Freelance writers seem to come in two varieties: generous folk who operate under the abundance theory of business and who want to help other writers, and cutthroat morons who give the rest of us a bad name. Here are seven examples of the evil side of freelancing.
- Publicly badmouthing companies/editors/etc. when you’re not hired or when you’re fired. Warning other writers about a bad situation like a scam or nonpayment is a nice thing to do (though it could have legal ramifications that you will need to discuss with your lawyer). The only thing you accomplish when you publicly rant about how stupid your client/editor/whoever is and how you’re so SMART and they’re LOSERS who don’t know what they’re TALKING ABOUT is making yourself look like an unprofessional, petulant brat. Throw in a comment about how they’re “not getting enough” when they let you go or decline to hire you, and you could even be as memorable as this guy. Talk about how to make sure you never get another job for them or anyone associated with them! And if you post your rant in a blog, forum, MySpace bulletin, Twitter update, or other publicly available media, way to let the world know you’re a sore loser. Righteous indignation is one thing, and it’s possible to be indignant without being obnoxious. But being a baby is completely another. Heinous.
- Visiting other writers’ blogs for the sole purpose of harassing them and/or making trouble. Respectfully disagreeing with a blog post or sharing a differing point of view is what the blogosphere is all about! But heckling other bloggers is rude and it definitely doesn’t make you any friends in the freelance writing world. Again, you just look like a moron, and you create a public record of your stupidity for all the world to see. This also applies to e-mailing people angrily when they do or say things on your blog or elsewhere related to their freelance writing business that you just don’t like. Heinous.
- Visiting others’ blogs for the sole purpose of promoting your products and/or services. Being a spammy commenter is possibly more obnoxious than being a mean commenter. MY blog does not exist to promote YOUR product for free, and you can safely assume that other bloggers share the same opinion of their respective blogs. That’s why so many people sell advertising. So how do you comment appropriately? Michael Martine of Remarkablogger has a good explanation. And he’s also fed up with comment spam, and even updated his comment policy because of it. Twice. Spam = heinous.
- E-mailing the poster of every Craigslist/Guru.com/Elance.com ad that you think is offering compensation that’s too low. It’s one thing to say something polite like, “You might have better luck with this ad if you try [area that's know for lower rates],” but even that is pushing it. A genuine question, like, “Did you mean for the decimal point to be in a different place?” is okay if you really mean it and aren’t just baiting the poster. But under no circumstances should you send a diatribe to some random stranger on Craigslist because you can’t keep your snotty comments to yourself. If you’ve done it in the past, stop now. It’s tempting — good Lord, it’s tempting — but grow up. Go apply for an ad you’re interested in instead of making freelance writers as a class look bad. You’re only hurting yourself. And if you really, really can’t take it, go over to Craigslist Curmudgeon and get your fill of snarkitude there instead of creating more yourself. Heinous.
- Flagging or otherwise deleting a job ad, or badmouthing it, after you’re responded to deter the competition. This is a new concept for me, but the comment trail on one of Deb Ng’s recent job listings at FWJ clued me in to this particularly heinous practice. The commenters were disappointed that a particularly appealing Craigslist ad had been flagged and was no longer available for viewing. Said commenter Errika, “Some moron jack-a$$ flagged it. This flagging system by CL has got to go. What complete moron came up with this program that allows self-appointed do-gooders to take it upon themselves and decide an ad is illegit? Or maybe that person flagged it to knock out the competition.” BooBoo responded, “I’d definitely say it was flagged to knock out the competition. I try to visit this site early and copy ads into Word specifically for that reason.” Huh. Who knew? Heinous.
- Bugging your writing pals for work when things are slow and never (a) saying thank you or (b) reciprocating. I suppose if I gave you a multi-thousand-dollar job and you reciprocated by sending one back my way, I wouldn’t be too bothered if you forgot to say thank you. But if you neither thanked me nor reciprocated in any way, or if you got mad at me when I asked you for lead, I would never want to help you again. Do it often enough, and you’ll burn all of your freelance writing bridges. Go, Team Henious!
- When someone does give you a referral, do a bad job or otherwise embarrass them and make them regret helping you. This is kind of a corollary of #6, but it deserves a mention all its own. Imagine recommending a colleague to one of your favorite clients, giving the colleague your seal of approval, and then getting an angry phone some indeterminate time later with your angry client on the other end of the phone because the person you recommended and you vouched for blew the gig. No, it’s not technically your fault, but that doesn’t mean your relationship with your client can’t still be irreparably damaged. Don’t accept a referral if you don’t intend to follow through and do a good job. Yes, we all screw up (and when you do, apologize genuinely to mitigate some of the heinousness, and feel bad enough about it not to do it again). But when other people’s reputations are on the line, it’s a whole lot worse than when it’s just you. Heinous.
Freelancers who (a) believe they are God’s gift the written word, (b) think other people exist solely to serve them, and (c) feel compelled to make things more difficult for others because they lack confidence in their ability to succeed without sabotaging the competition are the ones who make up the truly heinous group of freelancers who are the minority but seem to be the ones at the forefront when dealing with the public, especially online.
What heinous freelance writing practices drive you crazy? Leave a comment.
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