Beware Doing “Favors for Friends”
If you’ve ever worked as an independent contractor, you’ll understand the scenario I’m about to describe. You run into someone, maybe during the course of another job. You talk briefly, exchange information, and that person calls you a few months later. They’re offering a job, a small one, but the money’s not too bad so you take it. And it turns out to be a first-class, pint-sized nightmare. The person calls every day after they confirm that you received the money, which you asked for up front since the job was too small to warrant the usual payment options. They continually rush you, and what began as a small, easy job, something you’d imagined to be nothing more than a simple exchange of services, morphs into harassment that makes you want to scream in frustration. There are three things that you can do.
Set the parameters, better late than never. Outline the methods of contact and what you will do by what date. I had to tell the person not to contact me after 10 p.m. and to use e-mail, not the text-message function on my cellular phone, since this costs me money. Establish an end point for project completion. Get all pieces as quickly as possible so that you can set the final date to pass off the project as finished, and be crystal clear about what you will do. If you don’t want to handle something, say so straight out.
Be professional. It was so tempting for me to scream at this person, back off! But I held my tongue. I wanted to ask this person what on earth made them think it was okay to rush me for the pitiful amount of cash they’d invested. But I bite down on all personal feelings, and focused on getting the job done as quickly and as neatly as possible. I focused instead on the lesson learned: Make no assumptions, and assess pre-job whether or not the juice is worth the squeeze. Ideally, get all deadlines and establish the work plan in its entirety before you agree to take on a project. It’s tougher with small jobs, but beware what looks simple. Invest time and thought no matter what the size of the project.
Be prepared to send the money back and cut your losses. If it comes down to it and the person won’t abide by the rules that you’ve set for the relationship, be prepared to send their money back, sans nuisance fee of course. When it’s your name and your professional reputation on the line, only you can determine what kind of treatment you’re willing to accept on a job. I personally will not be rushed. My skill is one that requires a significant attention to detail, and that means time and patience while I craft and tweak and check and everything else that’s part of my editorial process. And beyond that, I’m not going to allow anyone to ride me beyond the boundaries that I decide are acceptable. Period.