If I had started this blog a few years ago, I would have used it as a venue to bitch and complain about all of the people, places and things that pissed me off. At the time, there was no shortage of all three.
Sure, my poisonous thinking might’ve produced some entertaining prose, but all that soul-sucking pessimism really accomplished was to feed my overall unhappiness.
Today (thank God), the cynic in me is dead and buried, and I don’t want to use this space to resurrect her.
My life is VERY good, and I attribute that primarily to an overwhelmingly positive attitude and an optimistic faith that everything, ultimately, will be OK. All that said, I have been dwelling on one particular nugget of negativity so much during the past few months that I’ve decided to write it down here in the hopes that I can finally LET. IT. GO.
See, despite all my successes, I still get sick to my stomach every time I think about one client who didn’t pay me. In fact, I find myself yakking about it with anyone who will listen.
I don’t know if I’m looking for validation, absolution or empathy, but this one jackass and the circumstances surrounding his shirked payment are eating my lunch. And I am OVER IT.
Harboring a festering resentment is fundamentally unhealthy for this here Pollyanna. Ultimately I need to confront this person directly with a formal letter or phone call, but I’m not quite ready to do that.
So for now, I shall unload it in this space. Here goes.
Last fall, when I launched my little freelance writing, editing and media consulting business, I made a list of people who I thought would make good business contacts. I planned to reconnect with them one by one to fill them in on what I was doing, with the aim of generating some immediate paying work and future referrals.
On this list was the owner of national PR agency based in Louisville who had interviewed me for a job about six years ago when I was looking to make the switch from journalism to the “dark side.” He didn’t really have a position open, but he was kind to me, gave me some great advice and helped me hone my job interviewing skills. I was very grateful to him for sharing his expertise because I respected his work and his reputation.
Fast-forward to November of last year. I hadn’t talked to this dude in years, but I found him on Facebook and sent him a message, thanking him for his kindness all those years ago and letting him know I was gearing up to go out on my own.
He responded immediately with an urgent editing project. We spoke on a Friday, met on Saturday for less than 30 minutes to discuss the project, and I then spent the entire day on Sunday editing a 12-page, very complex, copy-heavy marketing piece for one of his clients so he could meet a Monday deadline.
In retrospect, I didn’t get a hell of a lot of direction up front, and during the process on Sunday, I got little to no feedback -- PR Guy would only text back and forth with me when I had questions; he didn’t want to talk on the phone.
When I finally sent what I felt like was the finished product back to him, I could tell he wasn’t totally happy -- at least, that was how I interpreted the tone of his texts. But his actual words assured me that he thought it was a decent effort.
It was the first time we had worked together, and it was a rush job. I bent over backwards to get it done for him quickly. Quite frankly, I was a nervous wreck from the get-go, worried I wouldn’t meet his expectations. Huh.
About a week later, I followed up with an e-mail, asking if he needed anything else. I also included an invoice, billed at a deeply discounted rate.
I never got a response. Or a check.
A month later, I sent a second e-mail, telling him I would love to work with him again and re-attached the invoice. I also shot him a text telling him I had sent the e-mail. He responded simply that he didn’t have any work for me right now. That was it. No acknowledgement of the invoice at all.
That was January. Still no check. At this point, I consider it to be a $300 lesson.
Looking back, I know I could have done a better job, and I regret that this project did not represent my best work. BUT IT DID NOT SUCK. In my heart, I know my crappy work on a bad day is better than some people’s stellar work on their best day. I’ve been doing this shit for a long time.
Sure, I know I missed a couple things PR Guy wanted, but I also could not have anticipated his editing pet peeves. Not a friggin’ mind reader here.
Instinctively, I knew he was not the most satisfied of customers, but he DID NOT SAY THAT. He led me to believe he was OK with my work. If he had said I had done a crap job and he wasn’t going to pay me for it, I would have eaten the cost. Hell, I probably would’ve offered to make it up to him by doing a second job for free.
What I wanted was to build a relationship with this guy so he would refer me to his friends and use me as his go-to girl for writing or editing projects. I’m not as angry about losing money on that initial project as I am about the potential future business that swirled down the toilet as a result.
I think I am most resentful about how this one jerk who couldn’t be bothered to confront me with his true disappointment eroded my confidence at a crucial time during my business startup. This experience made me doubt whether I was really cut out for freelance work. Or if I totally suck as a writer and editor. Yeah, it cut that deep.
My impression of this guy, as well as the opinions of friends we have in common, is that he is a bit arrogant. Plus, I know for a fact he has more money that God, so my piddly $300 is a mere drop in the bucket to him. He may know what he’s doing when it comes to PR, but blowing me off with no explanation and not paying me at least a small stipend for busting my ass on a quick turnaround is just bad business.
I don’t feel I like have the luxury of outing him by name because he’s an affluent member of the community -- no matter how big of an ass he might have been. While I already have a good reputation among those who know me, I don’t have the solid, steady book of business yet that would allow me to burn that prominent of a bridge. I don't need this dude badmouthing me to all his rich friends in the East End.
But during my most spiteful moments, here’s what I really want to say to him out loud, in public, in front of the entire business community:
Fuck you, Mr. PR Hotshot. Screw you for using your position of power to piss on the confidence of a doe-eyed, petrified new entrepreneur. Don’t you remember what it was like when you were first starting out? You were a great mentor once, and I would have valued any modicum of constructive criticism you could have given me this time, too. I could have learned a lot from you. Instead, I learned I don’t want to work with people like you.
I hope you take the 300 bucks you owe me and buy yourself a nice bottle of bourbon. And then I hope you choke on it.
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.