An American Editor

December 26, 2018

On the Basics: Rudolph and Business Savvy

Filed under: Business of Editing,Editorial Matters,Financial Matters,On the Basics — americaneditor @ 3:13 pm

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

The incessant, inescapable strains of “Rudoph the Red-nosed Reindeer” this past few weeks made me think of contemporary concerns such as bullying and related concerns, but also … business.

Bullying, exclusion and diversity because of the actual language and context, of course: The other reindeer “never let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games” because he’s different. And our editorial businesses because of how Rudolph is suddenly the star — in demand — when his different-ness is needed.

The Rudolph of song and story is a good sport and happily, even eagerly, saddles up to guide Santa’s sleigh without a murmur. We don’t know how his fellow reindeer treat him after his big night — whether he remains part of the crowd or finds himself back in the corner when he’s no longer needed. Or even whether he gets some extra reindeer chow from Santa for coming through in a pinch. We can hope there’s a happily-ever-after, although my observation of much of human nature and behavior tends to make me skeptical.

What about that business aspect? I see Santa’s request for, and the other reindeers’ acceptance of, Rudolph’s special characteristic when they face a crisis as a version of the clients who only want us when they’re desperate — and even then, don’t actually value us. Many of us accept the equivalent of “Santa came to say, ‘Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight’” — last-minute requests, rush requests, requests over a weekend or holiday, requests for added content; crazy deadlines, offers of low rates, projects that “creep” beyond their original scope — for a variety of reasons: ingrained instinct to be accommodating, pride in our work, need for getting-started projects/clips, desperation for income …

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being Rudolph in any of these situations, and agreeing to whatever insanity they impose, but we also have to remember that we’re in business. Even though it can feel good to save the day and rescue the project or client, situations like these create stress, often unnecessarily, and can hold us back from financial success by wasting our time and energy on projects that don’t generate enough income for the hassle they involve. They also keep us from going after or doing projects that might pay better, or at least involve less aggravation.

We have skills that deserve respect. We have experience that deserves respect. We have training that deserves respect. To quote the immortal Aretha, R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

I’m not advocating alienating clients by Grinch-ishly or Scrooge-ishly turning down such requests for editorial work. (Wow, this holiday season offers more metaphors than I realized!) I’m just saying we might want to be more discerning, more discriminating, about how we respond to them.

For one thing, when the client needs you more than you need the client, that’s the time to charge more for your editorial services. Politely, pleasantly — but firmly.

For another, these are also the times to reexamine these client relationships (I hope you don’t have more than one client who treats you like Rudolph, if any). Have you been working for the same rate for more than a year? Have you ever charged a rush fee? Have you charged a late fee when you went beyond expectations but the client didn’t bother to meet yours for timely payment? Have you said no to an unreasonable deadline or a low-paying project? Now is the time to craft some policies along these lines.

The new year is also the ideal moment to think about these situations ahead of time and prepare responses that can become your default answers to such demands (and demands they usually are, as opposed to polite requests), so you aren’t blindsided if they crop up (and they will). For those who don’t appreciate and respect you, and only ask for your help on the editorial equivalent of “one foggy Christmas Eve,” it’s time to set a firm policy of rush fees, sticking to original deadlines or even (gasp) saying no. They might merit a holiday greeting card if they pay well enough to make the hassle they inflict worthwhile, but otherwise, I’d drop them from the list.

For the clients who value your contributions, services and skills year-round, this is the time to send a thank-you gift of some sort to show your appreciation for their business, if you haven’t already done so; it needn’t be big, extravagant or expensive, but it should happen. Even an e-card can have an impact, especially on clients who might be on the fence about continuing to work with you for some reason or whom you haven’t heard from in awhile. Many colleagues have said in various forums that sending a holiday greeting (or a vacation announcement) has led to at least one new assignment each time from a client who hadn’t thought of them until the greeting/announcement arrived.

Let us know how you handle unreasonable requests from clients, old and new, and keep from being treated like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. And here’s to being treated with respect in the new year — we are professionals; hear us roar!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, and companies worldwide. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues. Ruth can be contacted at Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you, this is so helpful for a relative newbie like me!

    Like

    Comment by Marieke Krijnen — December 27, 2018 @ 5:05 pm


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