Happy Thanksgiving!

image courtesy of Sue Junky via pixabay.com

Yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving, and, even with smaller celebrations at home, most of us are rushing around, trying to get other people’s work finished today so we can take a breath tomorrow (and maybe even over the weekend, if we haven’t begun the decorating frenzy).

Breathe today. Take what pleasures you can in staying home tomorrow, and construct the day so it pleases you. Let the day sustain you, instead of running around trying to make it fit an outdated social construct of what it should be.

This year is about survival, good health, and small pleasures.

I wish you peace, joy, and a lovely meal of whatever food you wish!

I’m Not Begging You For work

image courtesy of Gerd Altmann via pixabay.com

Perhaps it’s because so many people are unemployed, so many employers are feeling smug. Or perhaps the HR departments simply don’t care any more. But there’s an unfortunate trend in expecting talented candidates to return to a company again and again to beg for work.

Yet companies complain there aren’t enough talented/skilled workers out there, which is simply not true. Companies are driving them away during the initial screening process – a longer post on this is in the works.

One of the most annoying paragraphs HR sends out to potential candidates is the “keep checking our careers page and apply to us again.”

No, honey.

YOU are supposed to be Human Resources. That means, if you do your job well (and yes, I’ve worked in human resources, so I actually know how to do this job and have done this job), your mission is to find talented people whose skills will lift the company to the next level. If you get more talent than openings, you court those you can’t hire in the moment, so when there’s an opening, you already have relationships with skilled workers and can bring them in.

You HAVE the candidate’s resume, work samples, references. Chances are, you’ve spoken to them a few times. In preliminary interviews.

Now, it is YOUR job to remember them, remember their talents, keep in touch or respond pleasantly if they choose to keep in touch with you, and YOU contact THEM when there’s an opening. Not expect them to start at the beginning of the process again.

That doesn’t mean you don’t post the job again and perhaps find even more skilled talent out there who wasn’t available/didn’t hear about it/weren’t looking the first time around.

If you are actually in HUMAN Resources, and not just trying to fill a compliant body into a company slot, you’re constantly trying to find great talent for a company in which you believe. When you find it, even if you can’t hire that individual at that moment, you make sure you keep track of them so you can hire them the next time or two down the road.

You DON’T expect a talented, skilled candidate to wait around refreshing your page once a week and beg for another chance. A truly talented, skilled candidate will move on to a company – and an HR department – who actually values the resources that make them a good HUMAN investment for the company.

Skill and talent are ALWAYS in demand.

Don’t lose the best candidates because you can’t be bothered to keep track of talent. No company is that busy and has that much talent knocking on the door that they can’t keep in touch with great candidates. If you don’t have a system that works well to do so, then change your system.

Better yet, create a new one, patent it, sell it, and train others to use it.

Remember the HUMAN in “human resources.”

If you don’t treat your talent well, no matter what the field, the talent will gravitate to those who do.

Does Everything Have to Be a “Call to Action” or an Advertorial?

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This is not a rhetorical question. I’m genuinely asking what you, as freelancers, businesses, and consumers feel about this.

Why do I ask? Because I’m tired of every piece of whatever I’m reading lately making a demand.

We’re in a pandemic.

Sometimes, I want to read something and, you know, get INFORMATION.

Instead of reading information, but being told that if I want the REST of the information, I need to buy another book/product/article/whatever in order to get it.

In other words, instead of the author of the nonfiction writing/marketing/wellness/business/whatever book giving me the information promised in the title and the blurb and the marketing materials, I get a portion of the information and have to buy another book or product, because it only does a portion of what was promised.

You know what? That makes me angry.

It ranks right up there with those webinars and “courses” that promise to teach you something, but are actually elongated commercials to buy something from the presenter.

If it’s a course, TEACH ME something (other than I was a fool to sign up for it, and now you have my email and send me marketing crap every day).

If it’s a book that’s supposed to provide information, provide it.

When I like the writing and feel that I’ve gotten something out of the book/course/newsletter/whatever, then I will continue to the back of the book and look for information on other materials or products by the author.

Because I’ve had a full meal in the author’s restaurant of ideas, and now I want to be a regular.

The craft and the skills of the author, the actual content of the material are what encourages me to buy more. NOT a promise that what I really want will be in the NEXT thing I buy, that then only gives me part of something to lead me to the NEXT book and so on.

When I want to read a series, I turn to fiction, and I like it when each book is part of a bigger arc, yet stands on its own. For non-fiction, I expect it to deliver on its promises.

When there’s an advertorial in the midst of the text, I am turned off. Maybe I’ll finish the book. Maybe I’ll put it down right there with the thought that all the author wants from me is my money, and it’s becoming an unbalanced transaction, because I’m not getting worth out of the money and time I’ve already put in.

Not only that, I stop trusting the author or the company. If the only intent of this piece is to get me to buy more, and not even pretend to give me value for money, why would I keep putting my money here? And how can I trust what is said, when its only purpose is to get more money out of me?

Hmm, maybe it IS teaching me something – not to spend any more money on this individual’s work or this business’s product.

Yes, I’ve been to all those seminars and chats where the marketing “guru” insists that EVERY web page, every newsletter, every transaction needs a “call to action” to convert potential audience into actual audience into customers.

I’m HIRED to get a lot of those conversions.

But we’re in a pandemic, people, and the way we market needs to change. Hundreds of thousands of people are sick, grieving, unemployed, hungry, possibly losing their homes.

When all we are is predatory, we DESERVE to have them turn away, and we DESERVE to lose them permanently, even when things start to even out three to five years or so down the line (and that’s if we get the sane one elected next week).

When every interaction is ONLY about getting more money out of me, and about nagging me for it, I back off. I walk away. I cross that author/business/person off my list. I don’t like to be nagged.

I like to be invited. I like to be encouraged. I like to be seduced.

Not forced.

Not screamed at.

Yes, businesses have to work harder to stay alive. But remember that PEOPLE are working harder to stay alive.

As you craft these strategies, look at it from the other side of the equation. If someone came at you with the techniques you are using, would you engage? Or would you slap it down and walk away?

I am disengaging with more and more businesses during this pandemic because of the nagging and the screaming and the constant “me, me, me” from them instead of an approach of, “you know what? It all sucks right now. How about taking a breath and taking a look at this for a little distraction?”

Not the “I’m so glad you’re here and thanks for your money and yes, I’m talking about x, but if you want the y and the z I promised in my marketing materials, here’s the link to buy some more.”

Deliver on your teasers.

Invite and engage me.

Cut the nagging.

Don’t demand I DO MORE every time we interact. Sometimes I just want to read something complete to fully enjoy it. Then I want to go away and think about it for a bit. Then, I will come back and buy more.

If you demand an instant response to your “call to action” you are telling me that you believe I am such a moron that I can’t hold a thought in my head for more than 15 seconds, and if I don’t do what you demand in this second, I won’t remember you.

I’ll remember you just fine.

But I won’t return.

How do you feel about incessant “calls for action”, advertorials within text, and daily nagging emails demanding purchase?

Ink-Dipped Advice: Don’t Treat Your Email List Like They’re Idiots

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How I respond as a consumer/recipient often informs how I advise clients in their marketing campaigns. Of course, I do research and use data. But if I find something repugnant, chances are a large portion of their audience will, too.

Email lists are a wonderful marketing tool – when you treat the recipients with joy and respect. But more and more email blasts do just the opposite.

Using the Same Subject Line With Different Attributions – Every Day

This has been one of the fails in a lot of the political fundraising emails in this cycle. Saying “I want to meet you (name) and then pretending it’s come from a celebrity who is part of a fundraiser.

First of all, I worked with actors for decades. I’ve met and worked and enjoyed creating with many of them. The ones with whom I stayed in touch know how reach me legitimately. I don’t swoon for celebrity. Second, as someone who has written some of these fundraising emails, I know the celebrity didn’t write the email, so pretending to personalize it like that is simply insulting.

Third, and most importantly of all – don’t send the same subject line and place different celebrity names on it. Not only does it make you look like trash, it insults me and suggests you think I’m such an idiot I won’t notice.

“I Don’t See Your Name Here”

There’s a quick way to make sure I delete the email without reading it and unsubscribe.

If you “don’t see my name” for whatever it is (a retreat, a conference, a petition, whatever), it’s because I CHOSE NOT to be a part of it.

Emailing me daily that you “don’t see my name here” is nagging me. I have enough on my plate without being nagged.

Buh-bye.

Bullying

Bullying tactics don’t work on me. I deal with bullies in real life by pounding back at them. If I’ve joined your email list and you try to bully me into doing something, I’m gone. You’ve lost me from whatever product or cause – permanently.

It’s a pandemic, asshole. We all have far too much to deal with every day just to survive.

Bullying tactics will do the opposite of engaging me and making me spend money or do whatever it is you’re trying to get me to do.

Emailing Too Often

Don’t email me every day, unless it’s a daily news whatever and that’s what I asked to be on. If you email me every day trying to sell me something, even if I’ve been a regular customer, chances are good I will both unsubscribe from your list and stop buying your product.

Product emails? No more than once a week. I prefer once a month.

Information emails? Once a week, unless there’s some daily blast I’ve requested for a weird reason. If you’re sending me an information email, make sure it’s actual INFORMATION and not just an advertorial. I write both; I know the difference.

Constant Upsell

Yeah, I’ve been to those workshops and webinars, where they tell you that EVERYTHING needs to have a Call To Action attached.

I disagree.

I prefer to be invited to experience more. When it’s an invitation instead of a demand, I’ll pay for it.

When it’s just “buy, buy, buy” it’s time for me to say “Bye bye.”

Email and online marketing has become even more important during the pandemic. But the smell of desperation is a way to turn away your audience instead of to grow them, and treating them like their idiots is not the way to build customer loyalty or interest.

Invite, engage, entice.

Seduce.

Don’t batter.

What email marketing techniques are driving you nuts lately?

Ink-Dipped Advice: Positive Career Re-Shaping

image courtesy of Free Photos via pixabay.com

I realized that last week’s post was more tied to the piece I’m working on about how employers are driving away the skilled workers they claim they want than actually about re-shaping my career.

I’ve re-shaped my career often. I’ve made my living in the arts since I was 18. Sure, I took temp jobs and office jobs in between, and even earned rent a few times betting the horses out at Aqueduct. But the bulk of it was in the arts, and the arts were always my focus.

Any job outside the arts ONLY served to get me through until I had another job inside the arts that paid me enough to live. Then I quit the other job.

If the job got in the way of the career, the job was eliminated when I got a good career opportunity.

A PAID opportunity.

NOT an “exposure” opportunity,

Remember, people die of exposure. Insist on the cash.

I started in lighting, for theatre and rock and roll. I wanted to work more closely with actors, so I moved into stage management.

From stage management, I moved into wardrobe (so I wasn’t on call 24/7 and could have a life and keep writing – through all of this, I always wrote).

I stayed, happily, in wardrobe, working my way up to Broadway, until I started aging out of the physical demands and decided I wanted to leave while I still loved it. I watched too many people age in the jobs, afraid to leave, in pain, unhappy, and bitter. I didn’t want to be one of them.

I moved away from New York to a place I’d always loved. Unfortunately, it’s a place that supports the arts in name only.  They love it when prominent artists come in to visit and do special programs and have second homes here; they don’t believe artists in their community deserve a living wage to do what they do.

I took a job that I thought would be a dream job, but turned out to be a two-year nightmare, with a boss that loved to sabotage anything I did and daily told me that “something” was wrong with me. Because anyone who disagreed with her must have “something” wrong with them.

Still, when I was fired from that job (technically, the position was “eliminated”), I was devastated. I’ve only recently realized how deep the psychological damage is. The boss tried to break me; she didn’t succeed, but it will take a long time before the wounds are just scars.

I went back to a local theatre for a quick summer gig – bad situation in a lot of respects, and woefully underpaid, but still worth it.

Then, I worked to rebuild what I wanted and needed from my career, focusing more on business and marketing writing, which I enjoy. I love to work with people in different fields who are smart and passionate about what they do, and I love to communicate that passion to engage a larger audience. I find it joyful.

All of this time, I was still meeting contract deadlines on books, writing new books, switching publishers, attending and/or teaching at conferences, writing plays, writing radio plays, and so forth and so on.

I found some local clients, and did a mix of onsite and remote work, although, writing-wise, I firmly believe the writer does not need to be in someone else’s office.  Many were one-and-done, some because that’s all they needed; others because they balked at paying, insisted I work onsite, but would not provide me with a professional working environment. A laptop on a board set over two overturned oil drums is not an acceptable desk.

I spent more and more time with clients farther afield. I put a lot of miles on my car, driving for in-person meetings all over New England as I pitched across the country and the world. Interestingly enough, it was easier to land international remote clients when I lived in NYC than where I live now. Part of that is the current political situation, because more and more international companies don’t want to work with Americans right now.  I worked with a mix of profit and non-profits. I worked with solopreneurs and artists. Still writing novels, plays, radio plays. I took the bus into Boston more often.

I was actually willing to set up a regular commuting situation into Boston, even though it meant being up by 4:30 in the morning to be on a 6:15 bus and not getting home until 10 or 11 at night. Boston is only 65 miles from here, but the commute can take anywhere from 2 to 5 hours in each direction, depending on traffic.

On the bus, I could write my 1000 words a day, and read the books I was sent for review. I couldn’t do much more than that, but the clients who paid appropriately for my skills were in Boston, not where I am.

I was at that turning point earlier this spring – ready to commit to ridiculously long commuting hours for at least the next year or two.

Then, the pandemic hit, and we were on Stay-At-Home order. Let me make this clear – people are dancing around talking saying how we were in “quarantine” – we were NOT. Here in MA, it was a stay-at-home order. Yes, offices and stores and libraries and museums and performance venues and schools were closed. But we were not quarantined, and there was no enforcement. We were encouraged to only grocery shop once every 14 days, but we weren’t FORCED so to do. There was (and is) a mask mandate in the state, which too many people ignored, and more and more are failing to fulfil.

The positive part of the pandemic was that, for those of us who already worked remotely, at least a good portion of the time, and for those who prefer it, it proved that working remotely is viable for many “office” jobs.

Now that they’re forcing us back out, without a plan, to Die For Our Employers, those of us who can work well remotely and got a lot of push-back for it are re-shaping our careers so to do. We’re supported and encouraged by those who have worked remotely full-time for years.

It means I can re-shape my career yet again. I am more productive, more creative, and more focused in my home office. I have it set up for maximum benefit, in a way NO office in this area has ever served. (I admit, I’ve had some pretty sweet offices in both New York and San Francisco).

It also means I can live anywhere I choose, as long as there’s a good internet connection – and one I can afford.

When I worked on Broadway, I had to live in a commutable distance from Broadway in order to work there. When I moved, it was a conscious choice to move beyond a commutable distance, because I knew I wouldn’t really give it up unless I couldn’t physically get there.

I’m also looking at different types of work.

I write.

I’m not a graphic designer, although I can put together ads and social media posts. I work WITH graphic designers well. So when I see a listing that tries to give the position a fancy title, but really wants to save money by hiring one person to do two or more jobs at less than that one person should earn, I skip it.

I’ve managed plenty of teams – I’ve been a wardrobe supervisor, I’ve been a production manager in both theatre and film. I can manage a full production, so managing a content calendar and other writers is cake.

But I don’t necessarily want to.

I want to write stuff.

Given the right circumstances, environment, team, and, most importantly, PAY – yes, I’d be a manager. But a lot of different factors would be involved. There are theatres, arts organizations, and museums for which I’d be willing to work onsite, once it’s safe so to do. It won’t be safe for a good long while, especially with the way the numbers are going up.

I’m more cautious about working for non-profits. When I worked in NY and SF, I often temped or even long-term temped at non-profits. They were run like businesses and understood that you pay for the skills you need.

Here? The constant dirge is “you should be honored we demand you to work for free.”

Um, no.

Some positions that I would have thought were fun and interesting and exciting even a year ago no longer grab me. They contain elements on which I no longer want to spend time. That’s nothing against the companies – they need what they need. But it means companies to whom I would have sent an LOI or a proposal packet even a year ago are no longer on my list.

I grappled with this for a few months. I felt that I was failing, that I was “less than” or that I was being lazy.

Then, I realized most of that was the voice of the toxic ex-boss still running a subscript in my subconscious.

People grow and change, and so do their careers.

It’s not a failure.

It’s a natural process.

Growing and changing is a positive, not a negative.

It doesn’t mean you have to start in the mailroom and wind up as an executive. It means you add skills and credentials and experience, take that, and CHOOSE what and where you go next.

Yes, there’s an element of privilege in that choice, and our current government wants to make sure we have NO choices and are the peasants to their feudal lords. Which is another reason we need to get out the vote and overthrow these dictators-in-training.

But deciding to take one’s career in a different direction is not a failure.

It means you are integrating all of what you’ve done, learned, and experienced, and turning it into something wonderful. It doesn’t have to conform to someone else’s agenda or convenience. It means you’ve outgrown where you are and it’s time to move on.

It also means that when you find that next career situation, you are more productive and engaged, which is better for both you and your employer.

One would think/hope companies would be excited to find enthusiastic, engaged workers rather than someone who just shows up every day.

You look at your life and decide what you want and need. Work is such a large part of our lives that how and what and where we work factors in a great deal.

Maybe you can’t change your situation today. But you can start figuring out what you want and need, do some research, and take small steps regularly.

Small steps lead to big change.

That’s a good thing.

How have you re-shaped your career?

Room to Re-Shape One’s Career

image courtesy of FreePhotos via pixabay.com

Yes, I’m back. I’m still working on the article about how companies are driving away skilled workers, even as they scream they can’t find them. But I didn’t want to be off this blog for too long, and there’s something else I’ve been grappling with and coming to terms with over the past weeks that I decided to share.

I noticed, as I research companies with whom I might like to work, that I’m drawn to different areas that I was eight or nine months ago.

More and more often, the title of the job turns me off. I don’t even need to read the description. Or, I get about two paragraphs in and say, “Nope. This isn’t for me” then click away and move on.

When a company genuinely captures my attention, whatever positions they claim to look for, I dig into the research, find the right person, and send an LOI, telling them why I think I’d be a good choice for their company, either for a particular project, or in general.

I wrote a guest post a few years back about not waiting for the job you want, but creating it.

In the past couple of years, I’d moved away from that, but now I’m going back to it.

The layers between the people one would actually work with have become more convoluted. Notice I say “work with” and not “work for”. That is deliberate. I’m not at the start of my career. I am interested in “working with” even when I technically have a boss.

The issue of layers is especially deep when third party recruiters are involved, which is something I go into the other article I’m working on for this space. I have to say, all of the third party recruiters I’ve encountered in the past ten years have been a waste of space, and have certainly wasted my time (and therefore, I’m sure, the company’s time). As I track the listings for companies using third party recruiters for the past year or so, I notice they fill a job, and then a few short months later, they’re looking again to fill the same job. I suppose that keeps recruiters in business, but it doesn’t do the client companies much good.

As I noted above, I’m looking for something different now than I even was at the top of the pandemic. I’m more focused, and less flexible. Part of this is due to a recalibration of what I want and need out of my work; part of this is that I am not twenty begging for my first job, but someone with decades of experience and skills. I no longer have an interest in working FOR a company that does not value either of those, by underpaying me or by trying to shove me into a position that’s more about work no one else wants to do than about my skills.

The SEO keywords used in the position descriptions are just as likely to turn me away from a company as engage my interest.

(This article turns out to be tied to the one I’m still working on, about companies driving away skilled workers).

But even when the descriptions are accurate and the company is interesting, there are roles in companies that no longer interest me, even though they used to.

In the past, if I was interested in a company, I was willing to take on tasks out of my wheelhouse in order to expand my skills, or do something that’s uncomfortable if they agreed it was temporary. Of course, it never is; once you take on more than your job, it becomes your job. But if I overall liked and respected the company’s mission and vision, especially if it was a nonprofit, I was more likely to accept a broader range of tasks.

That is no longer true.

I know what I want my tasks within a role to encompass. If the company is trying to cut corners by hiring one person with strong skills in one area, but minimal skills along a wide range of areas instead of multiple skilled individuals, that position – and that company – is no longer a good fit. Because let’s face it, most companies WON’T train, no matter what they promise. They expect you to figure it out on your own without additional compensation. Usually on your own time.

At twenty-three, it was an interesting challenge, especially if I thought I had a future with the company.  In theatre jobs, I was always willing to take on more, because I knew the theatre was my career, and I would progress. I did. I made it to Broadway.

In non-profit work, I often took on extra tasks because everyone was working flat out more hours for less pay. But after awhile, there’s burnout. Resentment builds, no matter how committed one is to the mission, because that way of working is unsustainable.

Boundaries need to be set going in, by both parties, held, and respected. Most managers will keep assigning as many tasks as they can get away with, no matter what you agreed upon when you started.

As a freelancer, it’s often easier to hold and set boundaries. I have a contract that spells out boundaries, payments, etc. When scope creep threatens, I can point to the contract and say, “Sure, I’ll take that on; this is how much it’s going to cost.” I can also say, “That’s not part of the agreement, no.”

But as I’ve been researching a putting together LOIs and pitch letters to companies these last months, I’ve noticed what keywords turn me off instantly, or, as I read a description, I realize, “no, that’s not for me.”

At first, I was worried that I narrowed my options. I could hear the toxic reprimands we’ve all had at times: “You need to be a team player” or “Where’s your commitment to the company?” or “You need to take this on right now to get us through this rough patch” or “How can you succeed if you won’t do what’s needed?” or “Your job is to make me look good.”

Notice all of these are demands. None of them are questions to negotiate or navigate new needs as a company grows and changes.

They’re about guilt and manipulation rather than problem-solving, which is unsustainable.

 I’ve since made peace with it. Trusting my gut has always been the best choice. I’ve paid for it every time I let myself “logic” a way out of what my gut told me.

As a professional, I’ve grown in skills, knowledge, experience, over a wide range of topics. Some of those skills I enjoy using; others were hard-won and are painful to implement. Why would I make choices that increase my pain load instead of choices that make it exciting to get up in the morning and get to work?

We all hit periods where we have to take whatever’s offered in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. But we keep growing, searching, changing for what is better for us and for our situations.

It is okay to discover that what worked for you five years, ten years ago, or even ten weeks ago, no longer does. That knowledge gives you a foundation to make new discoveries and make decisions based on what makes your life better.

Liz Ryan, at the Human Workplace, emphasizes how we are the CEOs of our own companies. That’s so important to both remember and to implement. Right-to-work means companies have made the choice their workers aren’t worth loyalty. So workers need to make the choices that serve their lives best.

How have you found what you want and need from your work evolving over the past months?

Ink-Dipped Advice: Grief to Art launched

Instead of the usual advice post, I want to share information about the new Grief to Art site.

One of the difficult aspects of the massive loss of life from the pandemic is that there is no site for collective mourning. I hope this will help start the healing process.

It is currently open to submissions of photos and short anecdotes of lost loved ones, from COVID-19 and beyond. You can find guidelines on the Submissions page of the site.

Please share the links and information to anyone you know who is grieving and might find this a step in the healing process.

Thank you.

Controlling Scope Creep

image courtesy of GLady via pixabay.com

Freelancers talk a lot about “scope creep.” That’s when a project starts with one set of parameters, and they keep expanding.

One of the joyful parts of creative collaboration is how a project grows and changes. When you’re writing a musical, it’s one thing – you have a development process, you’re being paid for the changes along the way, and your goal at the end is to have a viable musical where people walk out of the theatre humming the tunes, buy the CD, and sing it in the shower for the foreseeable future.

To get there, you need the project to grow and change.

But the “scope” and the vision are there from the beginning, and is covered by your contract.

There – the contract. That’s how you control scope creep.

I’m seeing more and more job descriptions stating “tasks will be added as needed” or “this description in no way encompasses all the tasks the job entails.”

Why not?

Why aren’t companies being upfront about what they want in the position?

Two answers:

The first is that the person who wrote the description has no idea what the job actually entails, which is common.

The second is that the company wants the option of dumping whatever they want into the position whenever they want, without additional compensation. Which is not acceptable.

As a freelancer, you have the protection of your contract. Because, as freelancers, who set our own hours and meet deadlines, we work on contract (or letter of agreement), which gives us protections that a salaried employee often does not have.

Contract Provisions

Your contract can protect you from scope creep.

Your contract will grow and change as your business does.

After your initial conversation with a new client, when you are setting terms, take some time and think about the parameters of the project as discussed, potential direction for “scope creep” and how much each direction will cost. Then, put those possibilities into the contract.

For example, I have a clause in the contract that states I include two rounds of revisions in the scope of the project; additional revisions are at an hourly rate.

When I receive the second round of revisions, I send a reminder that this is the second round of revisions, and anything beyond that will be at the hourly fee.

Often, far too often, I get this response: “Oh, this isn’t really a ‘revision.’ It’s just a few tweaks.”

No, it’s a revision. Changes are revisions. I have had clients where I actually put the definitions of “revision” and “tweak” in the contract.

Dates and Turnaround Times

I put in turnaround times for revisions, too. If I hit my deadline to turn in material (and I do), the party on the other end needs to get back to me in X amount of time with any revisions. Projects can’t drag on interminably, so a series of dates within the contract is vital:

–Deposit is due on X date

–When deposit clears, I start the project

–I get my first portion done on Y date

–Notes/revision requests are back to me by Z date

–My next revision is due on L date

–Response is due on M date

–Final work is due on N date

–Acceptance or additional requests for changes is due on O date

–final payment is due on P date

–late payments are changed with R fee, cumulative every 30 days (I start late payments at 20% of original fee)

Longer projects may have payments broken up over three, four, or even five dates. If payment doesn’t arrive on the date, work stops on the project until payment arrives.

“This is business, not personal” works both ways. Far too many companies expect you to take their business personally as far as emotional investment at higher stakes than they do, but if they default on payment or otherwise treat you poorly, it’s “just business.”

Works both ways.

Change of Direction

I also have a clause in my contract about “change of direction.” If a project changes direction from our initial agreement (and the parameters are listed in the contract), I have a clause that lists the fee. Sometimes it is necessary to come up with a new agreement, if the change of direction is going to change turnaround dates and deadlines.

Late Fees/Rush Fees

I have a clause for late fees. Late fees (more than 30 days after original due date) are at 20% of the project fee, cumulative. Which means if it’s 60 days late, it’s the original fee + 20% + the total of that.

Rush fees are for work turned around in less than three business days start at $35, depending on the project’s complexity, and whether I can move other work around or just have to stay up extra hours and push through.

I do make an exception on rush fees for script coverage, because industry protocol is often one or two-day turnaround.

When the Client Provides the Contract

In some cases, the client provides the contract, read it over. Negotiate changes. Remember that the first contract either side offers is the start of the negotiation. So yes, when I provide a client, often I will hear back on points the client wants to negotiate. I can decide if I want to change the contract to meet their request, meet them halfway, or walk away.

A client who offers a contract needs to expect negotiation on changes. If they won’t budge, decide if what they demand is worth it to you or walk away. Many magazines won’t negotiate their contracts for freelance writers, so again, you have to make the decision if having the byline in that particular publication is worth any aggravation caused by the contract.

What About Job Descriptions?

As we’ve discussed over the past weeks and months, the pandemic is changing the way we work, which can be an improvement. We, as the people actually doing the work, have to make sure that we help shape new work styles.

I’ve seen an array of articles in publications such as THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, BLOOMBERG, and FORBES pushing the negative aspects of remote work. Remember, these businesses are trying to protect their standard way of working, and how they see their bottom line affected. Far too many companies have useless middle managers who try to micro-manage and terrorize their “teams”.

There’s plenty of work that does not need to be done in someone else’s office with the countless interruptions and managers “checking up” on you every five minutes. I know I am far more productive in my home office. I need large blocks of uninterrupted time to be my most creative. I have set up my office to support the peak of my creativity.

There’s not a cubicle on the planet that could provide conditions even close.

Negotiation

If you are looking for a job as a salaried employee, you still have the right to negotiate. For decades, companies have pushed the toxic narrative that they get to decide everything and employees have no say in it.

Remember: companies need employees to do the work. Otherwise, their useless middle managers, or maybe even some executives, would have to do the work their damn selves.

Oh, horrors.

They push the “if you don’t take this, we’ll hire someone else.”

Go ahead.

Don’t be afraid of AI, either. That’s another narrative they push – that soon, jobs will be replaced by AI.

There are plenty of jobs that could and should be replaced by AI, especially repetitive ones. That frees creative human beings to learn new skills, to find their passions, and to do and create work that no robot could ever come up with.

With all the wonderful resources such as Coursera and FutureLearn and other online learning opportunities, people can try out different arenas and find their passions.

Yes, you might have to accept a drudge job in the interim to pay the rent and bills. But make sure it’s temporary.

When I made the commitment to a life in the theatre, I took temp office jobs as a way to keep a roof over my head between shows. But I stuck to my commitment that, if a corporate job got in the way of a paid theatre job, I ALWAYS quit the corporate job. Even knowing the theatre job was transient. That made it possible for me to work my way up to a career on Broadway.

If I’d stayed in a corporate job out of fear, I would have always been a “wanna be.”

Instead, I DID.

So, when you are in negotiations for a job, make a complete job description part of it.

You can choose not to answer ads that include language indicated scope creep. Or, early in the interview process, you can ask for more definition.

The other thing you can do is ask for a contract, rather than being an at-will employee.

There was an article on line (I’m not sure if it was BLOOMBERG, I think it was, or FORBES) touting hiring freelancers as the wave of the future, because then companies don’t have to pay for office space, health insurance, or benefits and can save money.

What they neglect to explore in the article is that savvy freelancers, with the level of skill many of these companies are looking for, will charge enough to cover those expenses.

And savvy freelancers work on contract, which means they’re not “at will” and can’t be just let go any old time the company feels like it. There’s usually a clause in the contract about how to end the work relationship if it doesn’t work out.

If there’s room for scope creep in the job description – negotiate it.

If the job description says you have to have certain computer hardware or software or phone or any other equipment – either the company pays for it/provides it and it is exclusive to the work you do for that company, or the company provides you a kit fee that covers the wear and tear on your own equipment.

If the job description demands that you have “reliable transportation” or a driver’s license – sweetly ask what kind of car they provide.

Negotiate.

Negotiations aren’t just about money.

We will talk about that in a future post.

How do you control scope creep? What points do your contracts over?