When you’re working for a corporation, it’s pretty easy to figure out who’s paying the bill – you take a client to lunch or dinner, put the bill on expenses and chalk the whole experience down to the cost of doing business. But when it comes to who’s paying for what in the freelance writing world, there can be some grey areas which are sometimes difficult to navigate.
For example, earlier this year, I was hired to write a lengthy business book for a US entrepreneur in exchange for a large sum. To get the writing process started, he was to fly from the US to London where I would interview him over the course of three days. At first, all had gone smoothly – the flights had been booked, the hotel chosen, and the interview dates agreed – but then a small problem arose. Where would we meet for the interviews?
It was a tricky one. As the information he was sharing with me was highly confidential, it wasn’t possible to meet in some of the public places we writers sometimes frequent, like a hotel lobby or a café. My client suggested meeting in his hotel room, but I was reluctant. Not because I didn’t trust him, but because I believe that people are less alert when they are being interviewed in a room in which they have just slept. In my experience, interviewing is far more productive in a professional, neutral environment; one which provides both parties with a shared sense of purpose and commitment to the project.
In an effort to find somewhere appropriate to meet, I called my client’s hotel to enquire about the cost of a meeting room, but even the smallest one was pretty pricey, and I could understand my client’s reluctance to pay for it. Not quite sure what to do, I asked my fellow ghosts for advice. One very experienced ghost really gave me food for thought. He suggested that given my client was paying me a large sum, as well as covering his own flights and accommodation, perhaps it would be a nice gesture if I paid for the meeting room instead.
Frankly, the thought hasn’t crossed my mind, but I felt my ghost-friend had made a good point. So, I went online to see if I could find a less expensive option to hotel meeting rooms and stumbled upon an excellent site which rents out high-end meeting rooms in central London locations for less than half the price.
When my client arrived, he was really impressed with the office and its location, and very much appreciated my paying for it. As a small expression of his gratitude, he bought me lunch every day, and promised to pay for the room next time, if needed. My decision to invest some of my own money into the project really set us off on the right foot, and our working relationship has gone from strength to strength ever since (not to mention the fact that I found some fantastic meeting room options to boot!).
Of course, this is not to suggest that you start throwing away hundreds of pounds on your clients – this was a special circumstance after all. But on a smaller scale, why not treat your client to the odd cup of coffee if you’re meeting in a café? Or perhaps offer to pay for a light lunch if you’re meeting at a restaurant. It may not sound like much, but small gestures can go a long way towards cementing your working relationships. Sometimes, putting your hand in your pocket reaps more lucrative rewards.