“Law 5 – So much depends on reputation – guard it with your life.” – from ‘The 48 Laws of Power’ by Robert Greene
I learned a very valuable lesson recently. Don’t ever compromise on your integrity when dealing with clients. If you have a certain base rate, don’t under price yourself – ever. Don’t do it even for friends. And if you give your word, then you have to deliver on that word – on time and on budget.
Recently I had a client that I was not too fond of. The job at first, though low-ball amount per article, was not unbearable. What turned me off more and more about the job is the number of cooks the initial client I spoke to, also had in the kitchen. That these other ‘cooks’ were across the world thought they, too, were my boss. And then there was the rather grating cultural and language barrier really got on my nerves. The article assignments when I received them, were patronizing. “Article must be original, informative and interesting.” Since I cut my teeth on news writing, blogging, and fiction writing, being informative, original and interesting were all a part of the deal! Someone insisting on adding these requirements to each and every email really made me crazy. What was more, the sender had the temerity to give me a word count and the entire email was in broken, grammatically inccorrect English. My reaction every time an email landed in my inbox was on the verge of becoming downright visceral. Nevermind the initial client said to just blow off the wording, his other cooks were like robots but I answered to him did not help matters at all.
As a result, I found myself procrastinating at every available opportunity when I should have been writing. I would suddenly need to go to town and get groceries, or refinish my kitchen cabinets, or go buy 2 x 4’s so I could finish my basement. Though I was encouraged to use sites such as Pinterest to get ideas, I found myself looking up things that I was interested in far more often than for the work I was doing for the client.
These endless diversions became a habit. I was engaging in very bad behaviors that were not “me”. Some of those behaviors were now including being late on work that I did care about from people I respect. I used up my monthly allotment of internet usage (25 GB per month) after 10 days in my quest for escaping the client. I ended up having to work at the ungodly and certainly inconvenient hours of 12:00 to 5:00 AM when the internet went to free time. It makes for a really ragged sleep pattern, sore muscles and a client who is less than satisfied.
All of this resulted in letting down one of my colleagues that I do care about . The task was simple enough, write four articles on the topic and get it to her by the weekend. I didn’t make the goal. And when I pinged her on Google chat, she quite rightly was miffed. To put it bluntly, I got reamed over it – and she called me out on both the behavior and my lame ass excuse of being tired. Quite rightly she said;
“Clients don’t care if monkeys fly out of your ass and steal your laptop! You absolutely have to deliver on time! “
She was and is absolutely right. That kind of b.s. behavior that I was doing is how writers lose jobs…and they don’t land new ones. I stared down at my steaming plate full of crow and realized that I had quite frankly, fucked up.: Big time.
As the executive producer for a college news cast, I rode the asses of my crew to get things done on time. As I was taught, you are expected to be ON – on time, no dead air, mind on task, and to be on cue and not miss those cues. Those that don’t realize that this is a business and being business-like at all times is what separates the professionals from the wannabes. I was acting like a wannabe – and I knew better, because professional behavior was my reputation. I would never have accepted that kind of behavior from anyone on my news / studio crew. I would have quite probably given an even worse reaming than I was getting. I had become, in my egotistical self-righteousness, an asshole copywriter. I was acting like a hypocrite and I was definitely not happy with myself.
I apologized, and I must say that during the conversation wth my colleague, I fully expected to be handed my walking papers. The good news is that my apology was accepted and I still have a job. The bad news is that I am sure she will think twice before offering me things again. All I can do is attempt to never be late again on any agreed to job, be true to my word and never attempt to make another excuse for anything again.