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Friday, February 29, 2008

Lori's Big Day Off

or What I'm Doing with My Leap Day

Maybe it's not professional to admit to it, but I'm taking a day off. I'm not showing up for work at this keyboard on Monday - not at all. Commas will have to remain misplaced. Fragments will remain, er, fragmented. And let's not talk about what those dangling modifiers will do....

I say it's not professional only because there's a faction of the working world that believes any mention of having a life outside the office is considered tacky or worse, political suicide. I'm sorry. That's a group of careerists I like to refer to as "lunatics". Even the most driven senior executive knows there's a real need to break away and recuperate once in a while. While I know a few people from the lunatic crowd, I know quite a few more from the sane crowd.

I remember working for a lunatic once - very briefly. See, he was the type who worked until midnight and expected others to be just as "devoted" to the vicious cycle. He called me out of the blue after I hadn't heard from him for over a month and a half, and told me he expected me to help him the following week. I had to inform him I was out of the office the following week. I didn't specify where I was going, but he actually had the audacity to say, "Didn't you just have a vacation?" That I agreed to speak with him midweek in my vacation week (he guessed correctly) ticked me off. That he never called pi$$ed me off. That he determined we weren't a match immediately after bothered me none. He wasn't worth it. No one who expects you to lose yourself in your work ever is.

So, off I run to have fun. I'm going to live the stereotype and spend some time with a friend at Starbucks. Then I might just spend the day enjoying the outdoors. I know I'm going to enjoy knowing I'm doing something for me, and that's quite okay.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A New Habit?

For some reason, I've been receiving a lot more requests from people wanting me to promote their sites or their work. Normally, if I don't know the person, I don't bother. But this one intrigued me.

The site is called Bookhabit, and I went there with more than a smidgen of skepticism. Let's face it - we've heard it to death about the "platforms" for "showcasing" our work.

This one's a bit different. They pay you. Yep, you heard me. They pay you for every e-book of yours that's downloaded. Mind you, there are only a few titles up there now, but if this site catches on, you never know. What makes me think they're legit - they have a spelled-out and easy-to-understand pricing structure. Sure, there's a ton of fluff writing in there that attempts to appeal to your emotions, but let's be honest. We're all too cynical to even stop to read that stuff. Each book is priced at $2.50, and Bookhabit keeps 60%. You get a buck for every book sold. A buck for the first 20 copies. Then the price of the book, and your payment, goes up.

What do I think of it? I'm a stranger to e-publishing, so I'm staying out of this one. I thought it was interesting enough to mention. I'll leave the opinions up to you. So, what do you think?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Measuring Worth

No, it's not yet another post on payment - not quite. It's about determining if the project you're working on or being offered is worth it. I bring this up after waving bye-bye to the long-arsed project of a week ago. The work was tedious, but it paid okay. The projects were large, but again, they paid well. The worst part of it was the time it took me to get an answer out of anyone. So much for guidance. I did decide not to continue on with this particular client for that reason, but also because the time involved in delivering these very detailed projects left me exhausted, overworked, stressed, and scrambling to make sure I met other client deadlines. My work was suffering.

I've been given advice by my better half to go back to the client and renegotiate pay so I can drop my other clients. I won't do that. See, he means well, but he doesn't quite understand that one client is great, but it's way too easy to find yourself unpaid and out of work should that client decide to drop you or not pay the invoices as agreed. Instead, I'd much rather cut loose this lucrative client with its problems intact than sacrifice good clients who pay on time and who aren't vague or evasive. Call me crazy.

I measured the worth of this project over all others, and it lost. Someday you may find yourself in a similar position, where the ongoing work and the promise of nice pay is outweighed by too many other factors. Don't be afraid to make the hard choice. In the end, I think you'll find it was an easier choice than you first thought it to be.

Monday, February 25, 2008

If I Had an Extra Day...

The weather gods were on our side Friday, for we made it to Manhattan to see Eddie Izzard live at the Union Square Theatre. He was his usual hysterical self. You either love him or you don't get him. I get him, and I love him. He was not in drag, but he was looking mighty fine.

Back on topic - We've all wished for just one more day to finish that nasty project or to get all that leftover work cleared up. This year - this week - is your chance. Thanks to that marvelous invention, the Leap Year, we have one more day this year in which to earn our keep or, God willing, get some rest.

So what are you going to do with your extra day? Hmm? How are you going to take that extra 24 hours and put it to good use? I've been thinking about this all last month and this month. Because my income goals are well in alignment with my efforts, I'm planning a day off. Yes, you heard me. I'm actually going to take a day and do nothing for no one but me! We're headed to London this spring. I may take it then. Or... I may just take Monday off. It's possible - I have cleared up my deadlines and the works in progress have longer deadlines. Maybe a haircut, maybe a pedicure... who knows?

What about you? Mind you, you don't have to have a plan for this Friday, but why not plan for that extra time somewhere in your calendar?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Steady as She Goes

I'm sporting the remnants of a migraine that woke me up, and I'm taking it nice and slow today (so if this post seems all over the place, it's because I'm riding an Excedrin high). We have tickets to see Eddie Izzard in Manhattan tonight, and if the weater doesn't stop us, I refuse to let a migraine do it.

Now that I've left behind the somewhat-secure-yet-utterly-frustrating long-term project, I'm on the lookout for more steady gigs. At the moment, I have six projects. Two are ongoing - one more so than the other. The others are hit-and-miss work, but good work when they hit. Not a ton of one-time projects coming in, but that's just gravy anyway.

That's what you should aim for - work that sticks with you, and a few "odd jobs" to give the income a bit of a kick and to bring some variety to your work day. Don't be afraid to take work that may seem mundane or even, God forbid, boring. My best-paying job right now is routine stuff, and not exciting in the least. But man, it pays. This month I'm poised to bring in $2,500 from it.

What you shouldn't do is take just anything. If you know it's not paying well enough for the output, look elsewhere. One job I left behind recently paid meager amounts, but my efforts were small. What made me drop it was when the contract changed and I was suddenly making a lot less. Sure, the workload also was cut in half, but there is such a thing as too low to be bothered.

You know your pain points, or at least you should. Get a calculator out right now. How much do you want to make this year? Okay, now figure how much you have to make per hour or per day in order to get there. Never mind per week or per month - it's too easy to lose track and fall behind when your benchmarks are that far out. Stick with something you can wrap your head around.

Now, shoot for the jobs that offer a wage that allows you to reach that number. If you can write blog posts in 15 minutes and earn $80 a day to do it, go for it. Articles that pay 50 cents a word and take you two hours start-to-finish to complete might be worth it if the word count is high enough. Just make sure whatever you take isn't one that's going to suck all your time and not pay you decently enough for it.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's Getting Ugly Around Here

Every time I think I've seen the furthest lengths a person will go to for control, something else happens that makes me wonder if control is like a big black hole in space. Yesterday's issue with the client wanting to view copy has now turned into a stalemate. I'm getting notes telling me pointedly that the article will not be released for publication until her marketing people approve it.

Do we not live in an electronic society? Is the copy she received the only one? I sat most of yesterday shaking my head, marveling at the lengths she's going to in order to attend to her company's honor. Sadly, she has yet to realize that I'm doing exactly the same thing and that I've done tons of compromising for her with the editor's go-ahead. She did, in fact, win the battle to see the article. He gave her that due to its noncontroversial nature. He did, however, have me stress to her how highly unusual this was and that we were doing that as a goodwill gesture to her - a gesture that will not be repeated. I reiterated that we must have it back by end of day to go to print. Her (paraphrased) response - she can't possibly meet the deadline, so tough beans to us. That, folks, is exactly how not to respond when someone's extended beyond their own policies in order to accommodate you.

The publication has no obligation to this woman or this company. Her responses, however, do speak to someone who doesn't understand that journalism isn't something you can dictate the terms of like you can with your marketing department. I suppose I can forgive her for that, if in fact that's the basis for her staunch refusal to bend even a little.

The editor has taken over communications with her. Judging from his notes to me, I think she's about to be educated in the order of business and that her acceptance of the interview without any prior mention of her strict company policy voids any complaints that will be forthcoming.

It's sad when it comes to a power struggle, and such an obviously useless one. The article in question profiled her company positively, and exclusive of any other company. Thanks to a stupid, relatively unenforceable policy, that company may in fact lose out on free publicity. Yea, there's a policy worth keeping, eh?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

When Control is Important

Had a situation yesterday in which I had a lovely interview with a nice person and that lovely interview ended rather awkwardly. Why? Because of this line: "We really can't approve your story for publication unless we're allowed to see it first." Uh, no.

Her issue is this: while she is high on the food chain in her company, she is not at the top. Whatever she said to me had to be walked through an approval process on her side. That's okay for them, but I cannot stress in enough ways why that's not my issue.

My issue is this: These people were kind enough to grant an interview based on my short deadline, but at no point in our email conversations (and there were many) was it ever mentioned that they were about to put the corporate foot down. I understand legal departments. I understand company image. But there is no way on this earth that an interview subject or his or her respective company will ever see a story before it hits print without the editor's approval. No way. No how. Never.

It's a breach of journalistic ethics, and it's just plain short-sighted of any company to expect that. If you don't sign my check, you don't see the galleys. Period.

I had the same situation two weeks ago with another source, only this woman understood that she'd see only her quotes and that the deadline was in fact set in stone and she'd have to move quickly if she wanted to change what she'd said. That she was even seeing quotes was a professional courtesy and not a requirement on my part.

Only once in my career did I have an advertiser take it over my head, and he lived to regret it. I was senior editor at the time, and in the conversations leading up to my interviewing his people, this PR person kept insisting he'd be looking over the copy for approval. I kept repeating after each insistance, "Daniel, I can't do that. It's against company policy, and it's against journalistic ethical standards." It became my mantra that he ignored. Since I was sitting in a position in which this man had to cater to my requirements in order to get press, I figured he'd give it up eventually.

Not even close. He closed our interview in the same way. In the same way, I reminded him it's not happening. I wrote the story, sent it over to the managing editor, and went on with my day. He sent an email. Maybe it was the fact that there it was in print and he couldn't ignore it, but my last refusal sent him through the roof, or rather it sent him into my voice mail 14 times in one afternoon, and into the editor-in-chief's email and voice mail four times. The publisher was lucky - he received one call that unfortunately he answered. He reiterated our policy, told him to stop cursing my name (this man was unbelievably rude), and came directly to my office and apologized. Here was an advertiser trying desperately to control the copy in our magazine. Alas, he did not win. If he had, I'd have rethought my career right then and there.

If you're ever faced with this situation, and I guarantee you will be, you'll have to make a judgment call. In some cases, it's perfectly acceptable to show quotes to your interview subject. It does depend, however, on the policy of the publication you're working for, so don't agree to do so if you're not sure. Just agree to check with the editor. However, under no circumstances are you to show that copy to anyone without the express consent of the editor in charge. I can tell you from experience that each time I gave interview subjects just the quotes, 99.9 percent of the time they had changes (and minor ones). Because I have a habit of giving them the line prior to their quote for context, I've even had some ballsy enough to "edit" that line, too.

To which I laugh and say, "Not happening, sucker!"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Your Professional Face

Oops - is that your amateurism showing?

I had some email correspondence recently with a client, and I can only say that despite the words in his email, I got the impression I shouldn't trust him. Why? Because he used some "template" stationery that resembles a notebook page, and he signed all emails with "C ya." This from a person I'd never done business with before, and someone I won't be doing business with. Ever.

I'd love to believe he's the only one, but there have been way too many emails hitting my in box that use graphics that I can only describe as "high school" mentality. Smiley faces, once in a while, are okay, but only if you've developed that sort of friendly rapport with the person to whom you're writing. Not so much if you're writing to a PR person or, God forbid, a CEO for an exclusive interview. Saying something like "I'd love to have the opportunity to speak with you" is enough. Don't add ":-)" A) it's unnecessary, and B) you look stupid.

The same goes for your fancy-shmancy email add ons. Those flashing lights and running dogs are oh-so-cute to Aunt Helen, but the client who wants someone experienced enough to handle a book rewrite is going to think he went shopping for a writer at the local KinderCare. Do yourself a favor - stick with plain text and no fancy color or font combos. They're distracting. If you feel you must pump it up, live a little - go Rich Text format.

Think about what you're sending. Don't think how much your client might need a little pick-me-up, or that you're in charge of the Sunshine Wagon today. Do your job. Leave the kid stuff to the kids.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What's That Huge Sucking Sound?

Alas, that noise that sounds like a Hoover pulling teeth from a squirrel - that would be this latest project. I sent a note to the Powers That Be on the 13th asking very pointed questions. That was a follow-up to the questions asked on the 11th, and it preceded the very direct question on Friday morning asking, once again, the same question.

I got a response. To the second email, but get this - no answer. None. Just a bunch of hoo-haa about what they intend to send me in the immediate future as amendments to a yet-to-be-defined work process they keep speaking of. The PTB mention payment being sped up, but I'd sent a note stating that partial payment was received. I hate this. This is the runaround I'm dealing with and I see only one option - drop this project.

I'm tired of the stupid games they're playing. Here's the thing - I keep hearing how "valued" my work is, but nowhere is there a single person who answers one simple question. I asked for an extension. Now, if I don't deliver that project on time, how much you want to bet the defense for nonpayment will be "We never received any email, and since we didn't, we have a contractual right to dock your pay."

So I'm done dancing. I'll send a note today outlining all the reasons why I cannot continue to work for them, and why they still owe me for the last project. If my suspicions are correct, it'll be a week before they even see it.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Yin-Yang Up the Ying-Yang

The good news - payment arrived from the client of two posts ago. The bad news - it's partial payment that includes just the first invoice I sent. The remainder is still AWOL. I suspect I'll get it in two weeks per the agreement.

In other news, I'm sick of the project. Why? Because I feel there's too much lack of communication and more than a little dodging of my pointed questions. Despite several attempts to drag information out of them, I've no idea if I'm hitting the mark or what these new leaders expect that the old one didn't. I'm tempted to drop the project right here and now, but in what I can only call a brilliant tactical move, they're holding the other half of my cash hostage. For this, I'm beginning to hate them.

What I don't want to do is work my arse off on this current project only to be hit with that disclaimer in the policy that mentions how my pay may be adjusted for any unacceptable work. It does, however, say that I will be paid only after approval, so I've got some legal recourse should they bail on paying me for the first project.

Yep, I've grown to mistrust them. Trust is hard-won for us freelancing types, and any aroma similar to the shaft gets the old back up instantly.

So here I sit in limbo. One the one hand, I have over half the payment for the first project. On the other hand, I have this sinking feeling that I'm about to be put through the wringer in terms of payment and acceptability of the work I've done to this point.


Discounts R Not Us

It's strange - there are actually clients out there who believe that their actions, or lack thereof, have a direct bearing on what you're to be paid. For a better explanation, go over to the Irreverent Freelancer blog and read her experience. I'm quoting Kathy a lot these days because her experiences are learning ones for all of us.

Kathy's run into a situation that most of us have faced. The writer completes the project. The client changes his mind about the content or direction after the fact. But see, he's used up his budget on the writer, and he still doesn't have what he wanted. His confusion translates into the writer's problem the minute he utters the words "We decided not to use that, but we'd like to offer you partial payment in exchange for more work."

Okay, some of us have actually taken that offer. I can't remember doing it, but I'm sure I did at some point. At first, you don't quite see the problem. It takes a few rounds of "This isn't quite what we're hoping for" and a few more "Gee, we can't quite make up our minds over here" coupled with your ever-reduced fees for putzing around with these people to realize you're getting the shaft.

It's like this - you're contracted to do A. You do A. You deliver A. Then the note comes back - shucks, we didn't use that because we're headed in a different direction/unsure what message we want to send/can't match our own socks/etc. But we'd like to offer you a reduced rate for that one and we'd like to keep you on for the next one.

Your only response should be: Thank you for your response. While I understand how projects can get out of hand, I did in fact deliver per our agreement. Please remit payment in full."

Oh, and then run the other way very quickly. Keep only those clients who understand that fulfilling a contract that they signed to equals full payment for you. Nothing less, okay?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Clients and Other Animals

With a nod to Gerald Durrell

Yesterday's payment issue has yet to resolve itself. Funny how much time clients will attempt to buy with questions and proclamations of "I'll check into it and get back to you." What should have been an instant "Ooops. Yes, we'll take care of it" is starting to stretch into areas that more or less resemble avoidance or stall tactics. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Two days from now, if no word has been received, the late fees are getting attached to the current invoice and sent. While I understand there's been a changing of the guard at the client location, there have also been multiple documents shared over the course of a month and a half now. There are no more excuses. My faxes have been sent, and my invoices number enough to wallpaper my study. Enough already.

For as ripe as this situation is beginning to smell, it's nothing compared to this one that Kathy Kehrli mentions on her weblog. I alluded to it last week, but this guy apparently doesn't give up! And what's even funnier, the Writing Frump must be dealing with this person, too. It sounds awfully familiar.

This one's easy - that's not an employer. That's a clueless person trying to get something for nothing. And it would appear he's meeting with the wrath of more than one writer. That we call "karma", folks. That he chose to curse at Frump is proof that he's not a professional.

One thing did disturb me about Frump's post - the dude referred to writers as "service providers" and apparently felt that justified him in dictating the rate the writers would receive. Where does this notion come from? My doctor's a service provider. So is my attorney. So is my HVAC tech. So is my plumber. Do I dictate what I'll pay to them, or do they state their rates and I make my decision based on both their cost and their expertise? Yea, you know the answer.

So where does this guy get off thinking he's allowed to say "I tell you what you're making!" Yea, good luck with that.

I guess the key is to defend yourself whenever necessary. However, don't defend against attacks made by idiots like the dude (or dudes - God forbid there are two of them!) in Kathy and Frump's posts. Defending emotional tirades is akin to wrestling with a pig. Instead, defend against facts. Fact - payment hasn't been made. Fact - paperwork proves payment was due. Fact - late fees now apply.

That's a sensible defense, and the only one you should ever need to make.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Oh Nooo, Mister Bill!

You do the job, you send the invoice and ... nothing happens. You contact the client again. Some excuse or reason is given, or you resend what apparently hasn't arrived and .... again, nada. It's a song-and-dance you're forced to shuffle along to, and you don't like it one bit.

I'm tapping out this particular two-step myself right now. The invoices (all three of them for one invoice period) were sent weeks ago. According to the contract, payment is bi-weekly. This client wants this ongoing work delivered on time, yet my payment is lost in some "Gee, I don't see a W9" (I sent three of them) or "The fax hasn't made it to my in box yet" (and yes, I sent three of those). Will I panic? Hell no! For I have a few fancy dance moves of my own.

See, I'm still working for this client. If they expect this next project to be delivered on time, they have to do the same with payment. Otherwise, I halt all work until the current invoice is cleared. It's only fair. I've held up my terms in the contract by delivering the project not only on time, but a few days early. If they aren't going to honor their responsibilities, I'm done.

Also, the work I sent is useless to them unless they pay up. Why? Because this girl's been burned before, and she now adds the following phrase in bold at the top of all work: "Copyright is the property of the writer, and will transfer to the client upon full payment of all invoices."

I used to be trusting, but I've been squished way too many times by Mister Hand. My bills have gone unnoticed and unpaid, and a few unscrupulous putzes have tried to discredit me or impune my work or my honor in an attempt to skip out of payment. All have failed. All of them. That's because covering my butt has become as important to me as the job itself.

When all of this fails, I threaten litigation. To date, no one's needed to be sued, but there were two or three who came mighty close. But it's a case of Mister Bill no longer afraid of sticking it to the Hand.

It's what we're reduced to sometimes as writers. We can't just write and let the details take care of themselves, for there are plenty of people who are itching to take advantage or "forget" to pay us. If we map out a strategy for CYA before we start, we stand a much better chance of enforcing our rights later.

Monday, February 11, 2008

When to Say When

For every writer who's proclaimed "Writing is my life!" there are slews of overworked writers aiming a finger of their choice at them. Over on Tess Gerritsen's blog there's a discussion about writers who are pushed by publishing houses to crank out more and more work in less and less time. The discussion revolves around whether this is a perceived pressure or actual pressure, and it's well worth the read.

The underlying point is this - do we know when to say when? Can we conceivably tell a client we're over our limits and our sh$t meters are pegged? I'm working for a client right now on projects that have me juggling more work than I can handle in one 60-hour week. The work is involved and time-consuming, and it's a technical project in which I have to read laws and regulations and translate them into educational content. The pay is fine, but the workload is unbelievable. I have to crank out one project every 31 days. Worse, this is a short month.

We all know our pain points. We know that X number of hours equals Y amounts of work. That's not the problem. It's when Z numbers of extra hours are required to finish the projects that we realize the problem isn't us.

I know it's a rare thing when writers are overworked to the point of losing weekends and sleep. But it happens. In those instances, it's okay to scream "uncle" and to ask for extensions or a break. Your work won't dry up as a result.

The discussion on Tess' blog included a comment or two on how authors are given the message that their writing will suffer if they take a break. Uh, I see the opposite. I've read some of my favorite authors and frankly the ones who crank out book after book soon start to write the same plot, the same characters and the same predictable ending. Readers would point to it as an example of a writer who doesn't go beyond his or her safety zone. I disagree. I think it's more a writer who isn't given the time to retreat and refresh. Pushing a writer to death is a good way to kill your best client's creativity, in my humble opinion.

Don't let this job become your life. Instead, let your life enhance your job.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Cycle of Madness

Recently, a writer friend and I were talking about the cyclical nature of our business. We may be in the pink today and in the soup tomorrow, for projects come and go like buses and men who are no good for us. She and I were discussing the times we nearly tossed it in. Yet we didn't. Why? Because we had no intention of giving up the best worst job we've ever had.

Here's the thing - freelancing is not a guaranteed income. Last month I had a phenomenal month in terms of invoice amounts. This month - who knows? It could all crap out on me tomorrow. Or today, depending on what karma has in store.

If you're thinking about a freelance career, you need to keep a number of things in mind.

Can I live on minimal amounts of cash? See, you might make a good bit of money, but if you spend it as you make it, you're going to be up a seriously precarious creek when your dry spell comes (and honey, that dry spell always comes). You need to be squirreling away those earnings. Trust me. I know. I've been there. Many times. And that's a cycle that will continue to repeat.

Do I really want to work this hard? If you think writing for a living means you can define your own hours - work three here, take two weeks off there - you need to think again. Freelancing is not 9-to-5. It's more like 8-to-7 and sometimes weekends. Clients have deadlines. In order to gain a good reputation, you have to deliver what they want on time every time. That requires sitting down and tackling something you may not want to tackle.

Am I willing to put the effort into marketing? You can't work unless people know you're there. You're afraid of marketing? Then get another line of work. If you can't find it in you to promote yourself, even a little, you'll be nothing but disappointed in the results. You need to make a plan for marketing and networking and spend honest-to-goodness time on letting people know you're out there.

Can I take rejection? There are times - lots of them - where your potential client is going to use the "N" word with you. If you can't take being turned down, even if it's because they just don't have the budget, or if you're going to take rejection personally, this is not the career for you.

Am I willing to deal with unruly people and learn hard lessons? See, not every client pays on time, and some try their hardest not to pay at all. If you can separate your emotions from the matter at hand, you'll go much farther than if you let every nasty thing they say about you or your work cloud the fact that they've broken your contract or haven't paid in months. Also, you're going to make mistakes. Big ones, too. You're going to learn the hard way what should be in a contract by what's missing in some you've signed. You're going to learn how to cover your assets by trial-and-error, and by compromising your standards before you know what your standards are. It's part-and-parcel of the trade. You're going to accept jobs that are waaaay below acceptable rates, and you're going to resent both yourself and the client for it. If you can't learn from all that, or learn to deal with someone screeching at you or writing you nasty emails, get out now.

Do I have a backup plan? I cannot tell you how many times in the Feast/Famine cycle I've been caught in some serious famine-related situations. For that, I have a backup or two. One of my best backups is the temp agency. I have completed enough jobs for them that I can call them and say "Help!" and they nearly always can find something for me. It does require that I commute, but the assignments are usually short-term or ones that I can back out of should my workflow at home start to flow again.

Am I in it for the long haul? Another writer friend who is very wise once said to me, "You gotta treat this job like it's your only option." She was right. If you put yourself in the mindset that this is not something you're going to drop when things get tough, that it's not just an extension of a hobby or a dream you're not prepared to put the seat leather into, you'll fare much better. You'll find yourself stocking your writing larder with more and more contacts and raising your standards to ones that allow you to make a decent wage and present yourself as a professional writer and not a beginner begging for work. You'll see the difference in your attitude and your approach. And in the long run, your career is going to benefit from being taken seriously.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Spotting Stupidity

Fantastic post of the week - Jennifer over at Catalyst Blogger has a great post showing you the free offers out there and why you shouldn't take them. Read this. It's all you'll need to know when cruising the job boards.

Thanks, Jennifer!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Defining the Relationship

Heard from a writer friend recently about a client who hired him to do one thing, yet proceeded to expect quite another. He was hired to do editing on the client's manuals, yet now the client is expecting full rewrites (on a project he had no hand in from the start). A bit brazen, no?

Perhaps it's time we writers started using standard forms defining our services. I've recently adopted a "What to expect from our relationship" sheet so that clients can see exactly what they're getting (and frankly, what they're not getting). Maybe this should include a brief description of these terms - writing, editing, ghostwriting, proofreading. I don't know about you, but it's not uncommon that a client doesn't quite get what the distinctions are, or even that there are distinctions.

My friend had to go back to his client and explain that he based his original fee on editing, and that revisions and rewrites would require a recalculation of his fee, or a separate agreement altogether (the wiser choice, I think). He's in the process of straightening out his client, and I think he did a nice job in that he preserved the relationship and preserved his own sanity at the same time.

Having been in that position a few times, I applaud him. Too often we just take it because hey, it's a job. The defining moment in a writer's career is when he or she can go back to the client and tactfully enforce business boundaries.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Second Skin

A little off-topic today: Did you see the story about the Abercrombie and Fitch store in Virginia Beach being cited for violating the town's obscenity laws? It's here. Seems the posters showed a bit too much skin for some passersby, and the police agreed. A&F has a tainted history of showing us more than we bargained for, what with the flap over its catalog not too long ago.

This is a company that can't even use the "we didn't know" defense. They know. This past Christmas season, I walked past A&F in the mall. Lo and behold, there was a young man, younger than my oldest son, wearing nothing more than A&F jeans, which were slumped down past his hip bones. He was sporting a Santa hat. And he was alive - this was no poster. He was hired to greet people coming into the store. Young people. Young women (and dare I say those longer in the tooth).

The look on his face said it all - he felt exposed. He felt naked, if not certainly underdressed for the occasion. His arms were crossed in front of him, not in a casual, Brawny lumberjack way, but in a "this ain't worth the cash I'm being paid" way. Part of me felt his pain. Another part of me was saying "Now do you understand?" For he was the mall version of the bikini girl at the car show/boxing match/fill in the blank. Perhaps A&F is on the forefront of something that will surely end the exploitation of women - it's called the exploitation of men.

That they pipe their cologne into the air system and waft it out into the mall aisles is odd enough. I guess those with perfume allergies aren't their primary market. Nor are people who find the blatant use of sex and body parts as advertising tools offensive. Yet I wonder - whenever someone trumps their gimmicks and their edginess softens, will their products be enough to draw the consumers?

(Here's where I make it writing-relevant for you...)
We writers don't have the luxury of using sex to sell our product (unless we're wielding additional client services we shouldn't be, but I digress). We have to use our talents to keep it all fresh and relevant every day without the benefit of a buff young model of any gender. We have the ability to stretch beyond gender and go right to the talent portion of our competition.

The moral of the story: I shouldn't read the news before I've had my first cup of tea. ;)
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