I do alot of writing in my modest profession. It’s sporadic but pretty steady for the most part.
Every once in awhile in a writer’s career, there comes a time when there’s that one client of so many wonderfully nice people that, well, you just can’t make he/she happy. I’ve only had that happen once in my freelance career and it hit me right in my writing gut.
It’s that one “bad apple” that spoils it all, hurts you to the core and makes a writer doubt that she/he is worthy. Those of you who write for a living or submit your work to publishers or whomever know what I’m talking about. Rejection sucks.
Not sure what made me think of that “bad apple” today but hey, it gave me a blog topic so stay with me. This was about four years ago and this person just didn’t like my work. No matter what I did.
Alan from Southern South Dakota
I’m going to call this client Alan from Southern South Dakota (A.S.S.). I’d emailed my credentials/resume to his VP and the VP and I corresponded alot before I finally made contact with A.S.S.
After agreeing on a time to have a conference call (on a Wednesday night at 7 p.m.) with A.S.S. and then V.P. calling to inform me A.S.S. couldn’t do it for another two hours because he more important things to do, I had to wait. (This was my first clue and I got a really bad feeling).
A.S.S. wanted me to write this complicated, boring newsletter about government funding stuff on some medical institutions. He finally called 20 minutes after the time he was supposed to call (from his car phone on the way to his two-hour drive to an airport) and the conversation went something like this (I’m summing up briefly here).
A.S.S.: Well, caaaaa (that’s his cell phone cutting in and out and car noise), I’d like it to caaaaa, encompass, caaaa the particulars of caaaa this and that. And you may want to research caaaaa and……)
Me: Pardon, did you say….?
This excruciating conversation went on for an hour and a half. I was frantically taking notes, recording and trying desperately to understand what he was trying to say. When I’d ask a simple, direct question like:
Me: Would you like the tone of the newsletter to be….?
He would answer this way:
A.S.S. I don’t know, surprise me, you’re the writer.
The next day I had to have conference call with MR. MEDICAL VP, that A.S.S. had arranged so that I could get his opinion on some other boring stuff. I had pages of notes and recordings to weed through plus research and statistical stuff. Argh-h!
I finally got the rough draft ready, emailed it to A.S.S. and called him at a time that was most convenient for him.
A.S.S. You’re mixing stats here. This isn’t good. I don’t like the tone of this at all.
Me: I see what you mean about the stats. I can fix that — this is only a first rough draft. What don’t you like about the “tone.” Can you be more specific?
A.S.S. You’re the writer. It just doesn’t read like I want it to. Why don’t you give it another try and email me tomorrow. (He said this while yelling at some other poor worker bee).
Me: Well, okay…did you like how I brought up what MR. MEDICAL VP said about blah, blah, blah?
A.S.S.: Yeah, I guess that’ll do. Still, I just don’t like the tone….
The following day was spent rewriting, editing and finally emailing A.S.S. the next rough draft. He sent me a scathing email about how I just didn’t get it and he’d find someone else. He then told me to bill him for my time.
I did. I copied the nice VP who I’d made contact with to take on this nightmare gig in the first place.
A.S.S. emailed me back quickly with a If you were more worried about writing than you were getting paid, you might have been able to produce the tone I wanted.
My head nearly exploded. A.S.S. did pay me for my time though (so he wasn’t all bad or maybe he was having a bad day or maybe four years ago my writing really did suck) and the nice VP sent me an email thanking me profusely for my time and my “utmost in professionalism.” He even threw in he was very impressed with the writing he’d seen. I’m pretty certain he’d had a few run-ins with A.S.S. himself.
Moral of the story: No amount of time/effort/hourly rate is worth working with an A.S.S. that you just can’t please.
What’s your bad apple story? — Share please.
Press play below. This song has been stuck in my head all day (since 6 a.m. this morning) and I’d like you to share in my misery and get it stuck in your head.