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Friday, June 30, 2006

Public Sniping

Ladies, please.

That's what I'd love to say to both Star Jones Reynolds and Barbara Walters. It's bad enough they couldn't get along well enough to work together - do we really need to be subjected to their public sniping?

Things done wrong: Jones Reynolds chose to "surprise" her bosses on-air with her announcement that she was leaving the show; Walters took it personally; Walters chose to comment publicly about Jones Reynolds behavior, labeling it as less than professional, and bringing herself down to the same level in the process; and the media circus being fed by both sides with personality issues run amok.

For what it's worth, I don't care that these two both have egos the size of small countries. That should never be a factor when one is working. And that's the whole issue for me - neither of these professionals chose to back away from this situation without comment. Both wanted to prove they were right. That Jones Reynolds chose to make her announcement two days ahead of schedule smacks of someone trying to gain control. That Walters found it necessary to chastise Jones Reynolds' actions on the air smacks of someone trying to get even. It's embarrassing to both the public and to the profession.

If you don't think your demeanor makes any difference, take a lesson from this debacle. If you connect your ego with your work, you will undoubtedly display unwanted emotional responses when things get tough. This is your job - it's work. It's not personal. If you can't keep the emotions out, then you need to rethink your approach before you embarrass yourself and before your demeanor becomes a sticking point with current and future clients.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Paying (or Not) For Professional Work

I know it sounds as though I beat this drum too often, but I really cannot stress often enough the reasons why you should stand up for what you're worth. I just had a conversation with a potential client, and I had to let that client down gently (and please, no matter how insulting the offer, remain professional about it).

The offer was for website copy for this client's new venture. Upon soliciting bids, the client mentioned a lot about what was expected - in short, there was a good bit of copy to be written. I based my bid on my "formula", for lack of a better word, and sent off my bid with confidence that it was a fair price for both of us.

However, the client's response indicated that while she liked my experience, my price was "way out of our price range." I'm going to let you in on a little secret: I bid $750 for ten pages of copy. Most writers I know wouldn't touch a job that size for under four figures. I was hoping to pick up some quick cash and the possible ongoing assignment they were advertising, so I brought the price down to something manageable (with the disclaimer that if the job were to be more than I had anticipated, I reserved the right to rebid once seeing the scope of it all). The response: "The development and building of our new site alone is quite costly and we can't afford to be that extravagant."

What's wrong with that response? Reread it. Go on, I'll wait.... do you see it? The client has just handed out an insult with that response and a beginning writer might actually be drawn into what I call client-induced guilt, thus feeling the need to lower the price. What this client said was in essence "we put more value on the designer, who's the real professional here, and we don't want to waste more money paying some writer."

Another line from that client's note: "...project is not extremely difficult but it will require someone who can use words appropriately." Really? If it's not difficult, why hire a writer at all? Why not do it yourself? The client is thinking that "writing is easy" unless the client is the one expected to do it. Somewhere in this client's mind, the design of that website is everything, and the words are just a formality.

Then they dangled the last carrot: "We're able to offer the ability to gain experience working on a new project." Translation: "We're not interested in paying you a fighting wage."

I feel bad for that client. Anyone who knows advertising or even simple marketing understands that design alone won't cut it. Words - carefully chosen words - are the meat-and-potatoes of every advertisement, every customer contact, every attempt to drum up business.

I feel worse for the writer who eventually takes that job. Yes, it may pay all of $100 (which, judging by their initial advertisement, may be all they'll cough up) and give someone much-needed credit, but I suspect it will do more to create a culture of client-induced guilt in the new writer. If you start your career placing more value on the client than on your own career, how soon before you fail?

New writers, you do not need to take gutter-level pay rates just to get experience. Do yourself an immense favor; bid competitively, but don't settle for less than you'd make asking "do you want fries with that?" Starting salaries at most fast-food places would pay comparable to that of this particular job. And please, start thinking in those terms. When considering a job, think to yourself "If I were to be working in the open market, how much would I be earning per hour, per day, per week?" Then assess the job offer in front of you using those figures. Make your decision based on that. While it's okay to negotiate, it's not okay to be shamed into doing it for much less than you're worth.
Words on the Page