Thursday, November 1, 2012

Doing Away with Vampire Clients

It might surprise you that money isn't the top priority for me when vetting potential clients.

I do have clients who pay upwards of $1 per word ... and I have others who pay no more than 30 cents per word.

Why the mix?

My first priority is always the client's interpersonal skills when dealing with writers.

In short, I don't work for vampires.

As writers, we are a sensitive lot. We're like the proverbial pound puppies that wag our tails enthusiastically and bark, "Pick me! Pick me!" to any editor that will glance our way. We're gluttons for bylines, gluttons for ego, gluttons for pats on the back, gluttons for praise. We easily cast aside self respect in favor of acknowledgement that what we cobbled together is a poetic masterpiece.

And as a result, we are a vulnerable lot.

I can't tell you how many times during my career span I have encountered really emotionally abusive editors. I'm not sure what it is about our industry that attracts this type of individual. But I have observed over and over again how writers are continually bludgeoned. And unfortunately, those who wield the power to accept or disapprove of a person's work can take an unhealthily gleeful approach to beating someone down. This has a couple of psychological effects: 1) It throws someone off balance psychologically so that they are unsure of the quality of their work and 2) It keeps someone from demanding fair compensation.

There have been a lot of times when I've recognized this happening to me personally. But I haven't always been very good at pinpointing that the issue lies with the person dispensing criticism or praise, and less to do with my personal standards of excellence and conscientious hard work.

My personal conclusion is that to survive as a freelancer in this economic climate, I can and should only work for nice people and shun the vampires.

If someone pays less money, but they're kind, that goes a lot farther with me than someone who pays $2 a word and belittles me. I have more energy to create. I have more confidence. I have more enthusiasm. I have more stick-to-it-iveness. I have more drive. I have more imagination.

And I'm more productive.

In the short term, something as little as 30 cents a word may seem less profitable. But if I'm writing for someone who thanks me, praises me, encourages me ... my productivity heightens. Suddenly, I'm churning out copy at such a rate that my typing fingers can't keep up with my racing thoughts.

I sat down and calculated whether a story at a higher pay rate would net me more financially than doing several stories paying much less. If the editor with the higher rate is, for lack of a better word, a psychopath, is it ultimately worth it to do more work for them and less for the person who is generous with appreciation and quick to pay me?


I do more work for the individual who is generous with kindness, and I'm motivated to give them a better product.

This comes down to a quality of life issue.

If you're struggling with working for someone who is treating you more like a slave than a colleague, do yourself a favor. Evaluate the relationship. If they're sucking you dry like a vampire, cut them off and move towards the people who will always greet you with a smile and a kindness.

Kindness goes a long way, and in my case, that's both in terms of emotional well being and financial common sense.

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