What’s on the iPod: Lego House by Ed Sheeran
It’s been a fantastic week. I finished all my projects by late Tuesday, had one small revision Wednesday morning, and I’ve spent two solid days doing what I damn well please. That included working on two longer-term projects and some poetry.
But that’s not what made it fantastic. It helped, but fantastic was something else.
It came in the form of an email from a journal I follow (one of my poems was published in their journal). I nearly deleted the email, thinking I’ll just go online and read it, but something made me open it. I’m glad I did.
It was an announcement saying my poem was one of five that were nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
Totally unexpected and something I highly doubt I’ll win, but it felt so great to have the editors choose my work to nominate. At first, I thought, “Huh?”
Then I closed the email.
Then I opened it again.
I reread. Yes, they meant me.
Then I sat and let it sink in. Wow. Cool.
As the day progressed, it really sank in. Very cool.
By evening, I was so tickled I couldn’t concentrate on anything.
Beyond that, it’s been a slow, enjoyable week. I’ve more than made my earnings goals for this month, so I allowed myself the time to not market (I know, breaking my own rule for a few days) and just do what I wanted.
Such a far cry from a number of years ago when I had a client relationship that was so toxic, I thought I’d never recover.
It was a while ago — 2009. I was coming up on my fifth year of working for the company, a resume-writing service. Yet there was something really wrong.
I had been working with an excellent manager (and a woman I’m both friends with and have worked for since), and she’d built a wonderful rapport with me, and with all her writers.
Then she quit to have a baby.
Enter the new manager, who was gung-ho. With her Brooklyn attitude intact, she commenced her relationship with her writers by cracking the whip hard and often. The gigs that were entirely voluntary to accept were suddenly mandatory, even though we were still being told we could accept or reject whatever work we liked. Writers who did reject assignments never saw another.
She shortened deadlines. She lengthened requirements. Then the pay dropped significantly. Then the Sh*t hit the fan if you turned down a project. And if you decided not to be in your own office that day, the hammer would come down harder.
Actually, that was my breaking point. I’d put up an away notice and had sent her an email telling her I wasn’t going to be in the next day (my mom and dad were visiting). Her response was to chastise me. I needed to be available every week day, she said, and my being absent wasn’t professional. In fact, she added, she was beginning to get requests for weekend work and they’d pay me $5 more per project to work the weekends, too. A whole $5. Gee. Where do I sign?
That, my writing friends, is when you know the client doesn’t fit.
Fact is, that client had stopped fitting about a year prior. I’d hung on because the money was steady. I’d hung on after the project rates were cut in half. Easy work, I figured. Mind-achingly dull, but easy. I’d even hung on when Little Miss Thang cracked the whip.
It was too long. She’d already crossed too many of my boundaries, and the company owner was thrilled to have such a task master pushing these no-good writers so hard. There was no way that job was getting any better. It had become a full-time, employee-like nightmare — the very thing I didn’t want in my freelance business career.
I can write about it now because I’ve learned that creating your own work negates any need for unacceptable terms or work situations. But it wasn’t easy. It took strong words that were clearly out of line to move me.
We’ve all taken gigs like this, especially early in the career. Maybe you’re still stuck in a similar situation, or perhaps your client is so likable that you suffer through the abysmal pay just so you don’t have to go through the break up.
Here’s when you know that client needs to go:
When the work far outpaces the pay. When a small project blossoms into one where you’re spending the better part of your day doing work for one client and the pay hasn’t increased at all, it’s time.
When promises are broken or forgotten. Those first two months in which you’d agreed to discount your fee are long gone, yet you’re still being paid crap, aren’t you? If reminders haven’t nudged that figure up, it’s time.
When you no longer like the work. Do your shoulders drop when you see that email? Do you exhale when that calendar reminder pops up? Do you avoid the ringing phone because you just don’t have the energy to talk to that client one more time? It’s time.
When the respect disappears. Are you being treated like an employee or worse, a servant? Is the client saying one thing but expecting much, much more from you? Are you regularly fending off attacks on your own business decisions or skills? It’s time.
When the client is abusive. No one has the right to call you names, to treat you like a sub-human life form, or talk trash about you or your work. If the client rants on you ever or makes you question your own talent or your value as a person, it’s time.
When your life is no longer your own. Clients cannot demand you give up evenings, weekends, or days off, nor can they demand your constant availability. While it’s common courtesy to let regular clients know when you’ll be unavailable, it should never be a condition of your business relationship. If it is, it’s time.
Writers, when do you know it’s time to drop a client?
Have you ever stuck with a client for too long? What were the circumstances and what was your wake-up call?