What to Do if the Client Won't Give Content


#1

First off, I thought this was the best place for this thread, if I'm wrong, please move it smile

I'm working with a lady who makes and sells jewelry and she wants a website. Okay... small business; perfect. I've asked her several times for very specific content (I can copy the email I just sent yesterday) which she keeps ignoring. For example, in the email I sent yesterday, I asked for the content I needed and then also said that we needed to meet in person sometime soon... oh screw it, I'll copy the email.

> I need:

  • Why you started your business (like a mission statement)
  • How/when it started (history)
  • A little blurb about yourself
  • Contact information (do you want me to use what's on your business card?)
  • Photos (which I can/will come over to take, unless you're having them professionally done)

Also, I need to meet with you in person some time so that I can explain the service I was talking about in my previous email. I think it will be the perfect solution for you, when used with your website.

The response I got this morning was "Let me know when would be a good time to meet with you."

........She has done this before when I've asked for content. She is a little batty (my mom said she takes psyche meds, lol). The reason I want this information over email is because she can't half-ass it this way (for lack of a better term x.x). If I try to get this information verbally I'm going to get a lot of unfinished sentences or guesstimates rather than actual facts/numbers/etc.

Am I doing something wrong? What should I do at this point? My uncle suggested that I ask for payment up front ("that'll tell you if she really wants this site or not" he said).

Thanks in advance! smile


#2

I would just wait till everything is in order. Otherwise you might have to do a rewrite (excuse the pun).


#3

Don't meet the client! It takes too much time and she'll be distracted with all sorts of other things.

Instead, call her.

Have a list of questions ready:

Why did you start your business?
What makes your business different from others?
Who are your typical customers?
etc.

As she gives you the answers, type her responses onto your computer, or, if you use Skype, you can record the conversation.

Responses off the top of her head will actually provide better content than if she sat down and tried to write it herself (unless she is a good writer, but that's unlikely if she has repeatedly not provided content).

It'll mean some extra work for you, but you'll get the content and it'll be better than anything she could produce.

In future, put an "Extra options" section in your quotation. For example:

Copy writing $30 per hour
Let us help you provide great content for your site.

Then when you tell them half way through the project that you need content and you'll help them create it, they won't be shocked that they (quite rightly!) must pay for it.


#4

I've had this I don't know how many times, both in editing and in development. Trying to build content based on generic stuff they have in their Yellow Pages ads turned out to be a good solution...I finally got an email that said "I paid you to build my website, not just copy my ads from the phone book."

My reply: "Then provide me with the information I requested so I can develop current content for your website. Otherwise, I have to do my own research and/or make it up."

They got me what I wanted.


#5

maybe God has a good plan for me after all.

Yes, He does.


#6

However, most of my clients almost always express that they will write up the content themselves.

Okay. People say a lot of things. You have to plan your business around what they actually do.


#7

I already experience that, and eventhough she gave a contract she didn't pay for the last month job I worked for. some people are just like that, I just let God to work for it, maybe God has a good plan for me after all.


#8

To start with, what you said above, isn't what you said at first. You said you lost a project because you were "not willing to write web content for him." That's arrogant in my book.

You know, if you told me you could bring in a communications professional, all I would see is the dollar sign in front of a large number. You say you mostly work with small businesses. In my experience (nearly 10 years) I find that most small businesses are shocked to learn about the cost of web design itself to say nothing about the price a "communications professional" might charge.

What's wrong with the phrase "web content writer?" Consider asking your clients how they want to handle their website content and if they know someone who is skilled in writing content for the online reader. Don't be surprised if they look surprised.

The fact is that most people, just like they don't know what goes into web design other than putting a pretty picture on a screen, also aren't aware that reading on the web is any different than reading in print. Most don't know how to format web content for easy screen reading. They don't know how to engage a reader's interest and keep it, simply because writing isn't their business.

What business people know is their business. Rarely do you find one who can step back and look at it through his/her customer's eyes. I know that because it is very difficult for me to write my own web content. Yet, that's something you have to do (see the business through the reader's eyes) if you want web content that works even at the lowest level of performance.

Take a look through Google sometime and see how much web content reads like it's one long pat on the back for the business and does absolutely nothing to stroke the reader, the potential customer. It's easy to spot what's been written by someone who knows the business of writing, what's been written by the business owner, and what's been written quick (made up as it were) just to launch the website.

You say that getting the content continues to be a major problem. If that's so, you need to look at the problem and see what you can do to solve it. The old saying is still true, "You're either part of the problem or part of the solution."


#9

Can you imagine the frustration and stress the client must feel? Thinking he/she paid for something that just ain't happening and no apparent progress in view. It must be terrifically frustrating to wait weeks and months for your web developer to get on the ball and finish the site he promised that he could make.

During that time, I was constantly updating the client on the project, and met with them at their office several times. I always post a test site online so the client can see the progress. I find this allows for great feed back for me, and usually aids the client when they are coming up with the content as they can better visualize what is needed and how it will be laid out.


#10

This pretty well smacks of absolute arrogance. What on earth makes you believe that every small business person is equipped to write their own web content? Do you suppose they walk into a TV station and the station manager says to them, "We've dressed up the set and the cameras are rolling. Now you just go out and do your thing?"

Wow, I am really surprised at the backlash I received over my post.

For starters, I lay out the expectations for my clients very clearly when starting a project, and I always mention that I can help them look at bringing in a communications professional if they wish.

However, most of my clients almost always express that they will write up the content themselves. In the case of this particular client, they were supposed to provide the content.. then months into the project, provided me with next to nothing. When I gently nudged them for the content again, they decided to kill the project. I had even gone as far as providing them a frame work of what they needed to write. This is something they agreed to and it was very clearly outlined in the agreement that they signed.

I'm not sure why that makes me "arrogant".


#11

Isn't that what I said the problem would be?
"In the vast majority of cases where a project goes bad, it's a lack of basic project planning combined with poor communications that causes the problem."


#12

About 5 minutes usually, and the content never needs to be 'completely revised'. One usually knows enough about a client to guess some correct information, and this method is generally quicker than waiting for content. It's also often easier for the client as they have something to work with and don't have to start from scratch.

We generally work on fixed-price contracts so the cost isn't an issue.


#13

The real issue ended up being me -- I said something she didn't understand and she just wanted to know what the heck was going on ...

Web developers with communications problems? Umpossible.


#14

Hehe, well, that's what seemed to have been the problem blush My issue was solved last week, but I figured this was a good topic and I wanted to hear all the good suggestions (in case the problem came up again -- or to prevent it).

Thanks so much for all the help! The real issue ended up being me -- I said something she didn't understand and she just wanted to know what the heck was going on before I proceeded with anything.


#15

Now that I can wholeheartedly agree with -- and yes, it's where most of the problems originate.

It seems a lot of people end up in the "yeah, I can build you a website" as the only discussion before work starts -- and there's no bigger recipe for failure...

Well, excepting maybe the classic "Hey, you know computers, build me a website!"


#16

Of course they can give you the information and there are ways to help them provide what you need and performance standards that you can put in your project agreements to help them understand that it needs to be provided promptly.

In your post you asked the questions that any good web developer would ask. The kind of questions that DCrux was talking about in his post above.

I didn't say that it was arrogant to not write content if you are a web developer. I said it is arrogant to expect a client to know how to do it.

I replied to this:

Can you imagine the frustration and stress the client must feel? Thinking he/she paid for something that just ain't happening and no apparent progress in view. It must be terrifically frustrating to wait weeks and months for your web developer to get on the ball and finish the site he promised that he could make.

If you quote appropriately and define who does what at the beginning of a project and when it needs to be done, a lot of the problems disappear. All that was needed above is a question to the client before the quote was accepted, that being "Who will write the content?" If the client answers "you" and you don't write content, then tell him/her that or offer to help find someone who does. It's just that simple.

To come here and bad-mouth a client, even an anonymous one, for something he may not have the ability to do, is just poor business and as I said, smacks of arrogance.


#17

That kind of goes back to my first post in this thread; Getting content, for me at least, sat between the NDA and signing the contract. If they can't provide that, we never even get as far as me doing any real work.


#18

sat between the NDA and signing the contract. If they can't provide that, we never even get as far as me doing any real work.

If they can't provide that, the NDA makes zero sense.

You won't disclose what you don't know and are never provided.

I am always getting NDAs. I insist there be something not to disclose, first. How that happens decreases 1) Content procrastination 2) Client business failure

Really, I don't think clients are using NDAs to prevent information getting out; more are trying to prevent any information from getting in.


#19

... and web developers writing the content for the client can very quickly hit that pitfall. You're not an expert in their business, what business do you have writing THEIR copy?

Besides, If the client doesn't know what they want on their website, what the deuce do they want a website FOR?

Maybe, just maybe, having a website just to have one is a key problem causing clients to draw a blank on writing site content. Developers, having no problem selling clients a site without a purpose, might just have an even worse time figuring out what to write.

Hit-and-run billable is the problem in this case, not writing.

Who caused this problem? A client who doesn't know all there is to know about how and who to target with a web site? Or the developer, blithely ignoring anything to do with the communications part of web design?

Most content can be nailed down right at the client meeting, if the discussion shifts from gimmicks to a reason for the site to exist. If the developer doesn't have the content, they probably don't have a good idea of the target customer, or what the site was supposed to accomplish. That there is no clear idea of who the site is for troubles too many developers not at all.

Once again, what is the cause? Could it be a dysfunctional relationship with clients? If web shops had to figure out which of a dozen CMS systems to install, instead of one-size-fits-all, you'd see the same problems. If you had to be an expert in knowing ecommerce, rather than slapping in the singular shopping cart the programmer knows how to code, you'd see the same problem.

By the way, which cart software has superior human factors? Which cart software supports shopping behavior, not merely the transaction at the end? Which has a built in merchandising tool called a planogram? What, exactly, can be done with Zen cart to foster upsells and cross selling?

More to the point, how do you support effective product page copy with site code? How do you figure out when a user wants more information, and deliver just the right amount, at the right time, when you won't have a thing to do with copy?

In many cases, this might just be a follow-on to every other dimension of web development rather than anything to do with writing skill. In a disturbing number of cases, the refusal to have anything to do with writing is but one of a long list of refusals.

The reason for this is simple, reporters are generally not experts in the topic they cover... Which means if you can't trust them for what you know about, how can you possibly trust them on subjects you know nothing about?

Are web back on this fallacy ...again?!

You can have niche writers on call, who write on very narrow subjects with very good accuracy. Where a newspaper might have someone write off their normal beat, you can employ specialists.

Next are copywriters, who may not be experts but often specialize, so you assemble a stable of writers who hit the major subjects.


#20

That works both ways -- What would give the business owner the idea that someone who writes websites is qualified to write ANYTHING on the subject of their business?

For those of you not familiar with the concept, the following are simile's. Literacy, try it. (before we get the typical crying "that's off topic.... Wah wah waaah!")

Of course, a LOT of websites end up having content like newspapers ... or like the laws passed by politicians; These people are trained to write or to make laws, but NOT in the subjects to which those skills end up applied to. That's how you end up with laws like the assault rifle ban which had nothing to do with rate of fire, caliber or barrel length, and everything to do with "what it looks like"... (difference between a AR-15 and a Ruger Mini-14 is.... what? One banned, one not, same round, same barrel length, both magazine fed, both semi-automatic...)

Or as my grandfather always used to say, whenever you see a TV report or newspaper article on a subject you have personal knowledge of, they get every detail wrong. The reason for this is simple, reporters are generally not experts in the topic they cover... Which means if you can't trust them for what you know about, how can you possibly trust them on subjects you know nothing about?

... and web developers writing the content for the client can very quickly hit that pitfall. You're not an expert in their business, what business do you have writing THEIR copy?

Besides, If the client doesn't know what they want on their website, what the deuce do they want a website FOR?