What to Do When Your Client Doesn’t Believe Michael Jackson is Dead

My mom doesn’t believe Michael Jackson is dead. At least twice a week she mentions that the King of Pop has been seen in the mall in Ohio or there are signs that he took a flight to Peru with Tupac and Elvis. My mother’s not crazy or old enough to be going senile. She just really, really liked Michael and was one of his biggest fans.

In a way, my mom grew up with the Man in the Mirror. While the earliest memory I have of him is watching the Thriller video on VHS as a young child, my mother remembers him a fresh faced pre-teen dancing on the stage with his brothers. You know those pictures of the Jackson 5’s limo being chased by a group of girls? Well if you squint hard enough, you may see my mother and her own four sisters in the crowd. After being a diehard fan for nearly 40 years, it’s hard for her to accept he’s gone.

The rest of the family isn’t quite sure how to deal with my mother insistence that MJ may be alive and making lattes at a Starbucks. I, on the other hand, have plenty of experience trying to convince people that what they’ve always thought was true is in fact false. You see, I’m a freelance writer. I do this all the time.

Freelancers Sometimes Have to Be the Bad Guy

Whether or not you bill yourself as one, freelance writers often play the consultant to their clients. These guys don’t just pay you write. They pay you think, too. In some cases, you have more experience with the subject or type of project than your clients do. If you’ve written several business plans but this is their first one, they’re looking to you to bring that experience to the table.

Even when you don’t have more experience than the client, you’re a member of the team for this project. If you see the project heading towards an iceberg, everyone would appreciate it if you spoke up. The only problem is sometimes you start a project only to find that the client is heavily invested in a course of action that depends on Michael Jackson’s involvement. If that’s the case, I’ve worked out a step by step process to dealing with the situation.

4 Steps to Convince a Client Michael Jackson is Dead

1. Try to understand where they’re coming from.

Your client has a backstory that doesn’t include you. This is their brand and they’ve eaten, slept and breathed it for years before you came along. And they’ll be dealing with the ramifications of this project long after you’re gone. They have a reason they think it’s a good idea. Try to figure out what it is.

2. Broach the topic carefully.

No one wants to be insulted–not even the person wearing one white glove and waiting for Michael Jackson to show up at in a West Virginia Dennys. So when you bring up your concern, stay away from words or phrases that make it sound like you’re looking down on them. Instead express your concern in a tactful, respectful way.

3. Offer some proof.

After you’ve brought up the fact that investing in Michael Jackson’s next project is a bad idea, it’s time to prove it. Whether it’s a copy of the death certificate or a video of the Jackson megafuneral, show them what makes you worried about the plan of action. If there’s nothing you can show them, just try to explain your argument as best you can.

4. Accepting.

In the end, it’s their project and they’re the ones that have to live with the decisions made. If after you’ve expressed your opinion and shown them why you think that, you have to accept their decisions to go with something you’re sure will fail. Then, it’s time to get to work because even if you don’t believe in the project, you have to give the client your best work possible. And if you can’t do that, it’s best to excuse yourself from the project.

You Win Some, You Lose Some

I’ve won clients over to my point of view plenty of times. I’ve also ended up giving them what they asked for to the best of my ability, even though I don’t think it’s the way to go. And once or twice, I’ve had to walk away from a project I just couldn’t put my name on and sleep well at night. As for my mom and Michael Jackson, I just had to learn to accept the fact that she’s hoping his death was a part of the conspiracy between Scientologists and the LAPD to bring down pop music as we know it. And while she doesn’t care what I think, at least my mom knows I won’t be camping out with her for the Michael Jackson comeback tour any time soon.

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Princess Jones owns P.S. Jones Communications, a boutique communications firm that specializes in helping brands speak to their customers in their own language. She has been professionally writing for more than 10 years and she writes about the experience at Diary of a Mad Freelancer.

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