Anatomy of a Call: Personality Conflict

As a freelance writer, excellent communication skills are par for the course. Most of us prefer email and text to telephone conversations but many companies want to discuss potential content voice-to-voice, meaning it’s essential to develop effective contract call skills: how do you know what a client really wants?

Through experience and the (occasional) mistake, I’ve found most calls come down to personality, and chances are you’ll encounter one of three common types. Here’s how to handle each one.

Fast Talkers

It’s easy to spot a fast talker: as soon as your on the call she starts rattling off industry-specific acronyms and tosses out concepts like “swim lanes and “verticals”. She’s a thought leader at her company and has a host of ideas about how to communicate the brand’s value proposition to potential clients.

The problem? Fast talkers don’t always have a clear vision of how best to translate the details they’re familiar with into “big story” ideas that will hook readers. As a freelancer, the goal is to drill down and find a few key points — you’ll know them when you hear them because fast talkers will keep circling around to describe them in different ways. Big takeaway? Don’t get bogged down the little stuff.

The New Guys

When you encounter the new guys, you may not know it right away. They’ll typically reach out with a specific goal in mind and come across as friendly, easy going and eager. It’s only once you get down to the details of potential content creation that you’ll hear telltale signs this is their first time hiring a freelancer.

The biggest indicator? Input. You might be asked to describe the values of a news-type blog or speak to the impact of low-key, humorous prose versus crisp, corporate pieces. And unlike the fast talker who might toss in price per piece as an afterthought or professionals who already know what they want to pay, the new guys are willing to negotiate.

For the freelancer, this means doing your homework and having a baseline price in mind. Prove you can speak to their industry, be willing to negotiate where necessary — and don’t be surprised if their first offer is under market standard. This isn’t deliberate, it’s a function of limited experience.

The Professionals

These calls are often the most straightforward. Professionals know what kind of content they want, how much of it they need and how much they’re willing to pay. They’ve hired freelancers before and have certain expectations about your abilities, time commitment to the project and how you’ll handle feedback.

The caveat? Doing exactly what the professionals expect isn’t always what they want. Ultimately, they’re hiring you on the strength and voice of your work; staying in lock-step with guidelines makes you expendable. As a result, the call is easy but the writing can be difficult — add your own spin to the professionals’ bottom line and you’ll get called back.

Want consistent, top-dollar work? Know who you’re talking to, and react accordingly.


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