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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Successful Work Habits

I'm beginning to believe that memes are no more than great articles in the making if we respond with the thought that what we say may help someone. When Mike Sieber tagged me, I went over to his site to see what the devil I had to write about now. I was surprised. Mike has a great story about what his work habits are and how he has made them work. It's a super story. Check it out.

Anyway, my work habits are pretty similar in some respects.

1. Honor the work day.
It's your job. If you can afford to take off a day in the middle of the week to go shopping, then you're either making more money than most writers or you're a serious slacker. I work ten or twelve hours a day, so if I have to run an errand, I don't lose any production time in doing so. I do blow off days, but no more than anyone working in an office would. Everyone needs a mental health day, but when there are more off days than there are work days, cash-flow problems are sure to follow.

2. Always market thyself.
You want to eat? Then get used to the idea that you have to market your skills. There's no way you can survive if no one knows you're there. I spent one afternoon making a brochure that I sent to potential clients. I included a business card and a Rolodex card. Try it. Oh, and follow up with phone calls in about a week. You'd be surprised how much that personal contact can do for you. I send about 50 each week. Since I work in trade and business areas, my lists come from resource guides posted on websites.

3. Remind them you exist.
Let's face it; you're not top-of-mind with your clients. So make sure you're reminding them once every six weeks or so that you exist. I send out emails asking if anyone needs help. Doesn't have to be a lengthy note reiterating why I'm so fabulous - it's just a "Hi, hope you're well. Anything I can help with this week?" kind of reminder.

4. Organize your work day.
Like I said in earlier posts, make sure you have something to do the moment you sit down in the morning. Nothing gets you into your work day like a small to-do list. I usually jot something down as I'm shutting down the computer at night, and I stick it between the keys of the keyboard so it's the first thing I see in the morning. If you are staring at a seriously slow day, a list would have "Search for jobs" on it. If that's too general to get you moving, make a list of where you'll search. Other things to include on your list those slow days - learning new functions within your current software, shopping for shareware that could solve a problem, updating your website, calling people you've sent brochures to, getting in touch with current clients, or putting together queries for a magazine or two. There's always something to do. If you've filled that list and are still looking for things to do, clean that office space.

5. Organize your files.
I'm the best at organizing a work day, but my papers were going to bury me. I have developed a simple system involving file folders. Now I have a folder for current invoices, one for accounts received and another for accounts paid. Each time I send out an invoice, I print it and stick it in the Current Invoices folder. When the check arrives, I do my little dance (yippee! cash!) and I mark the invoice paid and move it to the Accounts Received folder. All of this is backed up with my Quicken program, but it's my way of keeping myself sane.

6. Take your lunch hour.
We all need, and deserve, an hour to ourselves in the middle of the day. Take it. Allow yourself the freedom of walking away from your desk. Go for a walk. Hop on your treadmill. Sit on the patio and read. Do something that's just for you and not work-related.
Working Well with Clients

It's a good day here at Words on the Page - I am excited to present an interview with Lisa Gates, an expert coach who offers fantastic advice over at her weblog, Design Your Writing Life! Today, Lisa explains the working relationship between writers and clients.

What can we do when a relationship with a client is not going well?
Be transparent. Speak up. Delicately and directly. This is a relationship, and in order to be an effective steward of the relationship, you have to acknowledge that the relationship is not about you, or about the client. It's about the job at hand. You are both tending the relationship by holding the big picture of the work you're doing together. So, check out your assumptions with questions and offers that show you are willing to take responsibility, even when the responsibility may not be yours. For example:

"I notice that I'm feeling like I'm not on the same page with you. What would you like to see more/less of? Would you like to alter the deadlines we came up with? What would make this more effective for you?"

(Molly Gordon has an incredible e-book on her site called Authentic Promotion. It's a great book all around for building a business/marketing plan from the inside out.

How can we shift the power without being overbearing or belligerent?
Don't take it personally. This goes back to the concept of stewardship. It's not about you, not about them. It's about the work. When the work is the central focus, there is no need to shift power. I would also add that giving up being right is a good place to gain control for yourself. If you are in disagreement with the client about a particular tactic or direction, you might be holding on to a "position" that limits your ability to see the other side of the coin. Be open, ask questions, offer your sage wisdom based on experience, and then let it go.

What I also hear in the words "overbearing" or "belligerent" is a perspective about being strong, direct, and confident. "If I am strong, they'll think I'm an overbearing woman." If you are thinking that thought, you're creating that reality in all your interactions. Keep the little saboteur beast on your shoulder at bay by acknowledging your leadership. You're in business for yourself. You're the CEO. CEOs don't meddle in vagueness. Claim you leadership, step into it, and don't look back. This may bring up a bit of fear, so acknowledge the fear too, embrace it. If it's not scary, it's probably not worth doing. Didn't Steven King say that?

How do we cement with the client what we expect out of the relationship?
Speak it. Put it in wriiting. Repeat as necessary. Speak it. Put it in writing. Repeat as necessary. And stop making them wrong when they go south. It's about the work. Broken record, broken record.

When is it time for honesty?
From the very beginning. You might say, "I'm going to be very transparent with you all along the way. I invite you to tell me when things aren't working, and I'll do the same for you." Set it up as a naturally occurring feature of your business is enrolling. It let's people know that you're an observant listener, and flexible about what's best for the project.

When should we walk away?
Great question. If you are certain you have gone the extra mile and communicated directly and often, and specifically, then it may be time to ask yourself "Is this job, this relationship worth the cost to my integrity, to my values?"

If you have not distinguished what your values are, now is a good time to start. Make a list of the things (features and qualities of being) that must be present in your work--without which you would not be you. So if you say, "In my work I value honesty, transparency, efficiency, fun, integrity, outrageous creativity," and those values are not being honored by you or the client, your answer should be clear.

Be careful here, though. You have to be what you say you want in your work relationships first. It's like a marriage. You have to be a great partner in order to attract a great partner. If you are bringing to being all those qualities in every action and interaction, and you are experiencing a lack of reciprocity, you don't have permission to make them wrong. You have permission to say goodbye. "You know, this is not working well for me. You may be served better by someone else. If you'd like a recommendation, I would be happy to provide that for you."

You can probably tell by now that I believe we are 100 percent responsible for what happens inside any relationship. Responsibility should not be liberally translated here to mean fault. As a co-creator in your life, and in your work, and in all relationships, what do you think your life would be like if you were 100 percent responsible? Where does anger and blaming and dissatisfaction go in the context of that question? And ain't it just like a coach to leave you with a question...? :-)

Thanks, Lisa!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lisa Gates mentioned a freelance writer who gets in her car, backs out of her driveway and pulls right back in. It's her way of getting "psychologically ready" for work.

How much trouble do you have getting psyched for work? Yes, you have the desk, the equipment, the time and maybe even the clients. But how much does your mindset factor into your productivity?

Tricks like what Lisa brought up are actually better than you think. Here are a few things that I've tried that have worked on those days when I couldn't muster up the energy:

- Dress for work. Dress pants, a dress, a nice shirt, shoes. Whatever makes you feel ready for work, wear it. I've been known to put on jewelry and spritz on some "day" perfume.

- Office hours. I've had some success with setting specific start times on days when I couldn't be bothered. I don't enter the study until starting time, and I go out for lunch.

- Lunch. Take one. If you worked for The Man, you'd be taking lunch, right? Don't work through it. Set a specific time frame, perhaps 12:30 to 1:30 and get off that chair.

- No errands. Hard as it may be to avoid them, on days when you feel particularly unmotivated, do not run errands. What happens next, in my experience, is what I call errand-induced guilt. Instead, spend that idle time looking for new projects or learning more about Word or Excel. That's your development time.

- No personal calls. Oh, this one's tough. I have a chatty sister, and it's all too easy to just waste an hour on the phone. However, instead of picking up the phone, I try to convince myself that I can call her on my lunch break. Usually, I forget all about it, or I covet my time to myself so much that I don't call until after work hours.

- Have a to-do list. Nothing motivates me more to stay on task than a list, prepared the day before, of things I can address in the morning. Too often on days when there aren't too many things going on, I'll feel a bit adrift and waste time thinking of what to do instead of actually doing anything. A short list of things to dive into keeps me on track.

- Pull out of your driveway. Hey, if it helps, do it. Make a ritual of leaving the house, even if it's to get a cup of coffee, and returning to your office. Make it a short trip. After all, the reason we work from home is to avoid that commute, right?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Teach Your Children Well
I'm excited - my daughter's journalism class has invited me to talk with them tomorrow. The teacher wants me to tell them what a journalist's life is like. It should be fun, despite the hour (7:30? Do people dress that early?).

One thing I have to address is deadlines. In fact, if it weren't for the topic of deadlines, I wouldn't have been invited to speak. My daughter is in charge of the school newspaper layout. On more than one occasion, she's lamented that some students are not getting their copy to her by the deadline. Sadly, this doesn't change in the adult world all that much. Still, I saw it as an opportunity to talk to them about integrity and reliability - while they're young enough to make it a habit.

Having sat on the editorial side of things, I know what missed deadlines can do. Usually, deadlines are set with very little room to breathe. We had a number of deadlines within a two-week span. Editorial, advertising, graphics, first pages, final pages, printer. Miss a single beat and things can unravel quickly. If a writer misses a deadline, it then becomes a scramble for copy. I remember all too well (and all too often) chasing down or even writing myself copy for a magazine that had to go to the graphics department ASAP.

It's there that I first began to understand the value of a reliable writer. There were a number of great writers we rarely worked with because they couldn't be bothered working under deadlines. The mediocre to good writers got the lion's share of the work. It didn't matter if we had to perform heavy edits - the copy was there. And if a great writer was handing in compelling copy on deadline? Oh, the work that person would have!

We all miss deadlines occasionally for one reason or another. It happens. The key is to make it the exception and not the rule. Your integrity is only as good as your actions. That could mean the difference between working hard or hardly working.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

When There Isn't A Clue
A recent editorial in the local newspaper featured a new freelancer going on about how much she was enjoying what she called "the latte life" - sitting in cafes and being a writer. She painted such a lovely picture of what freelance writers do all day that I wanted to be one. Then I realized - I was a freelancer. And the editorial was what we commonly refer to as ALOC (a load of crap).

Obviously, this new writer has yet to run into a non-paying client. Nor has she had to scramble to find work so that the electric company doesn't turn off the lights. I'd bet money that she's got a significant other who's footing the bills while she "works" at being a freelancer. However, the most disturbing thing about this editorial is the number of people out there who now believe we freelancers spend our time in leisurely pursuits. That, dear friends, scares me no end.

So here's what it's like to be a freelancer (the Cliff Notes version) - you get up at 6 a.m. You shower, change and get breakfast. After a few cups of caffeine, you head to your office (okay, we do have a sweet commute). Power up and dig in. This is by all rights not a 9-to-5 gig. It's more like an 8-to-8 gig, because we have clients on both coastlines, those who have hours long past what we're used to working for the average employer. The myth that writers can make their own hours is exactly that - a myth. If we want to earn, we must be available during office hours.

We get paid decently - anywhere from $50 - 100 an hour and more. However, maybe just 1/3 of a typical forty-hour week are billable hours. The rest of the time is spent looking for work, learning technology and oh, looking for work. We pay our own benefits, our own taxes (quarterly, too, so any real profit seems to vaporize every few months), and we maintain our own offices. We must be masters of organization, accounting, time management and contact management.

Yes, we break free now and again and get away from the desk, but not for long if we expect to survive. And as much as we'd love to sit at Starbucks and labor over a good conversation or take our laptop in and complete the stereotype, we can't afford either the latte or the wireless connection. Besides, we're too busy working to present ourselves as some sad little cliche. So to all beginning writers out there who believe that lattes and leisure constitute the whole of our freelance existence, please rethink either your opinion or your career strategy, lest you be sorely disappointed.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Complaint Department

Recent "writerly" talk turned to what's discussed in weblogs. Some suggested that weblogs were bitch-and-moan sessions that reflected badly on the writer.

What's your weblog say about you? Do you complain? If your clients were reading your weblog, would you still stand by your posts?

It made me think about what I present here. Yes, I vent. However, I hope my venting (and please, correct me if I'm wrong) teaches you something. A lot of times, my venting teaches me something about myself and how my work process is flawed or is working. I try really hard to amend the facts in order to protect the guilty. I may not always be successful (as in the case of Whiney Bob and Baby Einstein), but I digress. If you learn something from the facts I reveal here, I'm okay with that. I will NEVER speak negatively of a client without seriously altering the descriptions so as not to embarrass or call anyone out. If I present client woes, I hope you take them in the spirit they were intended - to teach us all something about how to communicate better.

So, go through your weblog posts. Hold the mirror up to it. What do you see?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Jobs Listings

In hopes that some of the work I come across will be a better fit for others, I've decided to start posting weekly job listings. Here are a few I've found -

Freelance Technology Investments Writer

Freelance Writers

Regular Article Writer

News Writer

Newport Daily News

Specialist Regulatory Writer
Write About What?

If you haven't read Kristen King's Notes in the Margin newsletter yet, now's a good time. That's because Kristen was kind enough to include an article from yours truly on what to write about. Thanks, Kristen!

While at the site, please feel free to subscribe to Kristen's email newsletter. It's loaded with great advice!
More Meme

(sigh)... I can't ignore it any longer. Leigh tagged me. Here are the questions I must answer:

To whom am I blogging?
I blog to writers both new and not-so-new.

Am I talking to you?
I hope so. I hope through my mistakes and through what I happen to have done right, you learn something. If I can help someone avoid going through the same stuff I did in order to get here, amen!

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Mantras

Talk of various mantras has made me wonder - what are your mantras? I'm not talking just those things that motivate you. What abotu those things that you must refuse to do? I have a couple:

- I will not work for less than I could make at McDonald's.
- I will not work for ad revenue or the promise of royalties in the future.
- I will not pay for job listings.
- I do not need exposure.

What are yours?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

When to Hold Your Tongue
I have this new project (an ongoing one) that isn't going well. It's not the work - no, I've done some already. It's the level of organization in my client (the nonexistent level of organization, to be precise). I do not like to "kiss and tell" as they say, so that's all you're getting out of me on the current project, but I would like to talk about the telltale signs. You know, the signs that point to a job going nowhere but down.

Scattered or nonexistent communication
We all have scattered moments, so I'm not talking someone having the occasional brain freeze. I'm talking about the person who is in a constant state of confusion - setting up meetings and being the only no-show, promising feedback that never comes, not responding to emails for days or even weeks, and just a general sense of being so overwhelmed or absent that any effective communication isn't happening. If your client can't describe your job to you in a way that you as a professional should be able to understand, that's a pretty bad sign of someone who hasn't thought things through.

Ignored invoices
I have another client right now who was not the best communicator. During the five months we worked together, I had to pester her to get feedback of any kind. Again, emails went unanswered. I want to ask for a recommendation, but I have no idea if she liked or loathed what I did. I know people are busy, but one-sentence responses to a four-question email should not be the rule. I sent off an invoice after waiting for two weeks for word on whether she thinks the project is done. It may not be, but I am. And you guessed it, she's yet to respond to that three weeks later. Oh well, I do hope she likes late fees.

In these cases, I want to get angry because I'm only as good as my half of the project. I can't improve, edit or amend to suit the clients if I'm unaware of any issues. I ask point blank - "Are you happy with things?" - yet no responses are forthcoming. One can only assume silence means assent.

In the first case, I have every right to flip out on the client - in total, I've spent 1.25 hours on hold and two days writing very detailed copy that has yet to be commented on or compensated. I see this going nowhere fast. This fabulous gig as it was presented by her is fast turning into a nightmare with no conclusion. It's like Jason showing up with the chainsaw, a spare can of gas and no cops in sight.

Yet flip out I won't. I will screw on my professional face and smile and wish this person well no matter what. If I don't get paid, that's another story. That, my friends, is license to get a little nasty. But do it tastefully. First with late fees followed by litigation, if necessary.
Working for Ad Revenue

One word - don't. Oh, the employers offering you the ability to write for a percentage of the site's ad revenue make it sound so great, but ask yourself this - when was the last time you clicked on an ad while surfing? How many times this week? Ooo, that little? Apply that number to all the surfers on the planet. You can probably guess how many ads are clicked on in a busy site. Low number, but not too low, I'm betting. However, you're not working for a busy site, are you? You're working for one that has just started up or has been around but hey, you're just now hearing about it. Are these employers marketing that site, or is their marketing plan one of telling you to talk to your friends and tell them you're a blogger for them? If it's the latter, run like hell.

I have ads on my websites. I can tell you right now they aren't generating much interest, and that's fine. They're there as incidental income possibilities, not as my main source of income. In fact, I would suggest you do the same. Get some ads up on your own site. Don't rely on your talent and your word-of-mouth to generate any money for you elsewhere. It's just a bad idea. Know how I know? I took someone up on their "offer." And I lasted about a week before I realized I was spinning my wheels for someone else to get a well-written blog off my sweat. No thank you!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

No Spec Work!

I was alerted recently to a website that is out to do good for the creative world - This site is dedicated to creating awareness among writers and designers regarding working on spec. Give it a look.

I feel so strongly about never working for free (unless it's for your mother) that I've joined the cause. This website will sport the No-Spec logo (and if anyone can tell me how to add the logo AND hyperlink it, I'll be eternally grateful), and I'm doing my part to spread the word to you. Sign the petition. Say no to work that doesn't pay! Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Intelligent Spam Filter
I think my spam filter is wiser than I am. I check it once a week, and today I saw that I received a "test" offer by a potential employer. I can write a sample article on a very vague topic (luckily, vague is my specialty) and after I write it, I'm assured I'll see some form of payment for it, though no promise of work.

Tell you what I don't like about these offers - while it's a good way for an employer to test their writers, it's also a great way to get next-to-free or free content for their publications. So unless there's REAL money attached to your test, don't do it. Your samples should be proof enough.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Later That Day

Some days it's just a shame to limit yourself to one post, dontcha think? Especially when I run across a gem, as I did on Leigh's page where she shows you just how much work goes into writing one of those "$2 for a 500-word article" articles. New and upcoming writers, take note! Leigh spells it out for you so you can see what you get for your $2 (or .093 cents, as it were).
Response from "Employer"
Ah, I love the smell of steamed pseudo-employers. Since my last post on the abominable rates offered by some "employers", I decided I might just ask one or two what the rationale behind the pricing was. I asked, ever so politely, if the price they had quoted was a misprint. I did the math (wrongly, it seems - another reason why I'm a writer and not an actuary) and said that the price they were asking was less than 93 cents an article (correction - it was .093 cents!). Here's what I said:

"You stated the pay is $120 -150 a month. Did you mean $120 -150 per article? I don't want to assume the typo, so I thought I'd ask directly. The rate as stated would amount to approximately 93 cents an article, and I'm sure you want to pay at least minimum wage! :)"

Only one responded, and she was none too cordial. "It's a low-paying job. That's why we posted it in a 'low pay' category."

Hmm. No, it's more like a "no pay - oh, but wait! Here's a dime!" kind of job. I didn't write back. What's the point? I'd waste that .093 cents of my time when I could be cranking out a 1,000-word article for that same amount! Instead, I'll post here in hopes that someone who actually considered this type of job will read this and reconsider his or her own worth.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Employers, Hear This!
Maybe it's an overabundance of caffeine in my system right now, but I can't look at another ad asking for specialized writing skills that offer a measly 10 bucks an article. Today, I saw two of them, each one offering a new level of ridiculous pay. (Warning - rant ahead)

The first - the "employer" offers $300 a month for one article a day/30 articles a month. These articles are blog articles on scholarship information and they must be 1,000 words each. I'm sorry - ten bucks an article is less than I'd make at McDonald's serving up shamrock shakes.

The second - even worse than the first. This one is for "RELIABLE" writers who know all there is to know about hydrogen power. The list of "must haves" that were required of the writer were quite long (and as we've learned, that usually means we're getting squat for our efforts). Thirty to forty articles a month for original content. And for your efforts, you get between $120 - 150 a month! Wooo! Slap me silly and sign me up! McDonald's is looking more and more like a good career move if this is all that's out there.

Please, I don't care at what level you are in your career. Do not give away your talents! It's true you won't start out writing for People or for Vogue, but why pad someone else's site with your sweat and be underpaid to do it? Write back to each one of the ads you see of this sort and ask them why they aren't willing to pay standard rates. Please value yourself enough to work for at least minimum wage!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ye Olde Image
I had the displeasure recently of working onsite for a client. The client wasn't the problem - the caliber of the other hired help was. See, they were talented people, and they were contractors there for those talents, but oh my word, their actions! I was unfortunate enough to share space with these people - two of them, both male, both hyperactive. The first one I'll call Baby Einstein. He was younger than I was, but he acted like he'd been in the business for decades. He knew it all. Everything. Right down to why women shouldn't wear lipstick. For every word I spoke or every breath I sneaked, he had wisdom to impart. Can someone talk about themselves for eight solid hours? Apparently, sadly, yes. I did my best to ignore, but when he mentioned my body parts, he met with my wrath. All that pent-up frustration listening to a motormouth took its toll, and I lashed into him. Because he was so sure of himself with everyone else in the office, he was soon let go.

Enter the next contractor, whom I'll refer to as Whiney Bob. Whiney Bob had a particularly sad situation, though it was tough to tell what it was. He was clearly in a state of flux in his life - not sure what to do with himself, certain he needed to be working, worried that he'd found the end of the rainbow and his pot of gold had been stolen. I did like him and I did sympathize, but his actions led to a faster demise than Baby Einstein's. On day one of his short tenure, Whiney Bob propped his feet up on our shared desk space and proceeded to dial away on his cell phone, wheeling and dealing and trying to find a better gig than this one, which he kept insisting was beneath him. One of the supervisors took offense to his working while not working for the company. He lasted three days. And he didn't take the news of his not being needed further very well. He stormed into the director's office, complaining bitterly. This for a job he didn't like. No points made there!

Until witnessing these two contractors in action, I falsely assumed that everyone knew how to behave in an office. My bad. I cannot assume now that anyone will automatically understand proper protocol in an office setting. Some tips for you - if you're a contractor working onsite for a client, treat that client and the client's workspace and equipment as though you were guarding a priceless treasure. As for your actions, if you cannot do it in church, don't do it in the office. And if they tell you they don't need you next week or ever again, pretend you're talking to the person who just gave you a pardon from the electric chair. Thanks and praise, not bitching and moaning.

Show up on time. Do your best work. Ask questions. Smile. And for gawd's sake, keep your feet off the furniture.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Working for Royalties
If I had a nickel for every time a potential author wanted me to ghostwrite or edit for a percentage of royalties, I'd have more money than I would have earned from those fabulous offers. Why is it so unfathomable for some clients to understand that writers require payment? I guess because for them it's a hobby - shouldn't it be for us, too?

Oy. So let's look at the royalty thing a little closer. Ask yourself this - how many new authors are able to sell their first book? How many of those who self publish know how to market effectively? Look at any Writer's Market. You'll see publishers who say, "We receive 10,000 submissions annually. We publish ten manuscripts annually" or something similar. Even with you writing it, guess in which pile your new author's book is going to land?

Another thing to consider - how much do you want to make? If you're ghosting a book, you should be making at the very least $10K for your efforts - but more like $15-$20K. I've worked for less, but only when the book has been mostly written and it had solid content and had been well written.

So, take the amount you want to make and figure out how many books that author needs to sell in order for you to reach that goal. Remember that authors will get somewhere around 5-7 percent of the retail price. You're getting about one percent of the author's take. Now do the math. Unless your client's name is John - as in Grisham or Irving - you're going to take a bath. If the client has an agent and a book deal already, you need to negotiate well in order to reach your targeted fee.

That's why I don't take seriously any offer that pays in royalties only. Nor should you. Unless you are guaranteed a certain amount, you're underselling yourself.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Technology Bites
No, I don't mean "bytes" - I mean that sometimes those programs that are designed to make life easier do nothing more than irritate, annoy, and make life living hell.

I'm talking Microsoft. As you may recall, last week's episode had me trying in vain to take a Word document full of addresses (seven pages worth) and attempting to merge them all into labels. Let me just say from the outset - don't try this at home. You can't do it. I remember doing it one time in my life, but damn if I can remember how. It was one of those "a ha!" moments that I thought I'd never forget. I forgot. The handy Wizard gave me no help. Instead, I got stuck in the Step 1 through Step 6 loop, with no explanation anywhere that I needed to create delimiters, separate documents in separate applications, etc.

Here's why I think Microsoft fails its customer base - those who do the programming do not use the end products. Oh sure, they do their best to consider every possible situation, but they come up short on a number of functions. While I give Microsoft credit for fixing these glitches in the upgrades, there always seems to be something not quite right. If I'm trying 30 minutes later, my time has been wasted. My husband, who has more trouble taking no for an answer, tried for 2 1/2 hours only to come back to the same conclusion.

What are your technology horror stories? If you were to have the ear of the software manufacturers, what suggestions would you have for them? What are your requirements and needs that aren't being met?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Personal Trainer?
Part of our job as writers is often knowing when to put the brakes on client emergencies. Tell me - can one have a true client emergency? What does that consist of - death by comma? Severely dangling modifier? A participle that fights back? I say this as I come off the heels of one of these so-called emergencies. The client sent me an urgent email begging for instant help. Sadly for him, I was out of the office on an interview at the time. I would feel bad, but this is the third emergency in two weeks that this particular client has hit me with. It's as though he runs his business as an afterthought - you know what you need, yet you wait until your own deadline to tell me? Oh, and I got a few of these emergencies piecemeal - he told me of one, I responded that I could handle it, then he says, "oh, and this one, too." I respond again that it's not a problem - you guessed it. He replied, "Here's another." Uh, at what point were you going to tell me about these? Mind you, our notes were exchanged in exactly a 16-minute window of time. It's unfathomable to me that this person had no idea what he needed from the start. If this is a test, I passed. Unfortunately, he failed big time.

I'm actually rather glad I wasn't able to catch that last emergency. I feel that in this case, the client should learn that his emergency doesn't necessarily start a fire in other parts of the world. His poor planning affects one person - himself. Not me. Not any other writer who has to drop everything (and honey, there's a rush fee for that) in order to appease his scattered work ethic. One of the folks I had to talk to regarding these assignments told me - totally unsolicited - this guy's getting a reputation for being unprepared. In the business world, that's professional suicide if your customers think that. If they speak of it, seal the coffin.

It may lose me this particular gig, but I'd much rather maintain my sanity and my work rhythm. It's very disruptive to me when I'm finishing up a technical article, which makes my brain hurt anyway, and the phone rings or the emails keep coming about Oh! I need this! Oh! I also need that! Oh! Here's another! Oh! Oh! Help! Maybe this guy learned. I doubt it, but I hope he understands that a little pre-planning (like say, actually knowing how much copy he needs each month) would go a long way in helping others to work with him.
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