The Scourge and Sweetheart

It’s a good thing I don’t often lose my temper but recently I had every reason to blow my top. Instead of doing that I decided to write about it and seek out reflection and answers to a commonplace problem in business.

I am an author, editor and writers workshop facilitator who encourages those who want to write in every genre, with all the help they need. In many cases, it’s because my clients want to write articles for the newspapers, magazines or even develop a book. To start from scratch without any training is impossible. With encouragement and edits it’s probable. With hard work and support it often comes to a happy ending.

Given the number of  tasks I must perform to help them reach their goals, I charge a reasonable fee. Based on what I have learned from those  who coached me in the first place, I know what I am doing is making my clients happy and often satisfy them with their ultimate success.

That was until the “Ultimate Scourge” entered my life.

It all seemed so lovely at first. The woman who is an artist and an author needed a new website, so I recommended my own daughter who creates websites, business cards and logos for those who want a professional look. 

Needless to say, I had no trepidation about recommending her as she had created many other one of a kind styles for several of my students and many others I do not know.  Best of all, these elements gave each client’s work a distinctive look.

“The Scourge” sent my daughter a wealth of information to include in the project and she asked for more artistry to be added to what was already there. Needless to say, my daughter researched, drew and incorporated everything into the site with no apprehension.

Then she asked to be paid by invoice.

No contract or set fee was discussed as art and artistry is not something that can be billed in hours.  That’s when “The Scourge” send half the amount due and said that if my daughter didn’t spend so much time researching, that’s what the cost would be. In response, my daughter wrote a kind letter back explaining in detail what she had already accomplished, and that the research was necessary to complete the project successfully.

The partial fee from “The Scourge” that was grudgingly sent to my daughter sat in a PayPal account for almost a month with no communication between the two of them.  My daughter didn’t want to take partial payment. That’s when I suggested that she take the money and learn that there are always people who undermine others with their bad debts.  This one was a doozy.

Unfortunately, I had already begun the Scourge’s edit on a 90,000 word tome that would soon be ready for shipments to agents.  It was boring, tedious and needed a tremendous amount of copyediting that took a great deal of work and patience to liven it up.

I also started to send cover letters and parts of a proposal to a number of agents for “The Scourge.”  The combination of work took incredibly long hours to complete, and I was charging far less than was due, knowing what she had done to my daughter. I was too late to get out of this deal since I had invested so much time in it already.

When I sent her an email with an invoice attached, she ignored it. Now I knew that she was pulling the same stunt on me that she did to my daughter. So I called her, and she told me she couldn’t afford to pay my already reduced fee for the work that I did thus far, and she wasn’t going to take money out of her “investment account” to do so. Besides my computer was slow, she complained, thereby holding up the works.

Too much research? Slow computer? Are these reasons to argue the amount of the fee?

That’s when I wrote the following letter:

I never had any sort of confrontation with any of my writers throughout the years that I’ve been working.  That’s why I find our disagreement quite wrenching.  The people with whom I work have always been treated with respect and friendship as I have treated you. I have never had to demand or expect a  written contract as my clients know that what I provide is my time, effort and knowledge. I do not  sell an object like a sofa which you pay for up front. Nor do I supply cable service, electricity or gas.  People do, and always pay me up front and come forward with additional payments as the work proceeds. It is not my business to know where your money comes from for payment. I just take for granted that when someone uses my services that they have the money necessary to cover the expense. I am incredibly surprised at your reticence to pay forward, or on time. I have often had to dig deep myself to pay for services of various  types, rather than have a misunderstanding of this sort. I would like to continue to complete my work with you if you are so inclined.  If not, I’d like to know when you can pay me for the agent’s approaches, now near a dozen, and the edit that is almost complete and get past this misunderstanding.  With sincerity, my best to you, Linda

So far, I have not received a response and I am holding the work I have done hostage and refrain from pitching to agents on her behalf.

Will she send me a fraction of what I earned in order to get the work I had done for her? Will she put an integer of it in PayPal and let it sit until I agree to take it to complete the process?

Not this time.  I have a great deal of completed edits and books she gave me to do the job and I guess I’ll hold them hostage.

On the other side of the coin, I have a client who for many years has tried to write a great essay but didn’t understand the process, or where to send it for publication upon completion.

She turned to me to learn how to make her story come alive and I helped her rewrite the work, then suggested an excellent magazine that was virtually made for her work.

We spent several hours to tighten up the prose and change names of the people on which the story was based and then we sent it out. She asked me how much I charged for this effort and I told her without concern because it was clear to me from the beginning that she would be happy to pay for her success.

And her essay was immediately accepted by the distinguished magazine and she was ecstatic and grateful for the time we spent together that lead to her success. Not only did she pay me immediately, but she booked time with me to write another essay for publication that she had begun to work on already. She also said I charged too little for all the work I had done to help her achieve her goals.

This client and her responses are a typical example of what I have been used to in my line of work. Most people come to me on recommendation as these two women did, but only one played fair.

What do you think I should do about “The Scourge?”  Should I continue to bill her for time spent or should I let it go as a bad investment of time and never see her again?

What would you do?