|Dante's circle for unscrupulous businessmen|
As a general rule, I don't do paid work for friends and family. My experience is that they expect too much for too little, and emotions play too much of a role — i.e., they're lousy clients.
But in late fall, during a slow week and as a favor to a family friend, I took on a referral for writing the content for a small website. The owner seemed nice enough, her website was ghastly, and she needed a few business letters written. I offered a modest bid. Which she promptly accepted.
The two business letters were the top priority, so I promptly and heavily rewrote what she'd sent me, and she signed off on them after a round or two of revisions. So far, so good. I commenced on the website copy, and she seemed to be happy with the initial two pages.
She's an event promoter, so the remaining items were brief summaries of the various events she handles. And that's where things got sticky. It turned out, there really wasn't any source information on the events other than what she'd posted in previous years, and some of the events had no information at all. So, I asked if I could interview her in order to gather some raw ideas about what she wanted. She was unresponsive. I MacGyvered it as best I could, but she wanted more and fresher information. I reminded her of my offer to do it interview style, and again, she just seemed more inclined to grumble than to help me help her.
At this point she wanted to know exactly how much her tally was. I provided a summary, subtracting out what she claimed was unusable. She asked me to send an invoice, and I did.
Then I didn't hear from her. Then I sent a second notice, and a polite email asking when I could expect payment or if she'd like to break it up into two installments. No response.
Fast forward to yesterday. I called her, and again, as politely as possible, inquired about the status of the invoice. At which point she informed me:
- She had to heavily rewrite the letters I'd given her (which was news to me, since she'd approved them)
- She had to rewrite the copy I'd provided for the web page (which was an outright lie, based on comparing what I sent her to what's currently posted on the site)
- She had shown my invoice to another writer she knows (!) who thought that it was too high (unsurprising, given that the other writer charges her about half my hourly rate)
I've already wasted the time, no sense in wasting further mental energy, and the piddling amount isn't worth pursuing legal action. Even after full-time freelancing for almost 12 years now, evidently I occasionally need to re-learn stupid mistakes in order to remember them. Tattoo it on my butt and carve it on my tombstone: No more friends and family clients.