Why quality should matter most

Mar 8, 2018

This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

We live in a world of low expectations for quality, whether in the products we buy, the services we receive, the politicians we elect, or the content we read. We often hear that quality is so expensive and challenging to produce, and people (clients, customers, readers) don’t really care enough to pay more attention or more money for better quality.

This is exactly wrong.

No matter what marketers say or do, people are not stupid. They know, and always will, the difference between low-quality and high-quality, whether somebody (a writer or designer or politician) cares or not. And guess what? People want quality, even when they have low expectations for quality. People notice quality, always will, and they’ll tell their friends and family about good and bad experiences.

As someone who produces content (brand stories) in a world best described as “A 24/7 tsunami of low-quality content,” I have only one competitive advantage over the hordes of other content writers: I care deeply about quality and seek to deliver it in everything I do. Why? Because quality matters a lot to my clients, to my readers, and, most of all, to my own integrity and growth as a creative person. Quality is the best marketing for writers like me, and that quality reflects upon the clients and brands I work for too.

Why You Must Invest in Quality

In the book Capturing Loyalty, author John Larson notes that the difference between the behavior of a “satisfied” customer/client is much different from that of a “highly satisfied” customer. While the merely satisfied customer maintains a transactional mindset towards the product and its producer, shopping around for lower prices and better deals, the “highly satisfied” customer remains loyal, generating four to five times more revenue per customer than the merely “satisfied” customer. What keeps a highly satisfied customer coming back for more, willing to pay higher prices, and behaving less like a customer and more like an ambassador for the brand/producer? Larson points to consistent quality, the kind of quality that helps customers solve their daily problems.

Want to lose clients as a content marketer? The fastest way I know is to stop caring about quality, to settle for mediocrity. If you create such content, you become an undifferentiated, low-paid commodity who can be replaced by a robot. And the low-quality content you produce makes your client look terrible, leading them to shop around for lower prices for the same mediocre content you’re producing. As brand messaging goes, it doesn’t get much worse than bad content. Low-quality content is equally bad for a freelancer’s revenues and reputation.

Does the client “save money” by hiring a commodity content creator, someone who takes on so much low-paying content work that they’re like an overworked assembly line worker who crashes at the end of the week? Yes, the client saves money. Here’s what else happens: The content creator never improves due to mental and physical exhaustion. Readers of the cheap, “factory-produced” content lose respect for the brand. Is there anything about low-quality content that’s good? No, except that it creates opportunities for freelancers who deliver high quality.

Quality as Your Top Business Strategy

Producing quality content takes time, intelligence, heart, and an optimistic vision of the world. It is a deeply human endeavor. Any creator needs to be smart and rested and well-paid to create consistently high-quality content. I only work with clients who have an understanding of quality and will pay for it. If they don't, they’re better off finding the high-volume, low-quality content drone who will churn out work that people will ignore.

Quality content need not be prohibitively expensive. People who care the most about producing quality are also (and always) the people who put integrity above making boatloads of money—they’re not trying to fleece unsuspecting clients, nor will they be fleeced (for they are never unsuspecting people). Wherever quality matters, to writers and clients alike, you’ll find that customers matter too. Quality comes out of an ecosystem that puts customers first, not a place of make it fast and cheap. The best kind of customers, those who care enough to support quality with their money and attention, will always recognize (and appreciate) the difference quality makes.

Supporting quality is a virtuous cycle, and it takes a community of writers, clients, and consumers to make that cycle work. We can’t accept a race to the bottom where costs comes first and quality gets tossed out the window—not in content or in any other aspect of our lives. Whenever a writer asks me for advice, I typically say the same thing: “Whatever you do, do it with the highest quality you can deliver, no matter how long it takes or how hard it is. Clients and readers will notice and come back to you for more, and you'll grow your skills and business.”

Quality should matter most for any freelancer.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is a freelance B2B Brand Storyteller who connects brands and customers through engaging stories. His clients include ADP, Catalant Technologies, The Boston Globe's BG Brand Lab, and The National Center for the Middle Market. His website is www.ChuckLeddy.com