It’s inevitable: If you create content, either as a freelancer or within a company, somewhere along the way, someone is going to come to you with a writing job that needs to be done YESTERDAY!!!!! (My formatting here is intended to indicate the sense of panic with which you will no doubt be approached with this request.)
In the past, I have gotten on the panic train and responded to these types of requests, but over time I have become more reluctant to do so. I realize there many be times when you don’t have a choice in the matter. But, if you do have a choice, avoid rushing a writing job. If you don’t, your quality of work and quality of life will both decline. Here’s why:
When you don’t have enough time to go through your normal process, research is one area that can suffer. Sometimes it takes awhile to get in touch with subject matter experts, to find just the right statistic online, or to receive pertinent reference materials from coworkers. When bombarding people with voice mails and e-mails doesn’t work, you end up developing your piece with missing information, which leads to….
When you don’t have all the information you need, you don’t have much to base your writing job on, and your piece becomes lackluster, unconvincing, and useless to the target audience. For example, let’s say you know the widget you’re writing about helps manufacturers increase production. You’ve sent frantic messages to your marketing manager to get you the specific percentage, with no response. You also don’t get the data sheet with the relevant features and benefits, and you can’t reach the customer contact who promised to provide you with a testimonial. You’re left writing in generalities and maybe grabbing content from your own company’s website. Doesn’t sound like the makings of dynamic promotional writing to me.
Another stage of the writing cycle that can take a hit if you’re rushing is reviews. It may be tempting to go through fewer review cycles, run it by fewer people, or skip this step altogether. This is bad. In the initial review, subject matter experts, managers, clients, and other reviewers will find things to change. In the second review, they make sure you implemented those changes accurately. If that second step is skipped, faulty revisions might go unnoticed. If you don’t run the document by everyone who needs to see it, you can bet those people will contribute edits…after the document is published. And, if you skip the review process altogether, you miss the opportunity to get additional sets of eyes on your work, which no writer can really afford to do.
Loss of Incubation Time
Incubation time is something writers and those who work with them don’t always consider, yet it is so important. Being able to look at a document with fresh eyes is critical for catching errors and inconsistencies. Even when I’m working on a tight deadline, I include this step–if only just for an hour or so while I focus on something else. Also, clients and managers may not realize it, but they often need to “sit with” ideas you’ve presented before they provide feedback. This is especially true when new ways to express ideas about their company, product, or service are being presented, as with a branding platform or tag line.
More Work Later
When you are forced to do shoddy work, you or someone else will likely end up doing that writing job over again. I say, do it right the first time: Probe to find out why something needs to be a rush job. Is the deadline negotiable? Do you REALLY need a whole new brochure for the convention, or can you use last year’s flyer? Is your client truly OK with so-so copy, or are they willing to delay the launch of their website a few weeks in the interest of better quality?
What is the last time you rushed a writing job? How did it turn out? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author: Karen Marcus, M.A. is a Northern Colorado copywriter who has been helping clients in a wide range of industries to put their best word forward for 13 years.
Need help organizing a writing job? Karen can help! Click here for contact info.