Sunday, June 11, 2006

"He's very fussy about his drums, you know. They loom large in his legend."

The Movie: A Hard Day's Night, 1964 (Alun Owen, screenwriter; Richard Lester, dir.)
Who says it: George Harrison as George, member of a popular rock group
The context: George warns against the mistreatment of a set of drums belonging to his bandmate, Ringo (Ringo Starr)
How you can use it: When someone's being a little self-defensive.

I always say that the key to success is finding a way to make money off your most unattractive personality traits. Being the Answer Girl allows me to support myself as a compulsive reader and insufferable know-it-all, and most of the time, that's a good thing.

The problem with making your personality your profession is that it gets very hard to set boundaries. Because there's no natural boundary between what I do and who I am, sometimes I feel like I'm working all the time, and sometimes I get really, really tired of myself and the sound of my own voice (aloud or on paper).

One of my clients called my mobile phone at 5:30 yesterday afternoon, looking for feedback on five chapters that had been e-mailed to me on Friday afternoon. I managed to tell this person, "I'm really trying not to work weekends -- can we talk about this on Monday?" But I couldn't stand fast. I let this client keep talking, and wound up promising to read the chapters that evening and get some notes out before the end of the weekend.

I understand this is all my fault. Clients call me on weekends, at night and on my mobile phone because I let them. I've been too much of a wimp to draw boundaries and enforce them.

So I'm drawing them now. Better late than never. It's going to hurt some feelings, but that's part of the problem; some of my clients are also my friends, and it's not that I don't want to talk to them -- as friends -- at all hours. But I have to have some time that I am simply not available, or what's the point of living in a small town in the middle of nowhere? The alternative is getting a job in Antarctica and disappearing altogether for six months, which I fantasize about far more often than is healthy.

As part of this, I'm going to quit posting or replying to e-mails from clients on Sunday. It's a beginning.


Jim Winter said...

I get aggravated when anyone calls after 9. That was something I was brought up on.

However, in a local group I'm part of, there is a woman, retired, who for some reason will only make calls after 11 PM. And her reasoning is that's when SHE is available, because she's out from sun-up to sun-down working hard for this group. Therefore, so should we who have day jobs. And she seems to think this silly writing thing gets in the way.

I left that particular chapter for one at work, where occupational contraints demand a set of boundaries.

Tom Ehrenfeld said...


Great post, great position, and naturally great line. Ah, Hard Day's Night....Sorry we hurt your field mister. You should be out paradin. He's very clean!

I just went through a week of coaching my Mom, who was offered work at rates that are significantly lower than the fees she now commands. But she liked the idea of the job. I advised her to absolutlely refuse anything that didn't pay her going rate unless there were very strong compensatory factors, which in this case there weren't. She turned down the job. And eventually they came back with a much higher offer. Enough that while it wasn't her normal rate, the gig made sense.

I think you should set boundaries with a vengeance. Educate your clients how good, and how valuable you are, which you are. I've had to go through this process myself, and it takes a really long time--but eventually you hit a place where you get this disembodied impersonal outside sense that you're doing good and valuable work, that there's a market for it that actually pays X amount, which is what you charge. For me the key was to stop thinking about the size of the bill I was presenting to clients, and thinking instead about how much "value" I was creating for them. Hate that cliche but it really did shift my thinking.

Okay, sorry to ramble. Now, to circle back to the lads, Give us a kiss.

JIM LAMB said...

When he gets back, I have to get Ed to read this post. He is already making noises about getting paid too much for something so easy.
He just finished a column from hell that may have changed his mind about how easy it is to write WELL and how much it's worth in real money.

Anonymous said...

Writing what I write -- trade news for pharmacists -- is easy. I just had trouble with my last article because my first draft was well over 2000 mostly crummy words, and I would only get paid for 1200 good words. After about two full days of writing and rewriting (truly, about 16 hours), I got the article into pretty good shape at 1675 words. I figure my client will still pay because part of what's contributing to the excess is their official company line(s).

I won't talk money explicitly, but my article fee will amount to right around what was a week's pay when I was doing the same exact writing as a salaried employee of the client in question.

So allow me to clarify that I have said in wonderment, not effacement, that I can't believe my freelance rate is what it is. I'll always take more than I was ready to ask for. And a week's pay for two days' work is alright in anybody's book.

Clair: Stick to your guns on not working Sundays. And remind any clients who don't respect your time that you do actually know how to handle guns.


mernitman said...

Mister, can we have our ball back?!

God, I'd forgotten what a font of great lines is found in that film; thanks for the reminder.

And I second everyone's thoughts on keeping your Sunday sacred. You need a little silent time in the Church of Lamb.

jmansor said...

Great quote! Great movie!