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Posts Tagged ‘clients’

Anxiety is toxic and contagious — chill out!

In aging, behavior, blogging, books, business, journalism, life, urban life, US, work on May 5, 2014 at 12:06 am

By Caitlin Kelly

 

You have no excuse to bully others. None.

You have no excuse to bully others. None.

 

Last week brought two unprecedented experiences in my 30 years as a freelance journalist.

Two editors each apologized to me by email. One had driven me nuts with micro-managing while the other snapped my head off verbally and hung up on me for daring to (politely) argue my point.

Yes,  I could have shrugged it off. But I didn’t.

Being repeatedly subjected to others’ anxiety and unmoderated rage leaves me shaking head to toe.

When I told a third editor — also a veteran of our industry — her reaction shocked me a little, because such incivility is something we’re all just supposed to ignore and shrug off.

“You’re lucky,” she said. “Many people would not have apologized.”

Why is it our job to absorb, ignore or deflect your toxic anxiety?

People in my industry, and in many others, are running so scared that many are behaving like terrified toddlers lost in a sea of unfamiliar knees at Disneyworld.

The sexy new word for this latest debacle of American employment-at-will — (i.e. they can fire you anytime, anywhere for any reason at all. No reason, even! And the law makes it impossible for you to sue or claim redress. Yay capitalism!)precariat.

From The New York Times:

Thirty years ago, a vast majority of Americans identified as members of the middle class. But since 1988, the percentage of Americans who call themselves members of the “have-nots” has doubled. Today’s young people are more likely to believe success is a matter of luck, not effort, than earlier generations.

These pessimistic views bring to mind a concept that’s been floating around Europe: the Precariat. According to the British academic Guy Standing, the Precariat is the growing class of people living with short-term and part-time work with precarious living standards and “without a narrative of occupational development.” They live with multiple forms of insecurity and are liable to join protest movements across the political spectrum.

The American Precariat seems more hunkered down, insecure, risk averse, relying on friends and family but without faith in American possibilities.

Here’s a link to Standing’s 2011 book, which I want to read.

In my industry one-third have lost our jobs since 2008, most of which are not coming back. So those left employed are clutching their staff positions like a drowning man with a life-vest. They’re freaked out by anything or anyone that threatens their hold — literally — on the upper middle class.

I get it! A midlife, mid-career drop in income is deeply unpleasant.

But this widespread free-floating work-related anxiety feels toxic, whether coming from other freelancers — some of whom seem to tremble in the corner most of the time, persuaded they have zero bargaining power, too terrified to negotiate better rates or contracts — or bad-tempered staff editors.

My recent eight-day working trip to Nicaragua, even working long days in 95 degree heat, was totally different. We were treated with kindness, respect and welcome.

It made me viscerally understand that many journalists (many workers!) are becoming accustomed to being treated rudely and roughly.

That’s crazy. And I came home with a much clearer sense of this.

So people, it’s time to get a grip on your anxiety:

Meditate. Move to a cheaper place. Do whatever it takes to lower your living expenses. Work three jobs if necessary, and bulk up your savings so if you get canned or face a dry spell, you’re able to manage.

It’s time to stop flinging your anxiety (aka shit) at those around you, in some desperate attempt to offload it onto those in even more precarious situations — like unpaid interns and your army of freelancers, none of whom can even collect sick pay or unemployment benefits.

We’re already stressed, too!

images-1

 

We are not monkeys in the monkey house.

Negotiating — every freelancer’s challenge!

In behavior, books, business, culture, life, Money, work on July 13, 2012 at 12:02 am
Freelancer (video game)

Freelancer (video game) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)very single new client means a new set of negotiations. Your ability to negotiate will make the difference between surviving and thriving, intellectually, physically, emotionally — and financially.

I began selling my photos when I was 17, and my writing when I was 19, so I’ve been at this for a while. I also grew up, as I’ve written here before, in a family of freelancers. No one had a paycheck or pension, just their talent,  hard work and ability to negotiate — or have an agent or lawyer do it for them.

So I grew up lucky in this respect, knowing firsthand that many things in life are negotiable.

Tips:

— Know what you want to achieve before you take/make the call, send the email, Fed-Ex a work sample or schedule a meeting. People are busy, juggling family and work, study and travel. The kind of people you probably most want to negotiate with, i.e. with a budget or network that might use your skills, are probably really busy. Decide exactly what you want to have happen as a result of your interaction with this person: a gig, a contract, a column, an ongoing relationship, a referral. That clarity will focus your thoughts and actions.

– What’s your fallback position? We all know we might not get exactly what we want or even 20 percent of what we want. So what are your Plans B-F? Have a few alternative outcomes in mind, and ones less demanding or risky to your contact, so you don’t have to end the conversation with a shrug or silence. I’ve asked for all kinds of things I never got. It’s all experience, information and practice.

– Know, and stick to, your absolute deal-breakers. We all have them. They’re called principles. Know when and why you will simply walk away from a deal. Unless you’re about to become homeless if you don’t take on this gig, you have choices. Never assume you have to take on anything because you are young or inexperienced or new to the city, whatever. If a contact really skeeves you out, drop it. There are other clients out there! Yes, really.

– Do your due diligence. Before you initiate contact with anyone with whom you hope to do business, you must try to find out who they are, how they think, where they were educated, (back to grade school, if possible), their cultural or religious background, their global perspective (or lack of same) and some of their private passions, whether soccer, Chopin or ska. Your goal is not only not to offend, but to connect, authentically and enthusiastically, with their interests, experiences and values. Most people want to work with smart and enjoyable people, not just perky opaque robots trying to suck up to them and sellsellsell. Between every form of social media, and some thoughtful sleuthing, you can easily come to the table with a deep(er) appreciation of your contact’s perspective.

— What do they want? Basic, but easily forgotten in our rush to get the gig, get paid, get paid more, become famous, get the referral, whatever. You must have some clear notion how they’re thinking about this meeting, (even only by phone or email), in order to think through your arguments and talking points. What’s their motivation for taking your call, reading your email or coming to a meeting with you now?

— Have you investigated the potential obstacles to getting what you want from them? Maybe your contact’s life is in turmoil professionally or personally, (i.e. be patient), or their business/industry is tanking (see: due diligence), or they don’t know enough about you to feel you’re worth their time or money or (worst case) they might have heard or seen something negative about you. Until and unless you anticipate (and overcome) these possible roadblocks, your negotiation is imperiled by poor preparation.

— Never arrive empty-handed. I don’t mean arrive at a business meeting carrying flowers, but bring some intellectual brio to the game. I had two meetings in the past two days, one by phone with someone who is an absolute leader in his field and one this morning with another like him. I was honored, and nervous! In both instances, to my surprise, I shared some information with them that was news to each. The point? Offer something of value to them — a book, a link, a blog they might not have heard of, re-con on a client or conference in your shared field of interest. Don’t just suck up their time and energy.

— Assistants and secretaries are your best friends. I’ve often been on a first-name basis with someone’s right hand long — i.e. months of calls and emails to them alone — before I ever got to deal with my target client/source directly. Be kind, patient and genuinely friendly with them. They’re making decisions about you with every contact, and can grease the wheels to a meeting, (and that negotiation you’re itching for) or kill it.

– Know what your competitors are doing. Every freelancer in the world is competing with dozens, hundreds, possibly thousands of others with excellent skills/education/contacts/experience. Don’t freak out about it. But be aware what others are getting (in payment, terms, conditions) by staying on top of your industry. So if you come in quoting rates much higher than your competitors’, be ready for push-back and know how to clearly explain the value you offer. (If you’re always desperately low-balling, that’s a failed negotiation in my book.)

– Why do they want you? This is key to a successful outcome. Unless or until you’ve established a clear, consistent and impressive track record that shows your value, you don’t have much. This puts you in a weak(er) negotiating position. So what’s your strategy? Will you work for less? (Maybe there are other significant benefits here beyond cash.) Can you get a referral or reference from this client? If you have a strong hand, use it! I’ve asked for more, and gotten it. You can’t get (any of) what you don’t ask for.

– What’s their budget? A standard question I get is: “How much will it cost me to have you….” Edit a manuscript or write website copy or help tailor a query letter. My standard answer is: “What’s your budget?” That often kills it right there, as they have no idea, or they hope it’s really cheap, and I’m not. You also to determine their goals, timeline, internal and external obstacles and resources. If they can’t pony up the money you want(ed), is there another benefit this gig or client can offer?

Here’s a great book, “Getting to Yes.”

Any tips you can share?

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