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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Totally Overwhelmed
Just received a project yesterday that's rather huge. Mind you, my job is to reformat, reduce the page count and proofread 300 pages. In ten days. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Yep, it's going to be close to impossible.

Worse, I have other projects that have deadlines. One today. Another tomorrow. Another in a week and a half. Another in two weeks. I'm going to be busy. Time to either work overtime or, God forbid, turn down some work. There's the thought of working the weekend, but I'm usually so spent at the end of the week I need that recharge. And this being a holiday weekend, I very much need the break.

What would you do in this case? I know what I plan to do, but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Overworked, But Paid
I'm overrun with projects this week. While I love the work, I'd love it if the jobs were a bit more spaced apart. However, I shan't complain - I'm working. Amen. Alleluia. It could be worse. It could be like last year at this time when the two nickels I had to rub together were saying quick goodbyes to each other. No, this year, things have improved dramatically.

I give some credit to my payment system. It's of my own design. It's simple. I invoice three times. Each subsequent invoice gets a late fee tacked on. The third invoice is the final one before litigation begins. I've been very lucky - not once have I had to follow through and take an overdue bill to court.

Sometimes it's going to be challenging to you to have a good payment system. If you're anything like me, you'll have clients who have their own way of handling invoices. One client wants a purchase order. Another needs a project number. Yet another has a very specific invoice template. How do you deal?

I save any client-specific templates in that client's Word folder. That means a bit more organization. Yes, I create a new folder in My Documents for each client (makes it tons easier to locate something later). I'm sure you do something similar. But that's where the templates should go, too.

Each time I finish a job for a client, I scan the folder quickly to see if there's a template to apply. (Yea, I forget from client to client) Also, I have designated separate folders in Outlook for client emails. Again, it helps narrow the search. I fill out the invoice and then print one. That invoice gets filed in a manila folder marked "Current Invoices" that I keep on my desk. Every week, I go through the folder to make sure folks are current. If not, another invoice gets sent and a copy is printed and stapled to the existing invoice. Also, I track all invoices (and expenses, for that matter) in Quicken. Once a week, I reconcile things as best I can (I'm not an accountant, nor will I ever be accused of impersonating one). That's it. That's how I keep from losing control of payments.

It shouldn't take much to organize a payment system. Figure out what would work best for you. Maybe it's a paper system. Maybe it's some electronic system. Maybe you'll use software to help you track things. Whatever works for you, I say. One benefit of your system - you will know exactly when to press for payment, be it a late fee or a threat of litigation/collection. Because you've taken control of your billing, you'll have an easier time going after what's due you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Dude, Where's My Cash?
I've been pretty fortunate this year in collecting what's due me. Usually, I'm paid within a month or two (and yes, that's late) of invoice. These are regular clients, so it's a bit more predictable. However, there's always one. This particular one has a deliquent bill of six months. Honestly, I'd forgotten about it for a month or two, but I sent off three invoices and all were met with stone-cold silence. Yesterday I put together a paper invoice and sent it, along with sending yet one more email, this time mentioning litigation. If I had this client's phone number, I'd have called months ago. Alas, it was an email-only kind of relationship.

It's a smaller amount (three numbers before the decimal point), but it's my smaller amount, and I worked for it. A writer friend and I were discussing it yesterday, and he said the same thing - some writers would be afraid to press for it. Not me - I've developed a distaste for ignored bills. I'm not mean, but I'm persistent. It's treated as a necessary part of the business - it's not personal.

You ought to be just as persistent in your collections. I wrote something about my magic phrase, which has been a godsend to me. But you should set up some sort of plan for collection. Here's mine. It's not difficult, and having a plan will help you be more confident in collection when you come to that point (and we all do) when you have to use your final option.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lacking Luster
I guess I'm just not star struck enough. I walked up to the movie set today to watch from the crowd, and while it was fun to see how these folks work, I wasn't gaga. I wasn't all oooo and ahhhh over the fact that the stars looked our direction or waved (Mark Wahlberg seems quite nice - he does interact with his fans and shook hands and chatted with my daughter). I certainly wasn't like the cougars who were dolled up and waiting to be noticed, especially the middle-aged housewife who shows up in her exercise clothes, presumably while running, in full makeup. Yea, you never planned to be seen with your abs exposed and your eye makeup done to perfection, were you? I showed up in my usual clothes, no makeup, and just watched. Making a spectacle of yourself when others are trying to get work done doesn't seem appropriate to me. I'll take photos, sure. I'm not completely unaffected! And it's something I regret not doing when I saw Jimmy Stewart in a parade in his hometown.

It seems odd to me that people will hyperventilate, scream hysterically or faint or otherwise cause a fuss when someone famous is around. The closest I came to true fan behavior, separate from my 5th-grade Osmond concert experience, was last year in Nashville when my daughter shook the hands of the Van Zandt brothers from Lynard Skynard. Mind you, Freebird was my generation's anthem, so you can understand how it came to be that I let out a "Damn right!" during one of their country songs.

What I feel is wrong is the media's hype-building that makes celebrity almost godlike. Performers are raised to unbelievable heights, put so far up on pedestals so small, they're doomed to fall. They perform, yet we feel we have a right to invade their privacy, to know everything about them, and to basically learn how to worship people who are performers, not gods. And we get disappointed when they "let us down", as though they owed us more than what they've been paid to do. The media should be ashamed - for what else explains the celebrity of spoiled rich waifs who are famous for being rich, or the stories of fallen pseudo-heroes who can't be human or simple (anyone remember the debacle John Elway's family went through when his wife gave out "ordinary" treats for Halloween and didn't splurge on the greedy neighborhood?). Admire the work of your celebrities - don't idolize them to the point of misplaced worship. I guess it's exciting to see your favorite star right there in front of you. I guess some fans can't help but scream and carry on.

But I guess it's the fans' way of showing their appreciation and respect for the actors' and directors' work. That they act like this after the director calls for quiet on the set seems like lack of respect to me, but I guess some people can't contain their excitement.

Then again, if I'd ever come face-to-face with Johnny Depp, I feel I would drool or babble uncontrollably. Some things just can't be helped.
Creative Plagiarism
I miss the old days - you know, when you knew what plagiarism looked like. You could identify it, label it, deal with it. Nowadays, plagiarism is veiled in a blanket of reworded content. Kathy Kerhli shows us one example of today's rampant plagiarism and copyright infringement - wonder how a court would handle this?

What's more upsetting to me is how this will affect the next generation of journalists. It's bad enough that today's generation (and to be honest, some from every generation) doesn't appear to hold the same ethical standard on use of copyrighted material as they should. But how will they as an industry respond to this regurgitated content, lifted prose, reworded information that clearly belongs to someone else? Is it going to take having their own work stolen for the current and future journalists to get angry enough to take action? Will it even matter to them?

My own daughter heads off to college this weekend to start her studies in communications and new media. I pray that there's at least one ethics course that she and her classmates must sit through. She's heard it preached by me until her ears are raw, but when the rules keep changing and the ethical lines are blurred, how will she and her generation know right from wrong if no one is there standing up for ethics?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Excitement in Valley Forge


Admit it - if a film crew was mere walking distance from your house, you'd blow off work to go see too, wouldn't you? Naturally, I walked up and missed them, but my daughter gets credit for capturing Mark Wahlberg on film.

Tomorrow's mission - to get a good image of John Leguizamo to post here. I'm seeing now that my piles of work aren't going to be getting done until they're finished filming tomorrow. Oh well - I'll remember this much more than the press release or the article!

Genre Shm-enre
Tess Gerritsen wrote an interesting post on her blog this week after she received a scathing letter from a reader. One of Tess' books was reprinted and this reader was pissed because she didn't like it compared to Tess' current work. Here's what I don't get - this "fan", who has no idea what it's like when a publishing house reprints something, felt it was up to Tess to fix her "bad" experience. Uh, okay. Maybe this woman also expects directors to refund ticket money for movies we don't like. If that's the case, Mel Gibson's in for a hefty refund to me.

Maybe it's because the book in question came from a different genre (Tess writes from a number of perspectives, which is way cool to be able to do). I can't say as I haven't read the book. Still, would we as writers want to be judged solely on our early works? Even if they're good, aren't we allowed to expand and grow and experiment, or has the creative part of our writing process been defined for us based on current opinion? By the way, among her many talents, Tess writes romance novels, which is damn tough to do. I've heard writers poo-poo the genre. That, folks, pisses me off. Here's a woman with success tucked squarely under her belt, yet writers who can't create much beyond a shopping list are sticking their noses up at it. At the end of the day, who's more successful - the wanna-bes who fuss about the "quality" of writing or the woman too busy making money to bother to answer? Enough of that rant....

So just how responsible are you to your own fan base? For most of us, the fan base is the client. Mind you, they're a smaller group than say a best-selling author might be, so our leverage with an upset client is a bit less prevalent. But clearly, you're not going to please everyone. There are those, like that reader, who aren't going to be happy even if you worked for free.

Sometimes, you just gotta let it go. You can offer an apology for that person's bad experience, but that's not to say you have to jump through hoops to please one person when you've got a track record of lots of pleased clients.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tommy, Can You Hear Me?
In a conversation with sales guru Todd Cohen, he stressed to me the importance of not just listening to clients, but really hearing them. It got me thinking about the ways we interact with our clients. We listen to what they want, but do we hear how it is they want it?

How much of your conversations with clients are of the hearing variety? Take that last client who contacted you. She wants a press release/article/sales letter/etc. Easy enough, but are you going to take the time to deliver it completely? By that I mean have you bothered to go deeper, ask those questions and listen to the client speaking? Are you going to hand back a project that captures the essence of that client, or are you going to hand back something that might not reflect that client's personality?

I believe a good writer delivers on time. I believe a great writer delivers the client's vision, not his or her own vision. How good are you at interpreting that? What are some ways you can share with us that have helped you nail down the client's voice and passion?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thievery and Protecting Your Work

Deborah Ng had a disturbing experience - it seems her work appeared verbatim on not one, but a number of web sites. While one person gave her a nod, the others simply stole the work. Read her post on what to do if you're ripped off.

How can you prevent this type of thievery? If you're posting online, prevention may be next to impossible. However, it's always a good idea to put a copyright notice on your posts and make 'em prominent. While it sucks that you have to resort to it, it's better when you approach these dorks later and threaten them with copyright violation.
I'm Ready for My Close-up, Mr. Shymalan
I live in a pretty nondescript area. True, I'm a mile from Valley Forge Park and our little town has just undergone an amazing transformation that's got the streets packed and the stores moving in. But in general, it's an old steel town that's transformed into a pretty decent place to live.

Must be better than I thought - the road outside our house is closed this week. M. Knight Shymalan is filming part of his movie, The Happening, here. Right there at the G Lodge, the local diner. Right there at Larry's Auto, the mechanic who fixes my car. According to Larry the mechanic, the film crew is there today decorating the outsides of the buildings. I'll walk up later and investigate.

How cool is that? :)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hold Down the Fort, Would Ya?
I'm definitely headed out of the country for the remainder of the week. I'll be back sometime on Monday, folks. See you then!
Going Away
There's a good chance I'll be out of the country tomorrow. There's a better chance I won't be. Either way, leaving means informing ongoing clients of my absence. Inevitably, it opens me up to the "Where the hell do you think you're going?" sentiments. See, I once took time away. It was a vacation, yet I never expressed this to the client. When I mentioned in the conference call that I'd be out of the office the next week, it was like my mother had suddenly showed up. "Didn't you just have a vacation?"

Back the train up. That's a question you'd expect in a normal 9-to-5 working relationship. Not that it's anyone's freaking business then, either. But when you're a freelancer and you're off for whatever reason, you are not in any position to have to explain your whereabouts to a client. Unless you've missed a deadline or promised to be somewhere you weren't, you're free to leave the office whenever you like. That's where that word "free" in your job description comes in.

When that last putz asked me that question, I didn't respond by defending myself or justifying his suspicions. I responded by saying, "Is this something pressing, or can it wait until I'm back at my home office?" I wanted to say, "If I hadn't been sitting here for two months with absolutely no word from you, I'd probably care about your project, but since you called me on a Friday afternoon and now want me to be your writing gopher, I really don't care." But hey, one of us has to be a professional.

Ever have anyone (who isn't related or married to you) question your whereabouts? How'd you handle it?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Another Official Rant Day
And this time, it's aimed at writers.

Writers - where's your pride?

I saw some job postings recently for those low-paying articles. This one in particular paid $15 an article. I wanted to see what kind of idiot would think we'd work for that kind of money, so I clicked on the link. The note at the top of the ad read: "These positions have all been filled. Thank you and look for our job offers in the future!"

May I ask what the hell some of you are thinking? Where in anyone's universe is it a smart career move to work for less than minimum wage, huh? Do you not get yet that it's not okay to accept low-paying crap in order to gather up some clips? Have I not preached to you often enough, loudly enough, vehemently enough? I have. Here's one post. Here's another. Here's yet another. Need I go on?

Folks, listen. If those of you who accept these crap jobs would just step back from your current employment situation long enough, you'd see that in the long run, you're hurting yourself. Yea, you're hurting the rest of us (who, by the way, charge a lot more and sleep better for it), but the majority of the reflection rests on you. If you're getting clips through one of these article mills, do you honestly think any employer is going to see that as a smart career move on your part? Do you think these "clips" you're collecting are going to show an employer how talented you are, or is it possible, even slightly, that the employer will think, "Geezuz. This one is stupid enough to write for one of those article mills."? Are you that desperate for a byline that you want to get stuck in the low-paying-market time warp? Not to mention that thanks to those of you willing to work for abysmal rates, future employers may offer even lower rates because hey, they saw it work for the throngs of "employers" in the past.

If you're so hell-bent on writing for practically nothing, get a weblog, for crying out loud! Stop giving it away to strangers who are making you look bad! Write for free for one person - yourself. Okay, two people - your mother. You're not going to charge her (unless you feel she can absorb your fee). At least with a weblog you can use it as a marketing tool. And you can sue the pants off anyone who lifts your copy without your permission.

In other words, have some pride! Work for a fighting wage. Otherwise, you'd be better off wearing the paper hat and serving up Happy Meals.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Royal Pain

I am not really a hard ass. Honest.

I was approached recently by a potential client wanting me to write a book manuscript, only with my payout being some sort of royalty arrangement. I had to turn him down. Writing for royalties works in only a few cases - when you've hooked up with a can't-lose author, such as Bill Clinton or Pamela Anderson (and if it's the two of them together, you'll never have to work again!). It will never - repeat - never work for the average Joe with a great idea. Just refer to my article on royalties back in March for why it's a sucky arrangement.

But here's the thing - the clients are still going to ask. Some of them are going to push it, make it a contingency of your arrangement. There might even be some emotional hardball thrown in there just for kicks. Again, refer to yesterday's post on Kathy Kerhli's client who wanted to determine her invoicing system for her. Bottom line: as my good friend Anne Wayman pointed out, her response is "I can't afford not to get paid as I write." Heed her advice. Who cares if the client is crying about his lack of cash, or if he's making it sound as though you just graduated from preschool and aren't smart enough to write his book for him - if he didn't want you, he'd have stopped talking to you ages ago. And it may sound harsh, but you can't care about the emotional hardball. You have to do what's right for your business. Be nice, but be firm. Your own best interests come first in these negotiations, and if it feels wrong, don't go there.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

File This Under Crazy

Writer chum Kathy Kerhli tells of a client who rejected her after she'd rejected him. You have to read it to believe it.

Do you know of any other professional contract position in which the client dictates how the contractor's billing is going to happen? Anyone?

Yep. Just plain nuts.
The Jitters

Got me a second chance with that there client who didn't care for my second article. (Before you write, the bad grammar there was intended) My third article will be on a different topic (odd, as I was writing a series of three), and he wants to see bullet points. Funny about that - his gripes with my work weren't about content, but he says I was rambling. So what's with the bullets? I'm not quite sure where this is going. I'm following it through to the end, but not sure where I'm going to end up. Either way is good with me at this point. I'm more apt to just cut my losses than jump through hoops. Less stress involved.

But I'm jittery now. Here I sit, a decade plus a bunch into writing and editing and I'm worrying about my abilities. That's just nuts. I know I can do this. I'm not sure I can do this for this client. Therein lies the dilemma.

Ever deal with this one yourself? How'd you handle it?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Job Listings - August 7, 2007
Bad JuJu
Ever wake up after what you think is a great, productive day and find everything falling to bits in front of you? Welcome to my Tuesday. I hit one out of the park last week with a terrific article for a new client. The second article has him questioning why he hired me (he said so). I thought it was good. He thought it was rambling drivel. Bit of a separation of opinion there.

Not to mention problems with a book project for the ACA - I'm the managing editor on it. Mind you, it's all volunteer written and edited, so the work ethic instilled by job security isn't exactly present for most of the folks involved. We missed our deadline. We have authors who are AWOL and editors who have had chapters for months on end. Today's news - another editor is having a family crisis and must drop out.

Then there's the client who wants to talk today. He may have good news, but after the first few hits here, I'm wanting to just shut this machine off and go back to bed until tomorrow.

Anyone know how to exorcise bad vibes?

These jobs probably have better vibes in store for you:

Copywriter/NYC-based
Freelance Asst. Web Editor/Writer
Fashion Freelancer
Freelance Marketing Writer
SEO Ghostwriter
Freelance Bridal Writer
Freelance Article Writers
Freelance Real Estate Writer
Writer for Educational Publisher

Monday, August 06, 2007

Where's the Rush?
A freelancer friend was lamenting this the other day - he'd worked his tail off to get in what was labeled a rush job by the client, and then he waited. And waited. And is still waiting for word on the project status....

I hate this - these pseudo-rush jobs that have to be done INSTANTLY, yet apparently get lost in limbo for days, weeks, months on end (in one case, I've been waiting a good two years for feedback - it's probably not coming, right?). I've been victim of the "I need it instantly!" request/demand. I've also learned to screen calls and send repeat offenders to voice mail to cool their jets. If it's a repeat client, I'm more likely to accommodate. If it's a new client, I'm more likely to draw boundaries with this nifty tool called the rush fee. Some of my freelance chums have relabeled this the "aggravation fee" for obvious reasons. More recently I was out of the office for a few days and despite my email auto-response stating I was away, I was still getting "Oh my gawd! We need you now!" messages. Somehow, amazingly, these people survive without their instant dose of prose. Go figure. And equally amazing - when they find out about the rush fee, it's suddenly not so much of a rush. Take your time, in fact!

Have you been the victim of a pseudo-rush job? Have you dropped everything to finish this job quickly and then waited for word or worse, payment?
The Top Ten

Amen for memes! Not that I'm a huge meme fan, but it helps when you're too busy to think hard enough to write something useful. Freelance chum Lillie Ammann asked me to list my ten of my favorite posts. I was going to start surfing, but she said it had to be within my own blog. Maybe tomorrow I'll post my top ten from others' sites. Much more interesting!

Here are the ones I think are better than the other drivel:

10. Sometimes You Just Can't
9. Paying or Not for Professional Work
8. The Phrase That Pays
7. When There Isn't a Clue
6. When to Hold Your Tongue
5. Personal Trainer
4. Bringing Home the Bacon
3. Client Gaffes and No-Nos
2. Hiccups
1. I Think I'm Right This Time

Friday, August 03, 2007

Blog R.I.P.
I've noticed a disturbing (more like frustrating) trend in blogs - you get used to reading one, you look forward to it, and it just fizzles out. What gives? I suspect it's because we start them with Things to Say!, but we realize too soon we really don't have all that much to talk about (not in my case, obviously). But we're writers! How can that be?

Simple - we didn't consider what kind of focus we were going to put on the blog. For instance, looking at some of my favorites, I see one dedicated to writing news and events, another to ridiculous ads, another that ends in "screw you!" nearly every time, still another devoted to copywriting. They've all created their own focus, a theme if you will, that gives the reader a reason to read and, more importantly, gives the writer a reason to write.

What are your favorite blogs and why? Do you think it's true that theme or focus is important to blogs? If not, what's your take on the blogs that fizzle?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

What a Way to Be Pissed
Client: By the way, I'm really pissed at you.
Me: Yea? Why?
Client: I couldn't find a damn thing wrong with that article you sent. I had nothing to edit!
Me: I hope I piss you off more often.

It feels good when you finally synch with someone. That's all it is. I was able to understand what he wanted, and he was able to convey it so I could understand the goal. Basic Communication 101, which we all know is as elusive as Nessie and Big Foot. It's rare when it happens, but when it does, just enjoy it. For tomorrow, there will surely be someone who will snap you back into what's known as reality.
Supposably Better Then Them Guys
One of my biggest peeves is the misuse of commonly used words. What irks me is the recent upward trend of the abuse. I've heard seemingly intelligent people spewing out (or writing out) misspellings left and right.

Here's my list, with the correct terms in parentheses. Feel free to add your own:

-Supposably (supposedly - I have no idea where the other came from)
-Then (than - then indicates time)
-Should of (should've or should have - it only sounds like "should of")
-A whole nother (whole other - what the hell is a "nother", anyway?)
-Prostrate problems (prostate, which is a gland in the male anatomy - prostrate means lying face-down on the floor, which is a problem only if you've landed there unexpectedly)
-Use to (used to)
-Your when you mean "you're" ("Your" is possessive - "you're" is short for "you are")
-That (don't use this to describe a person or people; use "who" - as in "He's the one who needed help.")
-Could care less (Couldn't care less - otherwise, you're indicating you really could care less than you do)
-For all intensive purposes (for all intents and purposes - better yet, just don't use it. It's a stupid phrase)
-Anyways (Anyway - no pluralization necessary)
-As per se (per se - if you don't know what it means, don't use it)
-There, They're, There (How many times have we seen these interchanged?)

What are your peeves?
Calling in Sick
It happens - you get sick right about the time your big deadline hits. And unless you're sporting super-human powers, you just can't work with a fever/flu/cold/etc. Yet there's that work, waiting for you. More often than not, the deadline is something you've carefully budgeted time for - given a healthy constitution.

There are a few things you can do when sickness strikes. If you the deadline is not pressing (meaning it's not a magazine where production would be hampered or a client with a printer on hold waiting for your work, etc.), get a note or a call off to the client ASAP. Let the client know your situation briefly (please, refrain from describing the results of Montezuma's Revenge-type symptoms) and let the client know when you expect to be able to get back to the project.

If, however, you're deadline is critical, it's time to call for backup. You have a stable of writer friends (or you should - it's necessary for your own sanity and for professional connections and advice-swapping). Call one or two. Beg for help. Offer a fair split of the fee. For instance, if you have 80 percent of the work done and your writer friend needs only to look over your notes and fill in the rest, that's an 80/20 split. Make the fee split fair - you don't ever want to lowball your support group. If anything, share more than necessary. Your colleague will remember and appreciate both the work and your fairness.

It's never acceptable to miss a deadline. If your only option is to work as the meds kick in, do it. It's not just the deadline on the line - it's your reputation as a reliable person.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Not Raining, but Pouring
NDAs and Tests
I don't know what let loose this past week, but I'm now sporting four new clients (and possibly a fifth), and most of it is ongoing work. That's a good thing, for the two ongoing gigs I had already have waned and become stuck in approval/budget cycles. Thank God for marketing during the good times! I almost sat back and cruised through summer, but I decided to stockpile a bit and keep digging for work. Man, it paid off, and just in time!

In negotiations now with one client. I love that he wants to keep me busy, but I can't work for less than he's paying me on the first test article. I hope he'll see my pitch (you get writing you don't need to edit, saving you tons of time) as a positive and agree.

Can I just say now how much I hate the idea of the "test" article? In only one case this week was it really necessary, and it was due in part to my really not knowing what the devil the client wanted. The contact thought it might be a bit difficult, which caused us both to think the test would be a good idea. We used the test article as an introduction, plus it helped me decide if it's work I want to continue doing (I might - it was a bit over my head, but something that might be fun to learn). But in general, I find test articles a royal pain and a pointless exercise. The clips a writer sends, if reviewed at ALL, will determine if this person can write for you. Don't insult someone who's been at it longer than the last two presidents combined and expect that writer to once again prove he/she can write.

Another thing that bugs me - nondisclosure agreements. Okay, I understand if I'm writing for Company A and it doesn't want Company B to find out its secrets, but unless I'm guarding confidential files that could jeopardize democracy, what the hell is the use of the NDA? Folks, I've come to the conclusion that NDAs are ego strokes for those who require you sign them. I worked for a man once who was writing a book I was to edit. I had to sign an NDA. Why? Was it because his idea was so novel that it needed protecting? Hell no! He was basically rehashing the same idea - to the point where he was quoting directly from other authors and presenting their ideas (with attribution). It wasn't rocket science formulas, nor was it the next great thing. It was a book that had a nifty little concept, just like the thousands out there with similar takes on the same old same old.

I offer NDAs to clients for one reason - it makes them feel better about opening up with their ideas. Too often clients think they're going to spill their guts and then have someone walk off with their brilliant idea. More often than not, their brilliant idea has already seen the light of day in another form (there aren't too many original ideas these days). But if it makes a person relax and take one more worry off the pile, I'll oblige. It's just those NDAs that forbid me from discussing the project with my husband or my mother that gets me. I don't think they care, frankly, and it's the secrecy of it that would cause more damage. Don't we all perk up when we hear whispering?
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