How to Lose A Gig in 10 Ways

By Contestant #3

Sometimes getting the gig is the easy part. A well-crafted cover letter and a couple of good clips will get your foot in the door, but what you do after you land it?

10. Keep it Old School
Nothing pleases a client/editor more than writers who are still working on dial-up and don’t believe in “fly-by-night” technology like Twitter or in home fax machines. Your clients lead busy lives, teach them how to slow down by waiting an hour for you to get to the local copy store and pick up their fax. Announce with a giggle that you’re technologically challenged and can’t open their PDF file. They’ll appreciate your honesty.

9. Be Helpful, Point Out What’s Wrong
Your wonderful editors and hapless clients are just so busy. I’m sure they’d appreciate a nice, detailed memo on all that is wrong with their publication or business. Editors want to hear from writers who can identify off-center graphics and tell them how to adjust the tone of their publication to better fit their audience. Businesses will line up to hire the writer who can point out mistakes in their job post: “Missed a period here. A split infinitive there.” And though your expertise may be in corporate writing, go ahead and give them a heads up on adjusting the price points of their products. What a way to say, “I’m good at what I do, and what you do, and what they do…”

8. Vent Your Frustrations About Your Editor/Gig
You can be completely anonymous on the Internet. Use that to your advantage and let those frustrations out. Your friends at Twitter, FWJ, and those who frequent your blog are never going to know whom you’re talking about and your clients never read that stuff anyway.

7. Do Your Own Thing At All Times
Sure your client gave you detailed instructions on the content they wanted for their Web site. Eh, you’re the writer and you know better. Call the shots and give ‘em what they should want instead.

6. Make it Personal
Build up a healthy rapport with your clients. Email those funny jokes your sister always forwards to you. Brief them on your toddler’s toilet training escapades or share the hilarious details of your wild weekend – everyone’s had four too many shots of Tequila!

5. It’s High Time for High Maintenance
You’re not needy; you just want reassurance – constantly. When you send in a completed assignment, you expect the client or editor to get back to you immediately with feedback. Don’t be afraid to argue the merits of your rejected pitch. And, stay on top of them about payment. If they promised you payment on the first, start reminding them on the 29th and ask for updates until you receive it. They’ll love your tenacity.

4. Fight Those Edits!
Changes?! Changes?! Who are they to tell you, the writer, that you need to make changes? You worked hard on the assignment, producing the muse-kissed words from your very soul. Take a stand and leave that period and semi-colon right where you put them.

3. Take Your Time Returning Emails and Calls
It’ll make you look like you’re really in demand. Everyone wants the “it girl/guy.” So take a day or two or five. Put yourself in the power position. Clients need to know that they may not get you in an emergency; you’re just too popular.

2. Deadlines, Smeadlines…
Eh, you got caught up in you favorite reality show and will miss your deadline – big deal. Everyone knows deadlines are negotiable. Publications work so far in advance you’ve got a nice cushion of time before they really need it. The same with clients – everyone knows writers are notorious procrastinators. Run with it.

1. Lose Interest and Quit Midway
The assignment is boring/tedious/stupid etc. So just quit and avoid any nastiness by disappearing into cyberspace. Don’t return phone calls or emails and they’ll get the hint eventually. Plus it’s not like you’ll ever run into them again.

Freelancers often put so much emphasis on getting the job they never stop to think about how to keep it. A bout of procrastination, a smattering of insecurity and a big helping of conceit can get a writer booted from a gig faster than you can say kill fee.

What other ways can freelancers get themselves booted? What’s number one on your top ten reasons?


  1. says

    This is very funny, and I can pat myself on the back for being above most of these. Number 9 makes me wince. I’ve never done it and would never do it, but I’ve had to grit my teeth a few times.

    But I am guilty of a bit of number 10, I’m afraid. I’ve mastered PDF files and fax machines, but I’ve never even heard of Twitter.

  2. #12 says

    Does venting frustrations about a creative staffing agency to the company they staffed you with fall under #8? If so, guilty as charged. Of course, the manager of the company commiserated, saying they found the staffing agency rather uncommunicative and a bit inept as well.

  3. Andrea says

    I understand that this post was meant to be sarcastic, and it did include useful information about how to avoid pitfalls in the industry. However, I found the tone of the post to be a little off-putting by the time I got to the end of it. I’d hope that this is indicative of the writer’s occasional use of sarcasm and not representative of how this person might post on a daily or weekly basis. I don’t know if I’d enjoy reading this type of tone all of the time.

    Jodee and Deb, I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I’d think that both you and the candidates would want to know about the good and the not-so-good things about their entries.

  4. says

    I love this post…lighthearted, sarcastic humor always puts a smile on my face. I especially appreciated #4. I’m not guilty of this. But I have to admit, I don’t always agree with some of the edits…but that’s life. I’m just thankful that I have an editor and an opportunity.

  5. #4 says

    I enjoyed parts of the post, but what I really liked was the clever title twist on How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

  6. says

    I liked this post a lot!! The sense of humor appeals to me. Humor can be risky sometimes since everyone has different sensibilities and also when writing there aren’t any facial or voice tone cues to work with, but I think it often serves as a fresh approach to topics.

    I did something similiar in a presentation to graduate students about how NOT to get accepted into doctoral programs :-)

  7. #7 says

    Good job! This post could easily apply to clients as well. “How to Lose a Great Freelancer in 10 Ways” We all have clients who behave so badly we never want to work for them again.

  8. #3 says

    Kitty: Thanks!

    Mary: Me too. I’ve bitten my tongue almost to bleeding. Twitter is a pretty cool social networking site that can be a bit addictive, but it’s great to help follow info/people in the biz and market yourself as well. Check it out and let me know what you think:

    #12: You know, sometimes you can put a feeler out to see what the other person says – if you’re creative enough you can figure out if it’s just you having the poor experience or if it’s widespread without throwing dynamite. That being said, I’ve said some things I wish I could have taken back :0)

    Andrea: I see your point. If snarkiness was par for the course, I would be worried as well. The overall vibe of FWJ wouldn’t work well a steady stream of sarcasm, but we’re playful enough here that a little tongue-in-cheek every once in a while is OK. I take no offense, any critique holds value. If it will help me serve the FWJ audience better and improve my skills then I’m all for it! :0)

    Valencia: I had one editor rewrite an article to the point where 65% was their additions and only 35% was my own work. I did a word count I was so obsessive and smoke came out my ears, but after working with them a couple more times, I realize they did that to everyone, go figure…

    #4: Thanks!

    Morgan: Like minds, like minds, thanks!

    #7: You’re right! That’s a good idea. You could pitch that to any business mag or site. We always think in terms of keeping clients, and how to deal with difficult clients, but I think they would be interested in how to have a successful relationship with us. Would it be too bold to put a list like that on your writer’s Web site? What do you all think? Would it turn you off as a client?

  9. Jodee says

    “I take no offense, any critique holds value. If it will help me serve the FWJ audience better and improve my skills then I’m all for it!”

    #3, Be careful what you wish for! 😉 If you win the contest, you may find yourself on the end of a few nasty comments as part of the job.

  10. #3 says


    Ha! I figured. After surviving the corporate world and sales, nasty web comments are at least straight forward. It’s the double meaning, corporate jargon put-downs and backhanded, thinly veiled email jabs that make me bite. :-)

    How do you deal with the nasties? Do you respond?

  11. Jodee says

    @ #3: I read the comment a couple of times to make sure I understand what the person said accurately. Then I stop and think before I respond, but I always do.

    This job is wwwwaaaaayyyy more public than I’m used to but if I’m going to post stuff on a blog then I should be prepared to stand behind what I said. I want this blog to continue to be a place where people can share ideas and we’re not always going to agree with each other. I could do without the personal attacks, but not everyone who comes here is going to be a fan.

    I only worry about the personal attacks that have some merit to them. It’s like this…If someone comes up to me and tells me that I’m a giraffe, I don’t worry about that because I *know* I’m not one of those. But I do consider what the person has said to see if there is some truth to it. If there is, then I will take responsibility for that. And if that means that I need to explain myself or apologize or whatever, then I will. It comes with the territory when you’re a grown up. I hope that makes sense.

  12. says

    Great article! I would disagree on one point though – payment. While it goes beyond tacky to remind people of the fact that they need to pay you in advance, if a deadline has gone by and you haven’t seen any payment then I think you are more than within your rights to send a reminder. Just my 2 cents!!

  13. says

    I enjoyed the post. I do love humor as well. I think that this was a unique way of presenting your ideas. I agree it could also be a “10 great way to lose your clients” post. Thankfully, this isn’t the norm for most writers and clients.

  14. #9 says

    That was great. Love how you did it Letterman countdown style. And every single one of them is true!

    Answering your prompt at the end: another one (and it’s closely tied to your no. 8): Vent to other editors you might work with about editor/publisher “x”. Editors don’t talk to each other. Never. LOL. Bravo! Nice job.

  15. #3 says

    @ Jodee: Nothing like being a grownup :0) Good idea responding to all of them, then you can’t be hit with charges of bias against criticism. If not too personal, how many negative emails/responses do you all receive on avg?

    @ Angela: Good point! I was leaning more toward the hyperactive writers who freak out on the 16th when payment was due on the 15th via check. I usually give a week if it’s coming by mail on a specific date, but there’s nothing wrong with a lil’ preemptive email before payment asking if the client/editor has all the information they need from you.

    @ Jenny B: Yes, thank goodness most of us don’t go to these extremes, thanks for the great compliment!

    @ Melody: Thank you there’s usually nothing funnier than the truth!!

    @9: You are so right. The editing/publishing world is pretty small and they (editors, etc.) move around so much between pubs that you never know with whom someone works or lunches.

  16. Jodee says

    @ #3: There have only been a few directed at me so far….but then again, I haven’t been doing this job for very long yet, LOL!

  17. #13 says

    While reading the first two entries, I was appalled… then I realized, “Duh! This is what **NOT** to do.” Yes, I just added to the 101 reasons why not to peruse the Internet after 11:00 PM. (I’m in need of serious shut-eye and cannot grasp the refinement of being witty.)
    Seriously – this was funny and really did hit the major points about how to lose a job. Permanently.
    Good post!

  18. #3 says

    @13: Ha! I’ve done that with articles on the Onion. Thanks for the great compliment, I’m glad you liked it!

  19. says

    Ha ha! Lovely post, lovely!

    Point number 10 definitely struck a chord in relation to some people I have had to work with. I cannot understand how some individuals actually seem to be proud of being “technologically challenged” – lazy, more like. (I once had to work with a woman who announced in a meeting that if anyone wanted to send her an email, they would have to print it out and deliver it to her home – I think she was serious too.)

    Thanks for a great post which has brought a smile to my face on another busy day!

  20. Ann G. says

    Hey, I was actually told that I was #5 (High Maintenance) yesterday before I even landed a job. The potential employer was looking for a writer for his Web site and to “land” the job he wanted people to submit a full marketing plan and ad campaign for one of the products he will be selling. That sent up a red flag for me – I could do all the work, be told I didn’t fit and he has a free campaign to run with.

    When I told him I was no longer interested and explained why doing that work before even landing the job was not something I was going to do, he actually did email me back and tell me that due to my “untrusting nature” I was too high maintenance for him anyway. So I guess being high maintenance isn’t a bad thing all the time!

  21. #3 says

    @ Carol: I’m glad you enjoyed it! That’s what makes this contest so cool. And the wealth of info that all the writers are producing – wow! Have a productive day!

    @Ann G: Wow. Nothing like the last zing emails. “You can’t break up with me, I’m breaking up with you!”

  22. says

    This is a decent post — using reverse approach is a known technique to point out own faults. I’ve seen it several times on the web, and it works. Perhaps the author is too cautious at times, as if afraid to go all the way. As a result it’s not outrageous enough for some readers to look past the veiled admonishments. But it takes guts to write a post like this.

    I am not sure about #4: I think sometimes its good to make a stand — in the form of polite suggestions and opinions, of course — it’ll only show the employer your confidence. I guess the trick is not to cling to your ideas.

  23. #3 says

    Thanks Elijah, I appreciate your thoughts. A vote for more outrageous – hehehe, I don’t think you want to see how far the rabbit hole goes (in my mind) :0)

    There are times that editing will change the meaning, focus or importance of an article, etc. Those are some of the times when writers have every right – politely like you said – to offer their differing point of view. Often editors/clients will appreciate your take on things. I think some of the best writing I’ve ever produced came from great communication on both sides of the product. You’re right though Elijah, we shouldn’t get stuck on our “rules.”

  24. says

    @ Ann G: You were absolutely right! When a potential employer asks for a significant amount of work up front, before any hiring or agreement has taken place, that definitely rings alarm bells for me.

    I also work as an English teacher, and one employer asked me to write some material, on the topic of how I would tackle a certain class, and to bring it along to the job interview. I duly wrote a short paper relating to cultural differences and teaching methods. At the interview itself, the paper was whisked away and copied.

    I was duly offered the job, and on Day 1, myself and the three other new recruits were given some briefing papers by management. Guess what it was? Yes, my work.

    @ #3: Thanks! :-)

  25. Jeannie says

    lol great job! Make’em wait…you’ll look busy (in demand) and everyone loves a little mystery

    sadly, I have known these people

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