From time to time, I freelance. Lately, I haven’t thanks to a consistent part-time job, but sometimes, when I’m feeling adventurous (or poor) I’ll pick up a gig. I much prefer the consistent part-time job these days even if it has nothing to do with writing, because it actually pays. On-time. Every pay day. I don’t have to hunt it down, make angry phone calls and send letters threatening legal action just to get paid for work I did. Which costs me even more money. It just magically shows up in my checking account each month.
This tale is something I’m confident any freelancer can relate to as they’ve likely experienced it, especially if you’re just starting out and haven’t quite learned how to spot the scammers. You learn after the first few times you get screwed.
Since I’ve been personally screwed several times, I’ve become quite good at spotting when someone is avoiding me. These are the people who somehow don’t see my email until three days after I sent it, even though I sent a response minutes after they emailed me. I mean actual, literal minutes. Time date stamps are funny that way. It’s the person that says they didn’t have access to their email because they were out of the office then forget to delete the “sent from my iPhone” at the bottom of the response.
I’m sharing this information not just to be helpful, but because I’m sitting here waiting for someone to call me back about something important (but not about money since this had nothing to do with a freelance job). It’s about a personal matter but I’m dealing with a public agency and (potentially) elected officials.
It’s a really long story, but I get the impression that the entire office has been instructed to gently ignore me. A month ago I contacted someone about an issue I noticed and I wanted to know how I could get it fixed. I went back and forth with the contact person for a while and ultimately, she was rude. I was waiting for a response to my question but she never responded to me so after a week of waiting, I wrote an e-mail to her boss (not knowing who else to go to at that point. I wasn’t trying to escalate anything. She wasn’t responding so it seemed like the next logical step).
I was passionate and logical in that email. I feel strongly about this issue. I was also wordy (because I’m a writer and wanted to make sure they understood every point) so it was about 6 pages long. And included pictures in case my words weren’t strong enough. It’s important to me, in case that wasn’t clear.
A week went by and the Assistant Supervisor person emailed me back basically stating she was now the point person on this matter. Great! I emailed her back 9 minutes later (time date stamp, you know) to state I was available that day (Halloween in case you care) at 2:30 and she could call me back at a particular number. I rushed home to take her call an she never called. OK. Technically she never confirmed. It happens.
Then, she emailed me Sunday night and said, “Sorry, didn’t see your email. When can we talk this week? I’m at a conference Monday and Tuesday.” Fabulous. I emailed her back right away and told her any time on Wednesday. She never responded. OK. I’m not thrilled about that. So, Tuesday morning, I emailed her (knowing full well she was at a conference) saying, “Want to confirm we’re on for Wednesday. What time?” It’s about 10:15 Wednesday morning as I type this, and I have no email response and no phone call.
I get that she’s busy, but so am I. I’m not waiting by the phone with baited breath over this. Because, for starters, I’m not 16 anymore. But these tactics (because I don’t know what else to call them at this point) seem startlingly familiar. See above where I described clients who are trying to avoid paying me.
Anyway, I’m debating calling her right now just to say, Hey, I get you’re busy but when can we talk? Doesn’t have to be right this second, but I’d like to nail something down so I’m not wasting every one of my day’s off waiting on you. But, I worry that I’m crossing the line. I’d even consider another email saying “Hey, did you get my last one, what’s up?” But I worry that’s pushing it, too. And, once I’ve crossed the line to “crazy ranting person” they won’t take me seriously and nothing will be accomplished. Except I’ll be labeled “that crazy ranting person.”
The 6 page letter I had sent was beautifully written (if I may say so). But, it was also very direct. I wanted to let them know up front I wasn’t willing to negotiate and that I was very angry about their decision. Also, how their office then chose to handle the situation was less than stellar and a bit offensive. I’ve been nothing but professional and respectful, but I’ve also been very direct. And I know this can be very off putting (that’s a thing, right?) to some people.
However, the flip side of me is saying that she’s using the non-paying client tactics and I should say “screw it” and call her. Because it’s clear she doesn’t want to actually talk to me and deal with the situation. Particularly because I told them I won’t negotiate. (Side note, the reason I wont’ negotiate is there can’t be any give or take in this situation. It’s impossible. It’s not like buying a house where I start at one price and you at another and we try to meet in the middle. This is an all or nothing situation, just because of what it is.) That’s not a pleasant thing to have to face. I know because I’ve been in her position, dreading making that phone call. Which is why I’m trying to be nice about this, but it’s been going on for a month and I’m wondering if they’re hoping I give up and stop trying, even though I told them that wouldn’t happen.
So, I’m sitting here, waiting, even though I’ve got stuff to do, and wondering when being “aggressive and tenacious” becomes “please don’t call us again or we’ll get a restraining order.” I should probably get in the shower, because you know that’s the exact moment she’d call. Sadly, I’m beginning to think my day will consist of sitting here, waiting, stewing and getting annoyed.