vehicle in place, they're just so many moving pieces that while hiring a content writer or a copywriter will definitely help, you need to take stock of the entire landscape and these early clients. Some of them, not all of them, but some of them who didn't end up becoming clients because of this, that wanted us to make promises that we couldn't keep.
And so when we're talking about communicating reasonable content expectations, this, this applies to the whole cycle of the client relationship. This applies to the very beginning conversations when you're having sales calls. And when you are even writing emails to your list or creating social media posts and talking about the work that you do, it's so important to make sure that that talks about the value that you provide without making promises that you can't keep. And it can be frustrating, especially when you have clients who are potential clients. Rather, I want those promises, but honestly, what I found over the years is the people who push for those unrealistic, honestly, promises are the people who really are looking for someone to blame when things don't quite go their way. They want to take the responsibility of, in my example, launch off of themselves and onto the people that they're hiring to help support the launch. And so that can be tricky and that's not always a very positive client-writer relationship, or client-whatever service you're providing to help support the launch, whether you're helping run the tech or helping run ads, whatever it may be. At the end of the day, you know, it is a community effort to make a launch successful.
And it shows up in other areas of writing as well. You know, if I rewrite your website, will it guarantee me as certain percentage of clients increase, are people submitting my contact form. You can guarantee best practices. You can guarantee that it will be more targeted towards the language that your audience is using and whatnot. But you can't say that, you know, when I rewrite your home page, you will get 20 times the number of inquiries, because you don't know how people are finding that website. You don't know what is happening in other areas. And even if you do, the writing is one small piece of the greater formula.
And so what we found very early on was that it was so important to make sure that, and we were doing two things. On the one hand, broadcasting our expertise and making sure that it was clear that we did know what we were doing, that we were doing practices and that there was a potential if you use what we create and are, you know, paying attention to the full landscape to meet your goals. That was one piece of it, making sure that we could do that and communicate that well while also making sure that we were setting clear boundaries and not promising things that we couldn't deliver on. We wanted to make sure that we were not saying, no, we can't do this. We can't do this writing for you, but we also didn't want to make promises that just were not realistic. And put that responsibility on us to create a six figure launch out of an audience that may not support that or a launch plan that may not fully support that.
And those are conversations to have really early on. There have been potential clients that we've turned away because they really want that successful launch and they're willing to pay for it. They're willing to pay for, you know, a top-notch sales page and email sequence and all of that. But we take a look at their launch plan and we take a look at their audience and their list and how engaged they are. And we, we tell them, you know, it's not worth the money at this point. You need to go back and you just spend some time building that audience and, you know, arranging, creating the relationship. And then once you've, you know, tested it once you've built the audience, once you've spent some time really getting to know who you're serving, then maybe we can talk about getting that extra copy support for that big launch that you want to do.
But as a content writer and as a copywriter, I think that we have a bit of a responsibility to make sure that when we're being hired, the goals that we're being hired to help achieve a reasonable and make sense, and that we can make reasonable promises like being able to put best practices into place, as opposed to, yes, I can help you make a million dollars this year, whatever it is.
So what we've, and actually let me circle back really quickly and add that there are legal reasons for this too. This is very similar in the coaching world and things like that. A coach can't say, if you work with me, you will have a six-figure business. That is not something that a coach can legally promise because they will probably have some clients who do, and some clients who do not. And that is a false guarantee. And so thinking about this from a relationship perspective, it's important, but it's also important from a legal perspective of how your business is best positioning itself and best protecting itself so that you can do what you do best without running into any legal issues or really unhappy clients who thought they were promised something that they didn't receive.
So what this essentially kind of breaks out into is that, you know, you can promise quality. You can promise that you know what you're talking about, and I'm assuming that if you're listening to this, you do, you can promise that you apply best practices. You can promise that you follow your framework.
When we talk with prospective clients, talk them through our Brand Voice Process, and we talk them through how in doing that, we are able to better capture and replicate their voice. Now, what we don't promise is that we are going to 100% of the time sound exactly like you in every single circumstance. That's why we set periods of time to revisit the Brand Voice Guide that we create when we work with clients, because we know that their voice evolves. But we do promise that they will receive that high quality Brand Voice Guide document that captures their voice and that they can use either with us or with their, with other content creators to create that authentic voice. We can promise the quality of that document. We can promise the quality of our service and providing that in, in the process of capturing the voice. We can't promise them that it'll work, especially if they don't use it. We can't promise them that it will work if they don't go through the implementation process. You know, we provide a guide to, if they're using their own content creator, here's how you use our Brand Voice Guide. And if they don't go through that process, they're not going to necessarily see the same results as someone who does go through that process.
So what we can promise is we can promise that we know how to speak with a business owner and ask the right questions and have the right conversations to get a really clear understanding of their brand voice. That includes their core messaging, their core stories and core voice components like language. And then we can create the brand voice guide that comes from it. We can also promise that when they outsource their content to us, we are following best practices for the industry. We are staying up to date on what that is, and we will not promise to create any type of content that we're not comfortable creating, that we don't feel like we can really truly own.
And so all of that is part of what we can promise, and we can even give examples of when we have seen a lot of success. So, no, I can't promise that when I write your sales copy, you're going to have a six-figure launch, but I can tell you that we follow best practices. And in the past, when we have worked on sales copy for other clients, they have achieved six-figure results. That is a piece of the process that we participated in. We can use them as a proof of concept of here you can see our content working, but we're not necessarily promising that your results will be exactly the same because you have your own business, you have your own audience, and that changes things.
And so using stories, using examples, using testimonials and case studies, all of these things to help illustrate that you do know what you're talking about, but also setting those reasonable expectations is really important and really helpful to you as a content creator so that you don't feel like you're having the weight of someone else's entire business on you. And I know how frustrating that can feel sometimes. There have definitely been times in the 10 plus years that we've been in business, where we have felt that the success or failure of another business was on our shoulders. And every time that that happened is because we did not communicate our expectations effectively. We did not set clear boundaries. We did not have the conversation about what else was in place, what else they were doing. And the business owner came to a point where they relied on us for honestly, more than content creation. Honestly, they relied on us in a capacity that wasn't necessarily the capacity we originally set out for.
So when it comes to setting clear content expectations, a part of it is that conversation about making sure that you're promising things that you can fulfill. And part of it is the boundaries conversation and defining what content is defining, what a reasonable turnaround is, defining what your relationship with the client is. How often do you talk? How quick, how often can they reach out to you? How many revisions do you offer? When can they make changes? So if they give you an entire launch plan and you're writing all the content at what point is sort of the point of no return where they can't change the launch on you, without it becoming impossible for you to rewrite all the content. And what happens if they do ask for that, is there an additional fee? Do you charge them for a completely separate project? What does that look like?
And this is my quick plug for Destination Legal. If you do not have contracts in place, this is where you lay it all out is in your contracts and during the sales call. You can revisit it, of course, periodically throughout the relationship. But if you don't have a contract in place, please, please, please put one in place. We have created all of our contracts through Destination Legal. There, Sarah who runs the company, is fantastic and really good at helping you get all of your legal stuff in order so that these expectations are clear. And this is particularly important for content creators and done-for-you service providers, because you spend a lot of time and a lot of energy on the product that you're creating for your audience, or for your clients rather. And making sure that you have those boundaries in place in writing signed, allows you to create that sense of freedom and sense of capacity and sense of a successful business that really works for you.
So how do you do it? How do you set reasonable content expectations? There are a lot of different things you can do, but first and foremost, be clear on what you offer, know what your services are, know what the benefits of those services are, and know what you can use as a representative example of it without promising specific outcomes. And usually when I say specific outcomes, what I mean is without promising like numbers, like you will increase your list by 20%, or you will make a six-figure launch. Those sort of specific numbers. Use examples of when you've done that successfully. That's great. It's awesome if you have case studies, but you don't necessarily want to promise things when you don't know what that client is going to be able to bring to the table in other areas.
And use qualifiers too. Another thing you can do is use qualifiers within your language. And so what that means is instead of saying, you know, you will earn six figures. You can say things like in the past clients have earned six figures or may earn six figures. So using words that leave a little bit more flexibility for, this isn't a guarantee, but it is an example of something that could happen.
And then finally set in hold your boundaries. We have two previous episodes, all about boundaries and how to set them and how to uphold them. I highly recommend that you go and get them both the lesson, because they both talk about boundaries and slightly different lights. And that is a part of this greater conversation. Honestly I think that this is so important because our integrity as content creators comes from the quality of the product that we create. And that's not necessarily always tied to the result the client gets from the copy. It is often, but it does also require the client to, you know, be posting the blogs that you're writing that use SEO best practices. If you write a bunch of blog posts that are really aligned and designed to bring their audience and the client never posts them, that doesn't take away from the quality of what you created, but it does take away from the results because they're not fully fulfilling their side of what needs to happen to get those results. And so it is a two-way street. There are things that you, as the content creator and the writer need to do, and there are also things that the client may need to do or other people on the client's team. And so setting and holding those boundaries, being really clear on what your responsible for can help you feel like you are having a more productive relationship with those clients and approach conversations. When problems come up in a way that feels more like two equals, who are coming to the table and having a real conversation about what's best for both businesses involved.
So with all of that in mind, I have a bit of homework for you today, and that is where you to take stock of all of your existing offers. So what do you offer your potential clients? And if you are not a writer or a content creator, by the way, you can do this too, because you also don't want to make promises that you can't keep, but you also want to showcase your value. So, writers or non-writers, take stock of your existing offers and make sure that in any of the content that you're putting out about them and offering them, you're not making promises that are unrealistic or that are out of your control, and may add that qualifying language where necessary. So if you want to showcase that you can write copy that brings in six figures. That's great. Showcase it with an example, instead of making it a promise to a future client. Add that qualify in language where necessary add stories where necessary.
And then the second part of your homework today is if you do not have a contract, if you are not making your clients sign a contract, before you start working with them, leave, go get one. We will put the link in the show notes, as well as the links to those two boundaries episodes. So your homework is to take stock of your existing offers and make sure that they are communicating exactly what you're offering without making promises you cannot keep. And also to get a contract in place so that you can set boundaries, keep boundaries, and have a strong relationship between yourself and your client. All right. Thank you for listening.

Marie:
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, Northstarmessaging.com where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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