Monday, November 30, 2015

WAHM Lesson #986 Dealing With Difficult Clients

This disclaimer will be part of every WAHM Lesson. While these are true things that I've experienced as a work at home mom, many are written to make you laugh. They may or may not have happened in the order that they are listed. So, why is there a disclaimer? Because I know certain people that read this blog simply looking for dirt. Good luck with that. You won't find any. Go away and worry about your own life. For everyone that's here to read, learn, and laugh...welcome. Feel free to comment.

I've been really, really lucky during the last couple of years that I've worked as a freelance writer and editor that I've not had a ton of difficult clients. Clients with different opinions? Yes. Clients with different communication styles? Yes. Truly difficult? I've been really lucky not to deal too much with that. At least until recently. 

The red flags were there from the first phone call. Client was scheduled to call at a certain hour my time and did not. I went on with my day. My phone rang two hours later and I was busy baking cinnamon rolls. They sent a message essentially stating that I had missed their designated call. I responded with the truth: I hadn't missed the call. They called two hours past the time they said they would. Then, an excuse was provided: power outage. They didn't realize the time. So, I told them to call me later in the evening. I took time away from my evening plans with my friends and family to talk to this person about their project. Their reason for missing the call changed: they had simply lost track of time. Alright, fine. 

We settled on my usual rate and I was asked to provide a paid sample. I used their presentation (provided by them) and their blog (provided by them). I sent it over and a day or so later received a response that they had to "edit" my work more than they've ever had to edit anything. I found that odd. They asked for another sample. I asked that they return my work with Track Changes so that I could correct any issues needed. I've worked with several companies in this fashion and never have I had an issue. 

I looked at it earlier today when I had time. It wasn't a problem with the writing. It was stylistic changes. There was one misspelled word. There was also one sentence the person didn't like and stated they couldn't find it on Google. I can't speak for Google...especially since I'm not in the business of plagiarism. The information came straight from their presentation. Past that? It was minor stylistic changes. 

It dawned on me at that very moment that I am not the writer they need. I prefer honesty. Stylistic changes do not constitute editing. Changing excuses about missing a phone call just isn't honesty. Instead of putting my business or their time in jeopardy, I chose to end the contract. I included a note that stated we had different communication styles and I did not feel that I was the writer they needed. I gave them positive feedback. Why? Because sometimes it really just is the fact that you have conflicting work styles and personalities. It's not a huge problem. They left a little better than average feedback and included a note that "apparently" did not take criticism well and had ended the contract "abruptly."

Am I worried about how it well affect my ability to get more work? No. Here's why: I did and said the right thing. I knew that we would not work well together. Instead of making them or myself miserable, I chose to move on. I wished them well. I had nothing negative to say (although I probably could have). Also, the majority of my clients (including ghostwriting clients) are long term. I don't end contracts abruptly unless there is a reason for it. Anyone can see when they look at the feedback I provided (and the clear reason) and their response (which is essentially a decent rating and a complaint) that I wasn't the issue. 

So, how do you deal with a difficult client? Well, it depends on the difficulty. I've had difficult clients in the past. Generally, I finish the job and just don't work with them again. That's essentially what I did here. Then, it's just a bless and release. To deal with a difficult client, you find a nice way to just break it off. Even when it's not your fault as a freelancer it is generally easiest to give them the "It's not you, it's me" virtual speech. Other options, that you should only use if they are true, include offers for full time contract work and no longer freelancing. 

You can avoid this altogether by watching for the same red flags that I ignored. It's true that in the beginning that you sometimes just have to take what you can get. Most potential clients really don't act like this. Understand the difference between demanding excellence and nitpicking. I'm sought after for a reason, and the opinion of a nitpicking client really won't make or break my day or my business

Seriously, though, watch for those red flags. Also, trust your gut. I knew I should have said no and I didn't...partially because (as Bull says) I try to see the good in everyone. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Crockpot Tortellini and Sausage

I found a crockpot tortellini and sausage recipe on Just a Pinch. I've made a few modifications to it in order to reduce salt and fat.

  • 3 c. low sodium chicken, fat free chicken broth (I use bouillon granules)
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans of no salt added diced tomatoes
  • Kielbasa
  • 1 package Louisa cheese tortellini
  • 1/2 package frozen spinach
  • 1 (8 oz.) fat free cream cheese
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Oregano to taste
  • Rosemary to taste
  • Sage to taste
  • Ground thyme to taste
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Onion powder to taste
If you have Italian seasoning blend in your spice rack, you can use that instead of the oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. 

You can totally do what Just a Pinch says and dump everything into your crockpot, give it a stir, and cook it on low. I really enjoy the entire process of cooking. So, first I put in the broth and tomatoes. Next, I added the seasonings. I tasted it to make sure that I liked the amounts that I used. As you can see, I didn't add any extra salt. Kielbasa has a lot of salt in it. That, and I'm 37 and have a slight issue with high blood pressure from time to time. 

After I got it flavored the way I know that Bull and I will like it (since it's just us this week - which means I bet I have to freeze a portion), I cubed the cream cheese and added it. Then, I sliced the kielbasa. If you've never had kielbasa, look for it. You can also use Polish sausage. It's essentially the same thing. I do NOT recommend getting John Morrell. The taste isn't very good. Either purchase Farmland or Eckrich. I buy whichever is on sale. Add this to the sauce.

Next, add half of a small package of frozen spinach. You could use fresh spinach if you have it or if that's less expensive in your area. I used frozen because I never use an entire bunch of fresh spinach before it begins to turn. 

Finally, add your package of tortellini. I stirred mine to get as many of the tortellini pieces as I could in the liquid. I have mine on low. I'm a fairly experienced home I expect it to be done in about 4 hours. I do plan on stirring it from time to time. Which, if you don't know, pushes back your cooking time by 15 minutes each time you open the lid. 

You could cook this on the stove top fairly fast, too. Just boil the tortellini in water (then drain). Then, cook it with the sausage and spinach in your sauce. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Bad moods, slow times, and douchebaggery

When I woke up this morning at 6:30 am, I had three thoughts:

  1. Why the fuck is it pitch black outside? Time just rolled back. Which means that if it were last Tuesday, it would be 7:30 am and pitch black outside. WTF is this shit?
  2. Do I really have to get up and face the day?
  3. Why hasn't my husband's alarm gone off since he had a contract to attend to within an hour?
Queue the waking him up to make sure he wasn't late. He wasn't, by the way, going to be late. His alarm went off 10 minutes later. I'm not an asshole wife. I only woke him up because his alarm has this habit of not working. So weird. 

I was in a shit mood. I wasn't upset with anyone. I wasn't in a bad mood. It was just the feeling of, " we go again." Then, my husband fixed it by giving me that hug that everyone says they want on FB. You know, the one where all the "broken pieces" stick back together. And it was amazing. And I felt least, until we hit morning traffic. 

Just in case you were wondering, freelancing (self-employment of any kind, really) isn't for the faint of heart. We've been really lucky over the last couple of years. I have a pretty sound mind for business decisions. Other than the first couple of months when I started, we've been able to predict my income fairly well. We've done alright. We aren't rich by anyone's standards. Yet, we manage to keep the bills paid, the family fed, and a roof over our head. Of course, by world standards that's pretty fucking impressive. 

The last two months have been slow. Really slow. In September, we felt the pinch. No big deal. There's always a bit of a fall slump because of the back to school stuff. I don't know why. It's not me. I work just as much, if not more, than I did during the summer. I think that, in reality, it's businesses taking some time to reassess their needs now that their workforce is back from summer vacation. It wasn't a big pinch. All the necessities were taken care of. In October, it was slow again. Ouch. Double ouch when you think about the upcoming holidays. 

I took the "I'll enjoy the quiet while it lasts" approach because for me? The quiet times are few and far between. So, at first it was like a universe sanctioned vacation. Unpaid, of course. I started an art project. I did some personal writing. I just slowed down and caught my breath. 

I've always been fairly good with money. If you're not good with money, you probably shouldn't be self-employed. I've been able to make less money take care of business. So, was stressful, but alright. 

Last week, I started to panic inside. Work still hadn't picked up. My academic students already had their papers edited by me. The websites that relied on me for their editing were all caught up. Oh shit. So, I started scrambling and applying for more gigs. I landed a nice one. Of course, it's not full time work or even steady work. It's "as needed." Overall, that's fine. I love variety. 

Oh, then there was a lawyer who contacted me for writing articles for his very well to do firm. How do I know he's well to do? In addition to telling me, he sent me his website which listed all of his awards (both from the community / bar and monetary from court). So, I gave him a below average bid on four articles. It was still a good rate, a reasonable rate for me. He wrote back, "Give me your best rate." Really, dude? My life does not revolve around garage sale bargain pricing. I don't get to call my electric company and offer then $10 for my $100 electric bill. I don't get to call the gas company and offer then $20 for a $200 gas bill. That's what I wanted to say...I didn't. I responded and told him that IS my best rate. He basically responded with, "! Give me your best rate." So, I know someone that I won't be working with. Such douchebaggery. Do you think he allows clients to haggle his rates? That's a big fat nope.

Then, a week ago today I felt sick. Really sick. At first, I didn't think anything of it. Anyone with kids knows that they are walking petri dishes. Well, I was sick from Tuesday until Sunday. In the midst of that, the work from all of my clients began to pick back up. So, I went from panicking because I had practically no work to panicking because how will I ever get it done? 

So, as I sit here and contemplate if I write the four articles that are due, finish my pitch for a legal website, or edit a last minute paper...the dog has decided I shouldn't do any of it. In fact, she didn't want me to write this blog post to remind you of the instability of freelance work. 

There's no real reason for this post other than I'm killing time. I guess if you need to learn anything from what I said it would be continue to flesh out work or keep good relationships with "as needed" clients during the times you have a ton of work so that you have something to do during slow times. That worked for me for two years. I was lucky that my slow period was only a couple of months, but that still puts a pinch on things. 

Panda says HI GUYS.