Freelancing 101: Dealing With Jerks

We deal with all sorts of people as freelancers – quirky, kind, generous, thoughtful, ambitious, overzealous, naive, impressive; the list of types is as long as the list of adjectives in the dictionary.

Unfortunately, we occasionally also deal with jerks.

Recently, I was in contact with a potential client who needed  an article for his own client who hadn’t liked someone else’s first attempt. We spoke back and forth via email, we haggled over a price, and came to an arrangement. I asked for 50% upfront through Paypal, since it was our first time doing business and since I had just been burned for a large sum of money by an Upwork client who had flown the coop (more on that later). He paid it through his company’s bookkeeper and I went on my merry way, researching and writing to produce the piece, which I turned in the next day.

Like most freelancers, the two most important things to me in doing this line of work are 1) satisfied customers and 2) getting paid for my work. That’s why any work I turn in for any client, regardless of how long I’ve known them, includes some version of the sentence, “Let me know if you have any concerns or questions, I’m available via email, Skype, etc.” I want them to be satisfied before they pay me, so that hopefully one day they’ll seek me out again or recommend me to a colleague – pretty much the standard practice of every business that has ever existed.

I sent that message along with the piece, then  sent a follow-up email making sure he had gotten it and asking if he had any questions. I didn’t send the second invoice because I wanted to make sure the job was done.

His response came quickly back:

“I got it .. The client did not like it…Send the invoice I will get it paid. IDK where I will use it though.”

Well, that was a real wrinkle in the plan wasn’t it? And not the first time someone hasn’t liked my work. If you’re going to survive as a freelancer, you’re going to have to do some jobs over and sometimes your work isn’t going to be up to someone else’s standards. Clearly, my client was making overtures that he certainly didn’t feel like he owed me the rest of the money. I wrote back in an attempt to give him that out:

“XXXX, if you don’t want to pay me the other half, you can say that. We’re both professionals here, right?”

The smartest thing to do in this situation  is to let the client know that if they are unhappy, there are ways out. The client’s deadline had already passed, so there was no writing it over, but clearly he was upset. Offering him to call it quits without the second half of the payment seemed the most fair thing to do where he didn’t feel ripped off but I was still earning some compensation for the work I put in.

His response later that day:

“I dont mind paying it I was just letting you know the feedback from the client.”

No problem with that response whatsoever on my end. He was frustrated, he vented, now he’s saying he’s honoring his part of the contract. I responded that I would send the invoice along that day,  but it didn’t get paid. I emailed him the following Tuesday (June 2) to confirm he had received it. No response. I sent a similar email on June 9 and June 16 … no response.

Having already given the client an out, and getting a written confirmation that he would go ahead and pay the invoice, I felt this sudden silence was completely unprofessional, so I emailed the bookkeeper who I sent the invoices to, in order to query if she had received said invoice and if it would be paid.

To the surprise of no one, the client suddenly quit his vanishing act and emailed me back within a few hours of me emailing the woman at his company with the following:

“I cant pay for stuff I cant use. You over sold and way under delivered. If I could open a paypal claim I would.”

Total hostility and finger-pointing after 18 days of no communication, brought on I suspect by his being queried by a co-worker as to the state of the invoice. A 180-degree turn from his previous communications, and not only a refusal to pay, but a suggestion that he should contact Paypal about getting a refund for the first-half of the payment.

It’s times like these where it’s impossibly easy to write back viciously,  because digital communication can make us feel bullet-proof. Why does it matter how rude I am to this guy over the Internet? We don’t live in the same state, much less the same city, what’s he going to do about it?

It’s times like these where being a professional matters most. Because losing your cool or getting snippy can lead one client, even if he’s never going to use you again, to tell other potential clients about how unprofessional and rude you were. I could have demanded the money or given him a piece of my mind, but instead I went with:

XXXX,

Like I said on May 28, if you weren’t happy with the work, you didn’t have to pay the other half of the invoice.
to which you responded that same day,

“I dont mind paying it I was just letting you know the feedback from the client.”

Since that day, you haven’t written one word to me, despite frequent attempts on my part to make contact with you in multiple venues, until I contacted someone else in your company because I couldn’t figure out another way to get a hold of you.

Have the common professional courtesy to communicate with me like adults and resolve the problem like adults.

Sincerely, XXXXXXX”
I haven’t heard back from him since and don’t expect to. I’m still out my money and don’t expect to ever see it. But regardless of the outcome, knowing I handled myself professional from jump street to the end of this rocky relationship lets me rest easier and continue to grow my business sense with another lesson learned.

 

 

Freelancing in a Digital World … and I am a Digital, well, guy, but still

When I started Twin Miracles Editorial three years ago, most of the jobs I pursued were of the editing and proofreading variety. Why? Because we had two little babies at home, and my brain was better suited for being able to pick out comma splices and run-on sentences a lot better on less sleep than it was coming up with innovative leads, compelling copy, and majestic marketing pieces.

The Twin Miracles are now three years old which means a little more sleep for America’s No. 1 superhero, Freelancing Dad, and here lately more and more writing work has come my way, particularly in the form of creating copy and content for any number of digital technology sites as more and more people go into business for themselves as consultants, designers, and the like.

As little as two years ago, I probably couldn’t have told you jack squat about the advance of digital technology in business, but a random job copy editing for Australia’s Inside SAP (I miss working with you, Freya!) followed by a six-month stint as an editor for Techopedia opened up my eyes and got parts of my mind humming again that had previously only been used to measure out baby formula and try to remember who last pooped when.

Now the digital writing jobs are coming in fast and furious, and it’s a great time to be a freelancer as more people strike out to be their own bosses and run their own show, but still need help making it all sound sophisticated and smart to potential customers.

If you’re in the market for copy or content writing for your digital business, check out my services page for more information on what I’ve done and how it’s been received, or simply contact me at twinmiracleseditorial@gmail.com or on Skype at TMEditorial.

I wish … people could learn … to use … ellipses … correctly

I love that the Internet gives people who might never have considered writing a book the opportunity to do for a fairly low cost and fairly easily – it gives me plenty of extra work and occasionally a true diamond in the rough to be a part of.

But so many authors seem obsessed with the use of ellipses in their writing. They string them throughout paragraphs like so many Christmas lights, and clearly haven’t the faintest idea what they are doing.

In my journalism background, we only used them to express that words were being cut out either at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence.

In other written works, particularly novels, they are used for dialogue that is trailing off, for surprise or for a change of pace in conversation. Unfortunately, they are over-used, often taking the place of my favorite punctuation friend, the comma, who is vastly more economical and enjoys letting people know when it’s time to pause.

But now I see the ellipses everywhere, bulling its way into places formerly reserved for commas, colons, and semicolons, and laying havoc to any sort of thought continuity in their path like a herd of beagle descending on a butcher’s shop after an earthquake.

Please, please, dear writers, use your ellipses sparingly and correctly. I’m asking you … nicely.

Case Studies & Whitepapers: A Freelancer’s New Best Friends

One of the most exciting things about being a freelance editor and writer these days is watching businesses evolve beyond the relentless pursuit of SEO terms and page clicks.

Whereas plenty of places are still bound and determined to uncork the bottle that contain’s Google’s secret potion for search-result placement, others are realizing that the content on their websites is the #1 most important thing to visitors and potential customers, and are responding accordingly, providing them with real, original, worthwhile content that is written for an intelligent audience.

This is great news to freelance editors and writers, because many companies want outside assistance with either the writing or proofing of this content – which in many cases comes in the form of case studies and whitepapers.

For the uninformed – case studies are a bit like a clinical essay, where a company showcases its relationship with a client: the client’s needs, the process to meet them, and the end result.

Whitepapers are more of a form of general knowledge, where companies will take a problem or an an area of knowledge and break it down, most of the time without a single mention of its own relevance in said area.

In the past three months, I’ve been hired on to edit one whitepaper, then write another one – which was a great experience getting to be the guy who actually decides what it’s themes will be.

I’m also in the middle of my fourth case study gig in the past three months, this one for Sweden’s Oxford Leadership. I’d love to put up some case studies of my own, but as my fellow freelancers know, when you’re your own boss, that personal development downtime doesn’t come often!

 

The “Death” of Newspapers: 15 Years Later

About 15 years ago, every man and woman who worked for a newspaper started being told by management that the Internet was the Devil; that we would all lose our jobs because of its freedom of information distribution, and that a degree in Journalism would be worth less than the paper it was printed on within a generation.

I was working for a newspaper 15 years ago, and I heard the same fear-mongering from the leadership of our chain. Only in hindsight do I realize that they weren’t really worried about the journalists they employed, but rather their own pocketbooks.

A lot of us did in fact lose our jobs in the newspaper industry as the Internet evolved. Newspaper advertising sales dropped, classified sections became obsolete, and cash cows like car dealerships and grocery stores went online to hock their wares. But what we do – journalists, writers, editors, photographers, and designers – didn’t vanish into thin air, we just evolved right along with the Internet.

If running my own freelancing business has taught me one thing, it’s that the world needs great writers and communicators now more than ever. And that realization means that my degree in Journalism and pedigree for being able to pluck a subject out of thin air and write compelling copy about it; or take someone else’s creative work and sharpen prior to publication, is liberating, exciting, and quite frankly, one of the best revelations of my professional life.

As a newspaper guy, every year had its arc for me – back-to-school, sports, festivals, city council, school board meetings, the occasional crime wave, scandal, or election, feature photos, and try to stay awake during the summer time. It was an easy gig, but ultimately a boring gig, and one that seldom did anything to spark my passion or challenge me as a professional.

Compare that to the last 12 months, in which I have:

  • Worked with a Grammy winner
  • Reviewed a cyber-securities proposal sent to the Department of Defense and the US Air Force
  • Co-written a whitepaper on the evolution of corporate intranets
  • Served as news editor for a major education news website
  • Edited a ghost story that made quite literally jump in the build-up to the reveal
  • Dived head first into the twin worlds of SAP and BI, and ended up writing stories for a magazine whose headquarters is on the other side of the world from my office.

The Internet might have sent a whole bunch of newspapers to the morgue, but it had the opposite effect on those of us who worked for them. Death? No, the Internet gave us life.

 

Remembering 9/11: The Greatest Piece of Sportswriting Ever

This is Rick Reilly of SI’s column from 9/19/2001. From the day I read it as a 27-year-old sportswriter in 2001, I have never experienced a more powerful piece of writing – sports or otherwise.
Four of a Kind
(by Rick Reilly, from CNN Sports Illustrated, 9/19/01)

The huge rugby player, the former high school football star and the onetime college baseball player were in first class, the former national judo champ was in coach.
On the morning of Sept. 11, at 32,000 feet, those four men teamed up to sacrifice their lives for those of perhaps thousands of others.
Probably about an hour into United Flight 93’s scheduled trip from Newark to San Francisco, the 38 passengers aboard the Boeing 757 realized they were being hijacked.
The terrorists commandeered the cockpit, and the passengers were herded to the back of the plane.
Shoved together were four remarkable men who didn’t much like being shoved around.
One was publicist Mark Bingham, 31, who helped Cal win the 1991 and ’93 national collegiate rugby championships.
He was a surfer, and in July he was carried on the horns of a bull in Pamplona. Six-foot-five, rowdy and fearless, he once wrestled a gun from a mugger’s hand late at night on a San Francisco street.
One was medical research company executive Tom Burnett, 38, the standout quarterback for Jefferson High in Bloomington, Minn., when the team went to the division championship game in 1980.
That team rallied around Burnett every time it was in trouble.
One was businessman Jeremy Glick, 31, 6’2″ and muscular, the 1993 collegiate judo champ in the 220-pound class from the University of Rochester (N.Y.), a national-caliber wrestler at Saddle River (N.J.) Day School and an all-state soccer player.
“As long as I’ve known him,” says his wife, Lyz, “He was the kind of man who never tried to be the hero — but always was.”
One was 32-year-old sales account manager Todd Beamer, who played mostly third base and shortstop in three seasons for Wheaton (Ill.) College.
The rugby player picked up an AirFone and called his mother, Alice Hoglan, in Sacramento to tell her he loved her.
The judo champ called Lyz at her parents’ house in Windham, N.Y., to say goodbye to her and their 12-week-old daughter, Emmy.
But in the calls the quarterback made to his wife, Deena, in San Ramon, Calif., and in the conversation the baseball player had with a GTE operator, the men made it clear that they’d found out that two other hijacked planes had cleaved the World Trade Center towers.
The pieces of the puzzle started to fit. Somewhere near Cleveland the passengers on Flight 93 had felt the plane take a hard turn south.
They were now on course for Washington, D.C. Senator Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) believes the plane might have been headed for the Capitol.
Beamer, Bingham, Burnett and Glick must have realized their jet was a guided missile.
The four apparently came up with a plan. Burnett told his wife, “I know we’re going to die. Some of us are going to do something about it.”
He wanted to rush the hijackers.
Nobody alive is sure about what happened next, but there’s good reason to believe that the four stormed the cockpit.
Flight 93 never made it to Washington. Instead, it dived into a field 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. All passengers and crew perished.
Nobody on the ground was killed.
In the heart of San Francisco’s largest gay neighborhood, a makeshift memorial grew, bouquet by bouquet, to the rugby player who was unafraid. Yeah, Bingham was gay.
In Windham, a peace grew inside Lyz Glick.
“I think God had this larger purpose for him,” she said. “He was supposed to fly out the night before, but couldn’t. I had Emmy one month early, so Jeremy got to see her. You can’t tell me God isn’t at work there.”
In Cranbury, N.J., a baby grew in Lisa Beamer, Todd’s wife, their third child.
Hearing the report last Friday of her husband’s heroics, Lisa said, “made my life worth living again.”
In Washington, a movement grew in Congress to give the four men the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a civilian can receive.
At a time like this, sports are trivial.
But what the best athletes can do — keep their composure amid chaos, form a plan when all seems lost and find the guts to carry it out — may be why the Capitol isn’t a charcoal pit.
My 26-year-old niece, Jessica Robinson, works for Congressman Lane Evans (D., Ill.). Jessica was in the Capitol that morning.
This Christmas I’ll get to see her smiling face.
I’m glad there were four guys up there I could count on.

The Unexpected Benefit of Raising Your Freelancing Rate

OpportunitiesQuite recently, I decided to raise my hourly rate on the major  marketplace where I cultivate a majority of my freelance work. Unless you’re independently wealthy, the early times when you decide to start freelancing often involve beginning with low-paying jobs and then slowly building up to a more favorable rate of pay as your name and your reputation grow online.

With a particularly strong surge thus far in 2014, I felt justified in testing the waters at a new price, reasoning that if the work dried up or everyone was turning down my offers, I could always drop it back down.

What happened next took me completely off guard, although after a couple of days’ worth of critical thinking (usually in 20-30 second bursts between working and taking care of the Twin Miracles), I was able to come to a surprising, but extremely exciting conclusion.

What happened? The number of people wanting to interview and/or hire me for work has gone up considerably since I raised my rate. I’m not getting every job, but I’m getting considered for a lot more than previously, and often without having to lift a finger to promote myself.

Why is this happening? Because just like one subset of potential clients has a price maximum, another has a price minimum, a number they look for as a baseline for the quality of freelancer they can hire – either because of personal conviction or  because of what their company says the budget is for said project.

By moving my rate up, I now fall squarely into their search parameters, whereas before, no matter how good a job I could potentially do at a lower rate, I wasn’t even on their radar. It has been a serendipitous revelation, not only because I’m hitting and exceeding my weekly goals on a more consistent basis, but also because I’m making contact with more and more high-end clients, with the potential for repeat, long-term work.

Are you undervaluing your work? If so, stick your toe in the pool at a higher rate. You might be surprised how nice the water feels.