Sunday, August 26, 2018

How to Work with a Professional

I'm sitting here right now trying to decide if I should continue the title of this post. How to Work with a Professional...Editor, Book Publisher, Web Designer, Graphic Artist, Plumber. Could be anything, really, because what I'm about to tell you should apply to any type of professional service you are requesting. And it should be common sense. But with a few recent potential clients who've come upon me for assistance, I'm seeing that that is not always the case.

You reach out to a professional because you want good, quality work done at a fair price. And many times you are a little unsure of where to begin, which is completely understandable. A doctor needing a website, a writer needing a book cover designed, a truck driver needing an editor for his first work of fiction are all perfect examples. It's not your forte. So you need help. But you need to have at least some basic understanding of the end result.  Here are my tips in working with a professional that will greatly improve your experience.

1. Have money to spend
No matter how much you want something for free, professionals are there to make a living. Just like you. So the worst thing you could do is bog them down with a ton of questions when you have no means to pay for the work you are requesting. Picking someone's brain is like picking their pocket. In the end you are taking them away from other clients who are willing to make a commitment.

Maybe you will have money in the future to pay for a service, but you need some idea now of the cost. That's fine. So when you first contact a professional, be clear on what you are looking for and ask for a range. Ask what is covered in the work. Even ask for a work quote. But leave it at that.

2. Commit to your appointments
Don't tell a professional that you'll call them at 6 p.m. and never do so. Don't tell a professional that you'll meet or stop by after work and not do so. Professionals are shifting their days around to accommodate you. And if you haven't paid them a cent yet, this is a HUGE NO-NO. But paid or not paid, professionals are not your servants. Do it once, it strains the relationship. Do it twice, and the professional will have no faith in you. Do it three times, and you deserve a baseball bat upside your head.

The only legitimate excuses for not meeting an appointment are death, birth, or some sort of physical incapacitation. Forgetfulness is not an excuse. Treat every appointment as it were a plane departure. Be on time. Because you know that if you aren't at the gate at 5:45, that plane is leaving without you.

3. Don't be a Big Ole Mess
I can spot it a mile away: someone who has overloaded or overextended him or herself in every possible way that they are like a big ball of chaos rolling toward me. They've joined a million groups, have a dozen projects going on at once (none of them actually finished) and are social media butterflies. I just know once we start talking they're going to drop their life load on me like an anvil. Professionals are not there to hear your life story (unless you're writing a memoir, of course).

A nice meet and greet, whether in person or on the phone, always helps break the ice so you can get a feel for each other. But leave it at that. Get to the point. Know in finite detail what you are looking for. Write it down. Email it. Only spend time talking about what you are hiring the professional for. Save the other stuff for later, if you should develop a deeper relationship in the future.

4. Listen to the Professional

I can't tell you how many times I've told an author one thing, and they do the exact opposite. I designed a truly wonderful book cover for an artist, only to have that artist have a non-designer friend produce a very bland cover. So I asked if I could post both covers on Facebook, without revealing which one was mine, so we could get other opinions. Hands down my cover design was the most liked, some reviewers even offering comments like "Oh, hell no" to the other. But he didn't listen.

It's not always true that the customer is always right. I give them what they want, of course, but you came to a professional for a reason. Put some amount of faith in them. You're paying for it. Look at their past work. Look at their credentials. Look at recommendations from other clients.

5. Don't drag out a project
A project's completion date is often dependent on how quickly you respond to questions from the professional. If something is requested of you, like text for a back book cover, or photos, get to it. This is an equal partnership, the goal being a wonderful finished product that you can both be proud of.  By dragging it out because of laziness or excuses, you risk straining the relationship and the quality of the work. And it also takes away from other work a professional needs to acquire. Get 'er done.

6. Good working relationships reap rewards
Whenever a client and I work well together, meaning they pay up front, give me what I need, and are quick to respond with answers to my questions, I return the favor in many ways. I will promote their new book or new website through my own social media. I will refer others to their businesses. I will talk them up in social gatherings.

When you treat a professional professionally, and with common courtesy, you will most always have a wealth of rewards come back to you. It pays to be nice. It pays to be on time. Don't ever forget that.

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