Many become a freelancer to escape corporate bull: incessant meetings with no real purpose, a lot of ‘pretend work’ with no real value, strict hierarchy. But sometimes you can combine uncertainties of freelance lifestyle with the worst of corporate hell. I’d like to tell you my story – with tips on how to avoid my mistakes.
When I just started blogging, I found a client online. It was a marketing company, which hires freelance writers on a case-by-case basis. I worked with one friendly editor, let’s call him Mark, and liked the experience – the topic was fun, the deadline reasonable. The company also provided a free proofreader and a decent pay rate for a beginner; then paid promptly. What’s not to like?
Then the company disappeared for a year. In the meanwhile, I had been working with online businesses, where the owner hires the writer directly, and my pay increased several times.
This time, Mark contacted me and promised me at least four blog posts on a corporate blog and a possible long-term collaboration with a client. The client’s website had some translated content, although with a few typos, which I kept silent about – it’s a bad idea starting a new relationship with pointing out client’s mistakes. I did not negotiate the price because I expected at least the same pay as during our first contract, which was just about the minimum I was prepared to accept.
Tip 1: Do not assume that you know the contract conditions; get them in writing before committing.
After I had accepted the gig, the client demanded a conference call at a specific time, which due to the time difference was in the middle of my working day. I agreed and took a day off work. The account manager, let’s call her Jill, cancelled the call 15 minutes before it began without apology or explanation. I asked to reschedule to any day EXCEPT the next Tuesday. She scheduled the call on Tuesday. After further rescheduling, I had the call, which lasted 30 minutes and did not give me any more insight into what they wanted beyond the brief I’d had already.
Tip 2: Negotiate a possibility of extra work in advance.
Mark wrote to inform me about the posts price, which was minimal, and less than I got a year ago. He also informed me that the client didn’t want even a mention of negative information. It was supposed to be an ad piece masquerading as an info blog. I tried to pull out of the project. He called me – trying not to leave an email trail, I think – suggesting that I could add “research hours” to the price. Still remembering the good work of yesteryear, I decided to stay.
I submitted my first two blog posts on time, and Mark accepted them. Buoyant, I wrote to Jill proposing a media campaign beyond the corporate blog and got a very angry email from Mark saying I went above his head.
Tip 3: Work with your point-of-contact, as you don’t know the corporate structure.
I realized the difference between an owner-client and a corporate client. The former is happy to hear your ideas even if he doesn’t agree with them. The corporate people care more about their hierarchy than product improvement.Corporate Blogging Hell! -- and how to avoid it @mstislavl Click To Tweet
Tip 4: Leave any follow-up ideas until the end of your gig.
The client didn’t like the pieces. Somebody in their company, who speaks the same language as the posts (my native language), said that they were “written in a weird language, probably a dialect”. Mark told me that my by-line would be removed, and I had to do two pieces at twice the word count in 12 hours – for the same price. This sounded like the client tried to make the price even lower at my expense. I pulled out of the contract and hope never to hear from them again.
Tip 5: Cut your losses as soon as possible.
Giving in to demands probably means more demands and worse working conditions. Treat a bad client as a bad boyfriend: there are plenty of other fish in the sea, and a bad experience makes a great anecdote. Or a blog post.