Wed. June 14, 2017: An Attempt To Bully Me Into Unpaid Work

Wednesday, June 14, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Yesterday wasn’t as productive as I would have liked. I got out some pitches; I did research for an article I’m writing (the whole thing is taking much longer than I would have liked).

I withdrew from a project that interested me, because we couldn’t come to terms on money. I have bills to pay; this is how I make my living. Just because I love what I do, doesn’t mean I don’t get paid for it. The person in charge of the project understood, and we parted on good terms.

On a different project, the producer who wanted me to write unpaid corporate spec scripts started arguing with me about it. I re-iterated that the samples of previously produced work, in the style and tone they claim they want, are enough for them to make a decision. The producer insisted it wasn’t; that they were getting “commercials”, which they didn’t want — they wanted fun scripts. I pointed out that the samples I gave them were specifically that — mission-specific entertainment, where actual information is wrapped in engaging stories and characters, NOT commercials. The team should READ those samples, and look at the two script concepts I pitched, and then decide whether or not to hire me. If I’m not the right person for the job, fine; we both move on.

The argument came back that the client isn’t willing to read “other people’s samples”, but only spec scripts pertinent to their product, and that I should write two of them, and that the client wanted to talk to me ON THE PHONE — not about the concept, but about why I should write for them for free.

I have yet to find a so-called business phone conversation of more than 90 seconds anything but a complete waste of time. Most phone calls are about the ego of the person insisting on the call, who either wants to talk through the noise in his own mind because he couldn’t be bothered to do proper prep, or simple, straight up ego because he likes the sound of his own voice so much. It interferes with my work and is a complete waste of my time. That is why I charge for phone time, in 15 minutes increments, like a lawyer. If you’re going to work my last nerve and waste my time and interfere with the progress on your project, it’s going to cost. The time is billed and paid upon completion of the phone call. That is non-negotiable. I also only accept phone calls on appointment. I have my voice mail set up NOT to take messages; I don’t return phone calls. If you insist on talking to me by phone, we set up an appointment via email. We talk in that designated time frame. Period.

A single useless phone call ruins an entire day of creative work, so I have very strict boundaries about phone time.

I set out my phone terms, and, of course, got more argument, about how I “owe” the client unpaid phone time.

Honey, I don’t “owe” your client anything. I’ve never met the client. I looked at the previous videos and thought they were crap — poor writing coupled with bad, vapid acting. Yeah, if you want to use “fun” videos to sell your product, you’ll have to do some major fixes, starting with the writing.

I’m not doing it for free. This is how I earn a living — writing.

Another big red flag: “If you do this, there’s the chance for more work down the pike.” Um, is that unpaid, too? Because that’s not something I need or want. Besides, that false carrot is one of the best-known ruses to get new-to-the-biz writers to do unpaid work. Granted, this “You should be grateful to work without compensation” is the norm for Cape Cod; however, this supposed client is supposedly in a major city, and therefore should know better.

The producer admitted that several writers that were interested in the gig had brought up concerns about writing product/project specific material on spec. I don’t know if every professional writer who pitched received the same kind of bullying attempt, or if, for some reason, I was singled out.

Again, the pressure was “They want to make sure you understand it’s not a commercial and we plan to shoot at the end of next week, so we’re in a time crunch.”

YOUR time crunch is NOT my problem; I already said the deadline was not an issue (it’s not; I’m a seasoned script writer, I’ve fed doctored script pages to a film set across the country during a shoot). If YOU READ MY SAMPLES, you’ll see that I understand what you want.

Read the samples. If you like the samples and the concepts I pitched, hire me. If you don’t, then move on to someone else. Or, you demand unpaid work. I say no. We both move on.

But this insistence that I wouldn’t even be considered without project-specific spec samples, and then arguing when I refuse to do them is ridiculous, unprofessional, and guarantees that, when I see your product advertised in the future, I associate it with unprofessional behavior and avoid it.

In the interim of all this back-and-forth, which wasted half my work day (and oh, I am SO tempted to bill for wasted time, but that’s going a bit too far even for me), I landed another assignment. A very short script, no argument about my regular rate, no phone time, all sorted out within two hours of the pitch.

I withdrew from consideration from the PIA potential gig, explaining that I was contracted on another job within the same time frame, and that’s the one I’ve accepted.

More argument, that it’s “not fair” I took another job when I was talking to them about their job, and they’re in a time crunch. I was tempted not to respond, but I did, pointing out that I hadn’t been contracted by them, and we were at an impasse. I was not going to write product-specific scripts on spec. I would only do so if hired, contracted, and the deposit paid, and every hour that they argued this instead of hiring a writer was an hour that made their time crunch tighter. Also, if we started from such different positions on what our working relationship should be, I could only see it degenerating; obviously, I am not the right person to work with them, so we say goodbye and move on to better partnerships for both of us.

MORE argument that they wanted a professional writer and liked my credentials, but wanted to see spec scripts on their product before they made a decision.

Those spec scripts aren’t coming from me, as I made clear over and over and over again. I didn’t even bother to reply.

Instead, I went to work on the job for which I was contracted, for which I had been paid a deposit, and made decent progress on it. It’s a 30-second spot, something with which I have a lot of experience, so it’s a case of writing visually and aurally, and then cutting down as many words as possible.

The afternoon was so hot I wasn’t much use. The cats were little fur puddles, and I split time between doing research for a project and working on my next assignment for my new editor. AND, the second part of the afternoon was listening to the Congressional Hearings — more about that later.

I didn’t get any work done on fiction yesterday, because I fell into the trap of working on nonfiction first thing in the morning instead of fiction, which requires a completely different headspace, and never worked my way back to the fiction.

A good reminder that:
–I must always work on fiction early in the day; sometimes I can work my way back to another fiction session later in the day, but only if I’ve launched the day with it;
–I must always do my own fiction, my daily 1K quota, FIRST, before I work on any other assignment, no matter what the deadline or the pay. Otherwise, it throws my creativity out of whack.

A new-to-me author followed me on Twitter (always fun to widen the author circle). I followed back. I immediately got a DM hawking his book. Unfollow. That’s not how you get me to buy your book. That’s how you get on my list of I Don’t Read Your Work. SOCIAL media is about building the relationship first, and then telling me about your book. And then, if we’ve been having pleasant interactions, heck yeah, I’ll buy it, because I believe in buying as many books as I can afford from my contemporaries. But if I’ve only just heard of you and you privately hit me up for money, that guarantees me striking you off ALL my lists.

If you only came here for the writing commentary, click away, because I’m about to talk about politics. This blog is about balancing life and writing; the poisonous political situation, unfortunately, affects my writing (negatively, for the most part).

Jeff Sessions was always unqualified to be Attorney General, and yesterday’s hearings solidified his incompetence. He repeatedly perjured himself, both in this hearing and in previous hearings. He “can’t remember” meetings that should be pretty memorable. He claims possible future executive privilege that hasn’t been invoked, which any first year law student knows is crap. He stonewalls, rambles, and attempts misdirection. He refuses to answer questions, putting him in contempt of Congress. To hell with Congress — he holds the American people in contempt, especially those who aren’t white men. I don’t believe, for one minute, that he attended a legitimate law school or has a legitimate law degree. It’s far more likely he sent away for it on the back of a matchbook. I expect the top law enforcement official in the country to be ethical, intelligent, capable of coherent and rational reasoning, able to discern fact from fiction, secular, tolerant, fair-minded, committed to justice and the Constitution, and well-spoken. Jeff Sessions is none of those things. He should have never been confirmed, and he needs to be removed.

Senator Kamala Harris was brilliant, and those old white men who keep trying to shush her should have their mouths duct-taped. She was a prosecutor. SHE should be our country’s Attorney General.

We have lovely thunderstorms last night, and it’s cooler. That means I need to get back to mowing today, along with working on fiction, working on my essay, and my article, getting out some more pitches, and following up on some more pitches that have been out for awhile.

I am desperate for a few days off, but I need to hit my earnings for the month. Then, hopefully, I can take Fourth of July days as a holiday and rest my brain and my soul.

Watch out — I’ll be promoting the Independence Day-themed short mystery “Personal Revolution” starting tomorrow.

Out to the mower, and then back to the page. A migraine is coming on, and it’s slowing me down.

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Published in: on June 14, 2017 at 9:20 am  Comments Off on Wed. June 14, 2017: An Attempt To Bully Me Into Unpaid Work  
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