“The client is always right.”
That’s a phrase I hear time and time again–and most people think it applies to freelancing, too.
But, truth is: I don’t always agree.
That’s because a client (or boss) hires you because you’re an expert in your field. They’re paying you do to something because they can’t do it themselves–either in a time or skill capacity.
That’s especially true for writers with subject-matter expertise. Sure, the client is the expert in their business. They’ll know what products/services they offer, who their customers are, and what their website needs to communicate. Take suggestions relating to that on the chin.
But you’re the writer.
Best editorial advice I’ve ever been given:
“Never accept all the edits.”
The advice was given to me by my editor.
— Benjamin Dreyer (@BCDreyer) February 8, 2020
The benefits of pushing back on client edits
A huuuuuge bonus of pushing back is that your client’s changes don’t sabotage the results of your content.
Let’s say they want to change the headline of your landing page, for example… But you wrote the initial headline based on your A/B tests.
They made the changes to that high-converting headline, and you didn’t pushback to explain why you did what you did.
They think you’re to blame for poor results. When in reality, they changed a proven headline template to something previously untested (and subsequently didn’t work.)
The same goes for any other type of content you create. For example: you use slang because their audience does. You include external links because they’re good for SEO. Every decision you’ve made with your content was based on an actual reason. Changes to that can affect its performance without your client realizing.
Plus, some clients appreciate pushbacks. They acknowledge that they’re the product expert and you’re the writing expert. They’ll start to trust, respect, and repeatedly hire you if you’re pushing back on edits they’re wrong about.
When should I push back?
There are times where pushing back might not be sensible. As we mentioned, your client is the product expert. Anything relating to their features, capabilities, or brand should be taken into consideration.
But clients that come back with suggestions on your copy–such as your grammar, sentence choices, or wording–shouldn’t always be taken as gospel.
…Especially when they aren’t an editor themselves, and you have a solid reason behind why you did what you did.
Let’s say you’re a freelance copywriter, for example. A client comes to you because they don’t know how to write their website copy.
Notice how I said “don’t know”?
You’re the expert, and chances are, you’ve written that content as it is for a reason (be that it’s proven to get conversions, or fits in with their editorial guidelines.)
Here’s what that looked like for me.
A client wanted a piece to rank for a specific keyword. I sent a draft that hit secondary keywords, but they replied to the draft with “why isn’t the main keyword in here more often?”
Replying with “that’s not how I work” (or even worse, “you’re wrong”) gets your clients’ back up.
That leads me to…
How to push back on edits (without sounding like an asshole)
The key is to explain why you’ve done what you’ve done–and why their suggestion isn’t the best idea.
Case in point:
“I didn’t include the primary keyword too many times because the density was too high. Yes, the keyword is important, but search engines prefer content written for humans. The secondary keywords, which I found using Google autosuggest, proves the content is in-line with search intent.”
That’s a much better way to pushback on revisions you don’t agree with than just screaming YOU’RE WRONG.
(My freelancing pal Mike even suggested to frame this as a “have you tried this?” question. So, for the example above: “Have you tried adding more secondary keywords to see if that improves search results?”)
Regardless of how you’re pushing back, don’t be afraid to do it.
Pushing back means you educate your client. They’ll reinforce the idea of you being the expert.
…Ya know, the thing they’re hiring you to be?