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Four Tips for Working with a Professional

professionalI’ve recently had reason to work with a professional and I’ve garnered a few suggestions for others in my position.

In my case, I was working with a freelance editor, but these points are just as germane to anyone you pay to help you: doctor, lawyer, real estate agent, counselor, home decorator and so forth.

Four tips for working with a professional (writing or otherwise):

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1. Ask around and find an appropriate professional for your particular need.

I needed someone to assist me with a project I’ve worked on for some time. A freelance editor I knew had an opening just when I had a need. She’s co-written award winning books and is a long time fiction writer. She coaches writers and has strengths where my writing needs improvement.

I didn’t hire someone who specialized in children’s books, even though I knew another freelance editor who takes clients and who has written children’s books. I didn’t seek out an English teacher because I needed a professional who has published in the arena in which I’m working. I did not hire an editor whose work I do not care for. I didn’t hire a friend I know is overbooked.

2. Treat the professional like a professional and pay them a fair rate commiserate with their skills.

The Bible is very clear: “a workman is worthy of his hire,” or in other words, a person you employ is worth being paid appropriately.

My husband likes to tell the story of a retired engineer called in to fix a machine:

 He examines the machine and draws a circle around the screw that needs to be tightened.

He presents the owner with a bill for $5,000.

“But all you did was draw a circle around a screw!”

So the engineer writes  a new bill:
– drawing a circle around a screw: $1.
– knowing where to draw it: $4999.

Don’t insult a professional by telling them their time isn’t worth much. Feel free to negotiate, but make sure they’re making enough money to spend adequate time on your project and earn a fair wage. Someone who has  worked in publishing for ten years should not make only $1 an hour on your project.  Click to Tweet

3. Do your homework before the meeting.professional

I always brush my teeth before I go to the dentist, even if I’m getting a cleaning. I think about what’s going on in my mouth and if I have any questions. I prepare for the appointment, even if it’s just a routine meeting and bring what I need with me. I don’t want to waste the professional’s time, particularly if I’m paying for it.

Prior to meeting with my freelance editor, I reviewed my project, gave thought to what I wanted from her, and wrote out questions.  I thought through what I wanted to say and took notes.

I recognized what was pertinent to my need and what was not–and despite all my instincts, refused to tell her any fun stories  that had nothing to do with my project.

I sent her an email detailing what I wanted ahead of time and we worked through those points during our appointment.

3. Listen to what the professional says about your project (whether it’s you, a manuscript, your dryer, the lawn sprinkler, etc.). Be humble, this is what you’re paying them to do.

It’s tempting as a writer to argue and try to explain, but with a manuscript, the work has to show itself. I won’t be sitting next to a reader pointing out all the details they’re missing because my writing isn’t clear.

Chances are excellent the professional will see things you don’t realize and will know things you don’t know. You’re paying them for their experience, remember?

This is not a contest about which one of you is smarter. This is an opportunity for you to be ignorant, to admit you need help–that’s why you’re paying for this service.

The professional doesn’t expect you to have all the answers–you’re presenting a need and they’re meeting it.

Take notes if possible and ask the professional for any notes they have taken. Consider having a trusted friend join you to take notes and with whom you discuss the meeting afterwards. (It’s amazing how much more someone can take in if they’re not as emotionally invested in the project as you are).

4. Do what you’re told and follow through.

My freelance editor friend gave me handouts to work through. The questions looked difficult. I had to rethink my entire manuscript.

It was hard.

I sat up from 10 to 1 one night thinking through my story line. I used one of the handouts as a worksheet and applied it to my manuscript–wherein I saw all sorts of unexpected insights. Because the editor asked questions in a way different from what I expected, I was able to view my story from a different perspective and improve it.

If you doctor tells you to lose ten pounds and get more exercise and you’ve paid him to tell you that, shouldn’t you follow through and do it?

Why pay a professional for their advice if you’re not going to take it? Click to Tweet

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