It happens very rarely, but every once in a while I have to fire a ghostwriting client. I don’t like doing so. However, in the early stage of a new relationship with a client when the handwriting on the wall is akin to blood streaking in red rivets, I cut my losses to reduce the bloodletting.
No one likes this. I don’t like it, the client doesn’t like it and the freelancing platform won’t like it. In fact, I expect a hit on my freelancer rating for doing so.
This new relationship started off unusually, where the client put up money just to talk with me. This is the only reason why I talked with the client and stupidly it flattered me that the client did so. I should have seen it for the danger sign it was. I should have asked, “why did the client need to contact freelancers to hire them?” This is not the usual course of events.
The client wanted a 75K book in a month with an outline. Maybe that’s why. Any sensible person would decline such a job. I negotiated that to six weeks, one week for the outline and one week each for 15 K of words. Okay. We knocked around a few ideas and I set up my workbook for the job.
The workbook is a multi-sheet google doc sheet that links to the individual google doc page for each chapter. It has all the details in the book including the synopsis, the beat sheet, character analysis, setting locations, and research info. I give my clients read-only access to the workbook so they can see the work in real time. Because some clients had difficulty navigating it, I made a little YouTube video that shows how to poke around and not get lost. I started work.
Then it started:
Make the billionaire the prince of a small nation.
Okay. That changes the direction of the character and the story. But sure.
Make the maid-of-honor of the h’s best friend one of her friends and not her sister.
Okay. Small change. Sure.
Make the maid-of-honor of h’s best friend who ditches her maid-of-honor duties the bride’s sister
Small headache forming. You see where this is going.
The client now wanted the outline before it was due, because she needed three to four days to review the work, and I said it wasn’t finished and I’d submit it on the client’s set due date.
Fine, the client said, “I’ll cut and paste from the workbook and send you my comments. Will you be able to keep on time from now on?”
The client sent their comments and there were more changes like the one above. I said fine. I worked in those changes, finished the outline, and submitted it to the client on the due date on Wednesday. I thought we had a story.
No answer until later on Thursday. “I’ll get back to you by EOD.”
2:00 AM Friday morning and my phone dinged. There are only five kinds of people that work at 2:00 AM. They are newspaper delivery people, convenience store clerks, medical personnel, writers and crazy people. What arrived was more comments and changes that, in my opinion, didn’t strengthen the story.
The client didn’t approve the work, didn’t pay me, and left no instructions other than “discuss the changes with me.” I spent 24 hours working on this thing.
The first fifteen K was due in five days and we didn’t have a finished outline.
If we can’t get past the outline then I can only imagine what writing the story would be like.
That’s when I fired the client.
Image used under a Creative Commons license issued by Flickr user hobvias sudoneighm