How to Obtain Website Content from Clients: 5 Proven Methods

How to Obtain Website Content from Clients: 5 Proven Methods

In a perfect world, we’d all have all the content we needed before we ever touched a wireframe, on paper or otherwise. The hate for lorem ipsum is real, and I do understand why, but it’s a simple fact that we do not live in a perfect world. Clients are often ready to hand over a down payment, but not actually ready to build the site yet.

If you find yourself in this situation (and it will happen a lot at the beginning of your career), you’ll need to help your client get ready. And if they don’t hire a copy writer, you’ll need to help them write the content themselves.

1. Give Them Constraints

If your client is writing their own content, they may need to be told what to write. Most people are not writers by nature. It’s a skill that can be learned by virtually anyone with varying levels of success, but it takes some persistence and associated time. Most people, when told to write some content for a website, are probably going to stare at the blank screen for a while.

Hesitantly they might begin to pluck out letters on their keyboard, one by one. It’ll probably be a laborious process, but they’ll have that first grand sentence: “Hi! Welcome to the home page of our website.” And then they might write a bunch of stuff that would probably be better suited for another page.

People have long made the argument that total creative freedom doesn’t make for good design; constraints do. Constraints force us to solve problems, but they also give us direction, and purpose. Yes, it means doing some of their website planning and strategy for them, but no one said you had to do it for free.

2. Go Through The Process With Them Before They Write

Even instructions like, “Okay, you need a paragraph of introductory text for the home page.” might be a bit vague for people unfamiliar with writing website copy. Get on Skype, or even meet them in person to take your client through the plan you have for their website (wireframes or other prototypes may come in handy here).

Also be sure to tell them how much content is intended for each page, page section, or UI element. If only a sentence or two will reasonably fit, make sure they know this. If they can go nuts on the “About Us” page, make sure they know that, too.

And yes, giving them a space to go nuts is probably a good idea. Everyone wants unleash their inner Hemingway, and if the “About” page ends up being as long and annoying as The Old Man and the Sea, that’s the price we pay for good relationships with our clients.

As you go through your instructions, write them down, and send them to your client via email for reference. This way, they’ll always know what the plan is.

Charge by the hour for this bit, at least.

3. Go Ahead And Annoy Them A Bit

Ever had a client give you a deadline, then disappear? You have no obligation to take that lying down. Now, they might be busy, and have other legitimate priorities. If they tell you a family member is sick, just work for another client for a while.

But if they just disappear on you, don’t be afraid to remind them once in a while. They might genuinely forget, and need the reminder. Even if they haven’t forgotten, they might need a little motivation. And yes, you might annoy them a bit, but clients should respect your time, too.

If they can’t finish even one project, there probably isn’t a long-term relationship on the table

Now don’t e-mail them every day. That’s excessive. An e-mail per week should be fine to start with, and you can always increase that number as deadlines approach. If they e-mail you back with something like, “Thanks, I’m working on it!”, or, “For god’s sake please stop, I’m working on it!”… you can safely stop sending them e-mails for a while.

Don’t worry too much about annoying them. If they can’t finish even one project, there probably isn’t a long-term relationship on the table.

4. Use Software To Make It All A Bit Easier

Of course, this is all a fair bit of work. You can automate the process of getting content from your clients just a little bit, though. If you’ve got the budget for one more darned SAAS product in your pipeline, you could try out Content Snare.

You literally just set up forms that specifically request the content you need. You can put in character limits, and basically define the information required with various kinds of inputs. You want constraints? They’ve got constraints, and automatic email reminders.

Now the downside to this software is the cost. At the time of this writing, the cheapest plan is $24US per month (billed yearly). It’s affordable, probably, for a designer with plenty of clients already. But when every dollar counts, this is one tool you can probably do without.

For anyone who’s a little cash-strapped, you can replicate the basic functionality for requesting content with a much simpler tool like Google Forms. Just make one for each page, and go. You can embed these forms, too, so if you already have something like a “client area” set up on your website, you could theoretically set each client up with their own set of forms to fill out, all in one place.

Automated reminder emails? Well, there’s no shortage of mass mailing applications out there. If you’re already using one, you could schedule some reminders pretty easily. Just be sure to turn them off once you’ve gotten a response.

Annoying them is one thing. Using robots to do it is another.

5. Provide Some Examples from Relevant Sources

A simple and effective way to get a client to understand fully what you want them to provide is to give them pertinent and specific examples of the needed content. For example if the client’s project is a construction website that specifically needs some text content for the Services page you could send them a url of a well established construction website’s a Service’s page and inform them to create something similar. It really can be that easy. Of course this method could be replicated throughout the site as needed.

For more information on how to deal with clients check out our latest Clients guides.

Feel free to share this info to others who may need some help on how to obtain website content from clients, and to individuals trying to obtain content from clients for non-website projects as well.

references: hubspot, godaddy, webdesignerdepot, ithemes

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What to do with a Passive-Aggressive Client

What to do with a Passive-Aggressive Client

Passive-Aggressive Client

A passive-aggressive client is one who is very passive when you ask for initial input, but when you submit the finished product, they aggressively attack it, demanding a lot of detailed changes, both major and minor. They had an idea of what they wanted all along but kept it mostly to themselves.

Even though they showed appreciation of certain ideas and elements throughout the development process, do not expect the passive-aggressive client to keep any of them as they send revisions your way.

Identifying Characteristics

  • Communication is mostly one-sided and unhelpful during project development.
  • Multiple statements can be contradicting and hypocritical.
  • Makes statements such as:
  1. “I’m not really sure what we’re looking for.”
  2. “Just do something that would appeal to us generally.”
  3. “What do you suggest?” followed up by…
  4. “You totally missed the point of what I (we) wanted.”
  5. “For X amount of money, it should be better than this.”
  6. “I have provided everything you needed, and you have produced nothing”.

How to Deal with

Stay multiple steps ahead of the passive-aggressive client.

Expecting the last-minute requests for revisions may soften the blow of the client’s aggressive behavior. For design projects keep your original layered design intact so that you can easily refine and change it later (not that you wouldn’t, but it does happen). Also, make sure your contract specifies a limited number of revisions.

Be willing to say “goodbye” if there behavior is simply not worth your time. Keep in mind there are essentially endless potential clients out there (other fish in the sea). Additionally, a project/task should be construed as a collaboration of multiple individuals. You are doing them a favor, and they are doing you a favor in return. It should not simply be seen as a boss (irrational) and worker (slave) scenario.

Want more Freelance info? Check out our latest Freelance Guides.

references: smashing magazine, hubspot, psychologytoday

10 Quick Attributes and Actions of an Ideal Web Design Client

10 Quick Attributes and Actions of an Ideal Web Design Client

  1. Pays appropriate compensation.
  2. Pays on time.
  3. Reasonable mindset.
  4. Does not waste time.
  5. Respectful.
  6. Professional.
  7. Good person.
  8. Patient.
  9. Has a product or service that is interesting.
  10. Understands and appreciates web design.

Know When to Turn Down a Client.

Know When to Turn Down a Client.

It’s simply possible to have too many clients and have clients that require way more time and effort than they are worth. If you have the time, energy, and manpower at your disposal then, by all means, take on new projects and grow your business. However, if you don’t have these limited resources (and they are limited!), don’t place an unneeded burden on yourself or your team to pull an excellent final product out of thin air. If you over-commit yourself then there is the risk of not spending the time and effort needed on existing work, making your current clients unhappy and potentially driving them away. It can be very tempting to obligate yourself to new projects that could be enjoyable or lucrative for you and your team, but if you know that you can’t handle the work at that moment, it can be better to say “no” then to risk your reputation and good name.

Don’t Shy from Promoting Your High Profile Clients

Don’t Shy from Promoting Your High Profile Clients

You could well be a digital guru who has spent years working in the industry and earned the respect of the Web community, but most clients won’t understand what this means. They have never heard of websites such as CSS-Tricks.com and Awwwards.com or magazines such as Net or Wired, and they probably won’t grasp the gravitas that comes with being a speaker at Web conferences such as SXSW.

However, all clients tend to respond when you say you have worked on a high-profile brand website. When clients hear that you’ve been hired by a big name that they’ve heard of and whose products they perhaps use, their eyes double in size and think to themselves that they’ve hit the jackpot.

While some web professionals aren’t always comfortable selling themselves, and while big brand experience is not always proof of ability, it almost always resonates with clients and makes them see you as more credible. This reinforces your position as an expert whose advice should be heeded. After all, if big brand X thought you were good, you must be, right?

Sometimes, of course, no matter how much credibility you demonstrate, a client may choose not to listen to your recommendations. But perhaps they’ll listen to others…