Receiving feedback from a client, whether it be private or public, can be both a blessing and a curse. Great feedback is always welcome by any freelance writer. But it doesn’t always go that way…

When starting out with a brand new client, you might make a few mistakes. Your tone could be slightly off or perhaps you haven’t incorporated enough SEO. This is normal. In fact, it’s expected and all part of the learning process. Most clients are ok with this and will be sensitive enough to provide you with constructive, helpful feedback so that you can improve for next time. Other clients can be a little more blunt, and that can hurt! It might even remind you of being a child and handing in an assignment you were proud of only to receive a D grade and a ‘see me after class’ note from the teacher. Not only does it dent your pride a little, but actually has the power to make you think you’re not good enough at your craft. Some writers even give up.

What you should know is that every writer experiences this. It is how you deal with it that matters.

Now, there’s two main pathways for receiving feedback. If you’re using a freelance networking site or have a public profile open to comments, feedback might be public. In other cases, feedback might be given over the phone or via email, out of view of anyone else.

Dealing with public feedback

Whether the feedback is good or bad, any public feedback should be acknowledged and reciprocated. If you’ve logged into a networking site like Upwork and have been left 5 stars and a lovely comment by a recent client, respond to it with a ‘thank you’ and give your own feedback to them. This retains good relationships and gives prospects a great first impression.

When the feedback is negative, or a little mixed, the first thing you need to do is keep calm. Take a breath and spend ten minutes thinking about how you should respond. The last response you want to make is a rash one! After you’ve reflected, one or two things will happen. You might decide the feedback is entirely fair due to the number of mistakes you made, or you might think it’s entirely scandalous that this client could possibly be displeased.

The next step is to respond. Unfortunately, as much as you might want to tell this client to go to hell, that’s never, ever the way to behave. You’ll only be hurting your business. So, here’s an example of what you could say:

Hi [name]. Thank you ever so much for hiring me for this project. I am disappointed to see you were not happy with the way it worked out. I’d be happy to discuss with you via email or phone the different ways we can improve the outcome. If you’d like to do this, please let me know. Thanks again.

Now, don’t panic. You don’t actually have to work with this client on fixing the problem if you really don’t want to (although, they might change their feedback to something more positive if you do). The point is, you’ve responded maturely, professionally and positively. This shows less cantankerous prospects who visit your page that you’re a joy to work with and willing to fix any problems that might occur.

Dealing with private feedback

Private feedback, good or bad, should always be appreciated. When a client has taken the time to call or email you and tell you something is particularly good, or needs improvement, it’s important you acknowledge their effort. Take it as a compliment that they want to continue to work with you. If they didn’t, they would simply end the relationship and hire another freelancer. So, the first step is to thank them for their feedback and the next step is to make and implement a plan to take it on board. Here’s an example:

Hi [name]. Thanks for taking the time to give me feedback on this. I agree that I could do better in [this area] and I’ve now taken [this step] to improve. I’m going to resubmit this piece to you tomorrow and I would appreciate any further feedback you have going forward.

Simple huh?

What I’m telling you might seem obvious, but when it comes to negative feedback, it’s easy to feel criticised and, ultimately, defensive. And it’s the same across all industries. Just go to Trip Advisor and look at how some restaurants and hotels respond to negative or average feedback. Some of them get it totally wrong and it’s all because they feel offended by an ‘unfair review’.

I want to give you a quick example that demonstrates the power of feedback when handled properly.

A while back, I wrote a series of articles for a recruitment company. While the articles were well written (if I don’t mind saying so myself!) they were a bit generic. The client wrote to me and said he wasn’t happy with them. He said that the content was boring, and that the message had been already said a million times elsewhere. Basically, it regurgitated existing common knowledge instead of offering value. Initially, I panicked. But then I did some research and discovered some little-known-facts about the topics that I embedded into the content. It was these facts that made my article stand out. At a later date, I was hired by a different client to write a series of sales articles for a call centre. I kept in my mind that the articles needed to have unique value, and received exceptional feedback from the client as a result. In fact, he left me public feedback saying that I was excellent at producing ‘nuggets of information’ that readers find fascinating. By taking on board feedback from a less satisfied past client, I managed to develop a great relationship with a new one.

So, to summarise:

  • Always be grateful for feedback, whether it’s good, bad or constructive
  • Make a polite public comment against public feedback on freelance networking sites
  • Always be aware that prospects will be put off by strong public reactions to negative public feedback
  • Take feedback on board and use it to improve

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