Why Manners Maketh the Freelance Writer


Lately I've been noticing an odd trend amongst the freelance writers who contact us every week: rudeness.

First there was the writer who accepted a job found on our boards and forwarded the completed assignment to the employer with the words, "Project attached. Email me payment immediately." No please, no thank you - in fact, no niceties at all.

Needless to say, the employer wasn't impressed (I know because he forwarded the email to me, asking if all of our members were quite so blunt.) He told us that although the writing was of an acceptable standard, and was delivered on time, he wouldn't be using that person again. His reason? He didn't like her manners, simple as that.

Then there was the freelancer who provided us the wrong paypal address for her payment. We paid her, not realizing the address was wrong, and it wasn't until a few days later, when she emailed us again, that we realized what had happened. No problem: We cancelled the first payment and immediately reissued it to the correct address, along with an email explaining what had happened.

In response, we received a tirade of abuse from the freelancer in question, who had received the paypal cancellation notification, and not bothered to read our explanatory email before she decided to get nasty and assume we hadn't paid her. This piece of vitriol was almost instantly followed by a second missive saying "oops, I've just realized that you did pay me after all."

While we were glad that she'd realized her mistake, we were rather less pleased to notice that she made no apology for her first, highly abusive email. Needless to say, this isn't someone we'll be recommending to any other employers in a hurry.

Then there was the person who sent an aggressive email in response to our automatic notification of a new project - a notification which, I hasten to add, she'd signed up to receive. "This is the second email I've received from you today!" she said, "For god's sake, stop emailing me!"

Now, I dare say that all of these freelancers are superb, highly talented writers. Unfortunately, though, I won't be recommending them to anyone, and if their behavior towards us is typical of their behavior towards other employers, I doubt anyone else will either.

The fact is that freelance writing is a business, and it's not just your writing you're selling: it's yourself. No matter how great a writer you are, if you're rude to employers, or difficult to work with, you'll find it very difficult to make a living from it. Above anything else, employers want writers they can work with. Professionals, who won't react to a misunderstanding by lashing out in anger, who won't just demand payment without at least checking that the work is satisfactory, who know how to say "please" and "thank you", and when not to fire off an email that would be better left until the cold light of day.

As the actress Lillian Gish once said, "You can get through life with bad manners, but it's easier with good manners." It applies to freelance writing, just as much as to life itself. And if you don't believe me, try cursing out the next editor who accepts your work, and see how far you get!

Amber McNaught is a freelance writer and editor and the owner of http://www.WritingWorld.org, an online agency for freelance writers, editors and proofreaders.

Amber is also a director of Hot Igloo Productions Ltd, offering press release writing and distribution, as well as website design.


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