Do You Remember?

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Earlier this year, I accepted a new client who had never been edited before. From the start, there were problems. She couldn’t follow the payment plan, which was bi-weekly. I gave her multiple opportunities to “get it right” before she did, but I didn’t start working until she paid in full. Call me crazy, but I wasn’t about to lose money over a person who wasn’t serious and who thought everything was funny. “Oops, I’ll have to pay you in two weeks. I put the money on the wrong prepaid card. Sorry.” I’d get these messages for weeks before I said “You have to pay by this date or I’m not taking the job.”

Her “manuscript”, and I use the term so loosely, rope should be involved, was a fucking MESS. I don’t exaggerate about the written word, ever. Mess, disaster, and “manuscript from hell” are words I’d use, and did, to describe the torment of having to work for this demanding, rude, insensitive, know-it-all who’d never been edited and is going to tell me, after 20 years of experience, how long a “dirty manuscript” on a first edit should take. I know people who have taken five years to write a book they were proud of.  When it was edited a year after completion, so as to be thorough, at least they knew it wasn’t crap.

I’ve given her weekly updates, sometimes bi-weekly. I’ve done everything to be highly communicative, receiving responses like “Okie”, because apparently that’s how she spells “Okay”. Did you just empathize with me? Communicating with this person was like talking to a crash test dummy.

When I contacted her this morning to let her know that I’m moving and would complete her manuscript once I was settled in to my new place of residence, she claimed she’d given me two different deadlines that never existed. I know they didn’t exist because I never committed to a deadline, and she never specified one in the contract, or in conversation. It was 100% never discussed. I have a very sharp memory and yes, she bitched once, but I flat-out explained how much work was involved in her manuscript, and how time-consuming it was as it is not my full-time job.

Today she decided she’d prefer to part ways and “go a different road”. I returned the “dirty manuscript” with all of my notes and for the first time in 20 years, allowed myself to say “Good riddance.” I was the epitome of polite and respectful, but her demands during one of the worst years of my life and her deciding to “part ways” is a blessing. If I told you how much I got paid for this edit, you’d cry. Never again will I allow myself to be demeaned or disrespected by someone who thinks they’re the next Stephen King.

I had a moment where I felt like a failure. I have NEVER, not once, returned incomplete work to someone, but when a person is completely unwilling to work with you, to read their work before submitting it, etc., then I don’t feel it’s my responsibility, once they get vile, to do more than say “Here you go. Good luck.” Clearly she has NO idea how the industry works, what is and is not marketable, and that without a team behind me, yes, editing takes time. She said she wrote this manuscript in a few months and that “everyone who read it loved it”. It was barely a first draft, leave alone a fourth re-write. I can tell when someone is half-assing something. Even if they’re a New York Times Bestselling Author, I can tell when something isn’t properly thought out before submission.

So from here on in, I am only accepting proofreading, beta reads, and critiques. My writing focus now returns to my novels, which are quality. My creative focus will move to my career change because while I will always be a writer, I need more to keep me going. I need something daily that makes me feel like I have purpose.

A word of advice: Editors aren’t your punching bag and they don’t deserve to be shit on. If your editor is having a bad year, it’s okay to suggest moving on so that they can focus on their own life during a crisis, but it’s not okay to be a bitch to them. Treat people the way you’d want to be treated if the roles were reversed. Be respectful. Even more, if you’re barely paying them, you have no right to bitch about time unless you split everything up into chapters and allow them to work and submit chapters back to you as they complete them, because that’s when things can work in a much smoother fashion.

I highly recommend splitting your files up into chunks, perhaps a few chapters at a time, that way you’re communicating properly with the person who will be tending to your “baby”. Also, ask them to do a read-through before they edit, that way they can give you a fair price and an estimated time of delivery. Don’t freak out if the book that took you years to write takes nine months, or longer, to edit. I do a proofread, edit, fact-check, and then I double-check the work, so yes, it’s time-consuming.

The person you’re hiring is a flake only if you never see any results and never hear from them again, but a person who communicates with you regularly is being honest.

If my editor was having a bad year, I would never show them such disrespect. Shit happens, and it’s not the other person’s fault. If you want to hire a trained monkey who will kiss your ass, perhaps you should check out your local zoo.

I’ve never been so happy to delete someone’s work in my entire life. That probably sounds horrible, but at the end of the day, I shouldn’t want to remove my head off my shoulders because I was doing my job. No one should feel that way.

When someone tells me their story is SO good that it will be picked up traditionally and I’m editing it shaking my head “No, not in this lifetime.”, that means it will be 99 cents on Amazon Kindle. Granted, I’ve read some fantastic stuff for $5 or less on Kindle, but I’ve also been mortified by a lot of it.

Anyone who reads this sees my work regularly. They know I don’t eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, and when you see my writing style, you can see that I edit it thoroughly. I’m human. I have the occasional typo, I’m quick-witted, educated, and willing to admit my faults.

Today, I say “C’est la vie.” Write what you want to write, but disrespecting an experienced, talented editor is unacceptable to me. One migraine less to think about. I’m moving on.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Friday Musings

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Mondays bring forth a lot of stress and anxiety. Fridays? Not so much. In fact, I feel calm that the week has come to an official end. I’m looking forward to putting up a load of laundry, eating dinner, and eliminating an hour or two off my DVR.

I spent a huge portion of my week battling migraines. I was unsure if the cycle would continue, but I can say that after an exceptionally long day yesterday and going to bed early, I have mostly felt good today. Sore and achy, a little moody at times, but nothing I can’t handle. The downside of going through so much pain is that your body is pre-programmed to take the brunt of what it normally handles each day. It took me almost a full 12 hours to realize I wasn’t in agony. Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing what tomorrow brings in terms of the physical side of things. 😦

I’ve struggled with some work-related things this week. I’ve had some personal breakthroughs with ideas for my work, I’ve made some career-related decisions for new creative outlets, but I am still being tormented by that manuscript. It requires so much time, it frustrates the hell out of me, so I’ve decided I will never edit for someone ever again without doing a read-through first. I refuse to price myself into a position that makes me feel used or abused.

I should be charging between $1000-$5000 per job, or more for additional development. I have tried to be incredibly fair to people, I even offer a payment plan, but the end result is that I am being unfair to myself, my time, my vision, and my skills.

When someone says “I’d like to pay you a penny per sentence and there are 10,000 sentences to go over.”, I shake my head. That’s a grave insult. Even worse, I bid on the job and didn’t get it. Yeah, that didn’t help my attitude one bit this week. Anyone that approaches with a disrespectful budget and the claim “It should only take an hour or so.” should Google the cost of minimum wage for an experienced freelance editor. I have exactly one client who I work for on an hourly basis and he thinks my hourly rate is “really reasonable”. Others are fearful of the hourly rate and even more fearful of the quote. I have an answer to that: Don’t write 100,000+ words and expect for it to be edited in a professional manner in a week for “$50 or less”. Be fair, be realistic, and don’t be disrespectful if you truly want to do business with someone.

What else occurred this week? Injury from cat’s back claws. I have absolutely NO idea why she’d think climbing over my scalp was a good idea. I tried to detach her from ripping me apart and she wouldn’t budge, so I have a long tear on the right side of my scalp under my hair down the side of my temple. The facial part isn’t even noticeable because she dug deeper into my scalp, which, thanks to my new hair color, isn’t visible. It hurt for a few days, but should be healed completely in about a week.

Yes, I said “new hair color”. When I get bored, I get dangerous. Last month I cut off a ton of hair. It was way more than I’d anticipated, far shorter than what I walked in asking for. I am still adjusting to having to put product into my hair as opposed to using Argan Oil and being able to work with my natural texture or straighten it. “Short Hair Don’t Care”? Bullshit. Shorter hair requires some finesse in order to look good. I’ve been every natural color a person can be. Blonde, a wide array of varying degrees of red and brunette, but this is my first time truly on “the dark side”. It’s only a few days old, but it is truly blue-black. My stylist refused to do it for me because my skin is on the fairer side of fair. I asked if it was “too dark” or “too Goth” and she said “Too dark.” I think she was trying to be diplomatic. Guess what? It is dark, and it’s a little Goth, but it looks fucking awesome. Ultimately, the only person who has to like it is the person that has to live with it and look at it day in and day out. Every time I look in the mirror I think “Man, this looks AWESOME. It’s so much better than I thought it would be.” Let’s hear it for listening to your inner voice and not the odd judgment of others. Everyone else is going lighter for summer, I’m going darker. Typical. Now all I need are sharper fangs to get my point across. 😉

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Quote credit: Angelina Jolie. I agree with her.

Have a great weekend everyone!

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Emerging From The Cave

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I woke up from a dream this morning that could have doubled as the weirdest movie EVER. Or a book. In fact, I’ll be writing it down later since my dreams revert back to a clearer picture within a certain amount of time. Rule #1- Never share your writing ideas.

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I’m exceptionally exhausted and in an extraordinary amount of pain. I was up late working for a client last night. I then referred her to a graphic designer, that way her product will look professional. If anyone is in need of a professional graphic designer for any number of things (banners, book covers, etc.), please let me know and I will put you in contact with her. She’s worked for Harper’s Bazaar and Disney and has been in business for 25 years. She knows her shit and can work with ANY budget. Plus, if I am going to pass business on to anyone, it’s going to be someone who I know needs the work.

All I really want is a nap. Unfortunately, I know full well that a “nap” will lead to me screwing up my sleep patterns. The storms that passed through my area last night knocked power out for a lot of people. As hideous as the sky looked, making me believe it would be an intense summer storm, there was merely some “scary to watch” lightning, a sprinkle of rain, and later on, a truly stunning sunset. If there was anything else, I missed it in between making dinner, decompressing for two hours, and then going back to work before bed (NOT a wise decision! The last thought I had was “Did she spell chili wrong on the product label!”). I’m running on fumes today, looking forward to the moment when it’s acceptable for me to simply fall into my bed.

My pain levels are off-the-charts insane. I am certain there’s a rod in my spine, that my right hip is disintegrating, and that my attitude matches how I feel. Being in pain 24/7, with no reprieve, is a challenge unto itself. If anyone would like to take it off my hands for a few weeks, I’d be happy to help you understand how real Fibromyalgia is. I am so sick of people saying that sufferers are “lazy” or “Doctors say it’s a fake disease.” I’ve got two words for that. Yes, those are the words.

I should be placed inside an insulated cave with running water, electricity, and WiFi. We’ll slap a label on me that says “Not fit for human consumption”, and I don’t mean that in a Hannibal-esque way at all.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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As A Direct Result

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It’s also an evil life-destroyer.

I’ve decided that today is going to be a work-free day.

I went to bed this morning sick as a dog. I suspect my brief time out yesterday affected me more severely than it ought to. Within a few hours of coming home, I got my fourth migraine of the week. I took a brief nap and I wasn’t entirely okay afterward, but now? UGH!

Sadly, with migraines, you often question whether you did something wrong, ate the wrong thing, etc. All I did was go out in tremendous heat for an hour and a half and come home. It wasn’t a lot of physical exertion, but my body says otherwise. I had a mild headache upon returning, but it wasn’t until I actually felt pain in my head that I took something for it. By 7:30, as my neighbors attempted to power wash something right near my bedroom window, I contemplated outright murder. My ears simply cannot bear the noise, and what are they up to at this precise moment? Yard work. At 9:23 a.m. On a Saturday. When it’s already 85 degrees and a heat advisory has been issued for the entire area, AGAIN. Schools actually closed early yesterday, if they opened at all, because it was over 100 degrees with the humidity and people were experiencing breathing problems. But hey, dumb & dumbest need to make noise on a yard that requires no work at all this week. This is where I would like to point out that I refrained from putting #TheyNeedToBeShot. I’m not a violent person…just don’t make noise when I’m sick or on any day ending in a y.

As a direct result of this migraine/heat/stomach agony, I’m trying to decompress this morning. I’d rather be asleep, but I desperately need to hit the grocery store. Not a fun task, I do not look forward to this, but I am going to try going once it cools down. There’s no point in making myself any sicker by attempting to do it early on in the day. Everyone and their grandmother will be there to capitalize on the digital coupon extravaganza, which has already turned into an epic fail because 9/4’s of the coupons don’t come off at the end of each order, which means customer service is inundated with questions as to why they didn’t work and precisely “Where are my savings? Are you going to give me my money back?” Actually, the store is set up to make sure you actually loaded the coupons on to your savings card in the first place. If you didn’t use the physical coupons that were also provided for the week, chances are you didn’t get the savings on those four items. I clipped all of my mine last night and will print up a few others later on. I’ve saved nearly $1000 this year alone in coupons at one store. That is a small accomplishment, but it feels good every single time I look at my receipt.

I’ve completed all of my work this week (though I am seemingly still loosely on the consulting job), except for the manuscript, which I will devote more daily time to next week in my attempt to complete it. I’m not looking forward to that, I’m simply tired of seeing it and knowing that it’s not complete. I do NOT relish the line of questioning that will come with the delivery, but since I stated in the contract how much time I will spend on answering questions before charging again for my time, I hope that will make the client aware that I mean business. It’s in black and white, how hard is it to follow guidelines?

Before I forget, I want to thank Writerstream for featuring my work this week, and I’d also like to give a huge shout out to the dozen or so new Twitter followers in the last 12 hours alone. (Special thanks to Lillian for encouraging me to join Twitter. Hugs sweet pea!) I never knew I’d grow to love it so much. To the friend that reads my Tweets and isn’t afraid to joke with me and laugh, I appreciate it. (You know who you are, doll!)

If you need me, I’ll be here for the next few hours. Drinking coconut water. Praying that it helps. If it doesn’t, I’m seriously considering an ER visit because this level of pain is out of control.

Have a great weekend everyone! And please, stay out of the heat and wear sunscreen.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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This Is How I Know It’s Wednesday

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Once the heat & humidity overpowers your thoughts, the days just blend, one into the other. After a while, you find yourself occasionally double-checking the date so that you don’t make an error on something that may or may not be all that important. When it doubt, check it out.

How do I know that it’s Wednesday? Because this morning, after waking up migraine-free (fingers and toes crossed), I couldn’t sleep and decided to check out my DVR queue. The first thing I pressed was PLAY for Pretty Little Liars. That means yesterday was Tuesday, because I was in bed at 7:30 PM praying to God to end my suffering. ABC Family hasn’t aired PLL in any other time slot, so today is definitely Wednesday. I’ll be 50 when they finally let us know, without question, who ‘A’ REALLY is, and I’m oddly okay with that.

I am forcing myself to work on “the manuscript from hell”, which just keeps growing. I suspect it’s all the notes I’ve added to it. Every time I think I’m getting somewhere with it, I catch myself making faces at the screen and typing words I don’t think I’ve ever had to use to describe someone’s writing before. I’m not subtle, but I’m not paid for subtlety, nor am I paid to kiss someone’s ass. When something is good, I say so. When it’s not, I say so. It’s all in a day’s work.

Two previous clients have returned, asking for assistance with different, but short, jobs. I’m excited to work on both projects because not only are they fast, but they’re enjoyable. I love when clients return because it means that the work you’ve done for them is memorable, and it helps you expand your client base. When someone keeps coming back, is consistently pleased with your work, and pays you well, you don’t even have to think about taking those jobs, you jump on them like a panda with bamboo.

Alas, underneath the work stuff, I am filled with severe unhappiness that runs so deep, I can’t stand it. If I didn’t have to do specific things today, I’d be content to sit and read a book, or shut off every electronic device in the house and work through my shit. Unfortunately, I’m the only reliable person available, so I’m sitting here making a “to do” list for the day. Some of it I want to do, and the rest is just crap one has to do because little people rely on them. Those are the moments when I thank God I’m not a selfish, self-centered person who only thinks of herself. I can manage “me time” with “shit that’s got to get done” time and as long as I don’t think about it too much, I will be okay. One minute at a time, one step at a time.

Dosvedanya, until I write again. Be safe.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Weird Worthless Weekends Lost To Pain

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Friday morning I stated that I’d rest this weekend and get things done inside my home, as much as humanly possible. I mentally calculated exactly how much laundry needed to be done, and then factored a few others things into the mix. What I did not factor in was a terrible Fibro flare and bouts of sleeplessness that drove me up a wall. Why couldn’t that have happened last week? Because I was working like a dog in between migraines and the day and a half I spent unable to move, so apparently my body waited and the second I had time to breathe, I got slammed. I’m livid that it is now Monday and that my “weekend” was so bizarre in it’s lack of time.

I know I am being unfair to myself. I’m not a machine and I do have to factor pain into my daily life. There was a lot I wanted to get done from Friday until now. As I angrily folded laundry a little while ago, the only load I did this weekend that isn’t even my stuff, I realized just what a wasted weekend this was.

Who’s looking forward to another hot, miserable work-filled week? Not I. Plus, I’ve got about four loads of laundry that need to get done. In all fairness, one could be up right now, but I will not move a happily sleeping kitten off of my bed in order to yank the linens so she can think it’s some kind of evil game and destroy another set of sheets. I cannot get a soul to hold her so I can trim her nails. Apparently everyone is afraid of the world’s sweetest, sassiest kitten. I don’t want to traumatize her by pinning her down with my body to get two nails, if I’m lucky, before she hisses, cries, or attempts to bite me. Believe me, I understand her frustration and I don’t take her reactions to heart, though the crying kills me. She’s not a mean biter and she’s not mean, period, she simply doesn’t understand why her nails need to be cut. As sweet and loving as she is, a lot of basic kindness is scary to her. I have to keep trying as patiently as I can so that she doesn’t have these fears later on in life. This is residual shelter trauma; it has nothing to do with her life with me. Knowing that, I can utilize far more patience than if it were a person. Animals and babies are one of my speeds. People need to handle their own shit.

I am looking forward to work this week in a “I really like this particular client” sort of way. I spent about an hour on the phone with a client one afternoon to be certain of what he needed from me. We had a lovely conversation and he was incredibly pleased with the work I turned in. During our conversation he said he wanted to keep my information close at hand in order to hire me again for other editing/writing jobs. That is the only time I will write for someone else, when they know what they want, but can’t quite put the words together cohesively. Most times, that’s less than 500 words and it takes no time at all, but some people cannot put their internalized thoughts onto paper, so an idea is scattered and hiring someone to polish the idea is a good way to find the right person for the job you’re looking to hire for. Hiring field specific people is a really great concept.

My point, however, is that he contacted me yesterday for another job. I wasn’t 1000% sure I’d hear from him again, but I’m glad that I did. It’s nice dealing with people who get it and have respect for your time, knowledge, and the work you do. Most people just made rude demands. I had someone point out a tiny error I made, which happens. I’m not perfect, it was late, and all she had to do was delete one word. I asked if she wanted me to redo the entire file, but instead she took up over an hour of my time asking me to proof the work that SHE had just re-edited. (Did your jaw just hit the floor? I was astounded by the stupidity because it resulted in a two hour phone conversation the following afternoon to make sure I’d get paid for the time.) Did I mention that this was a corporate job and her English is swimming somewhere between broken and non-existent? I suspect she was using Google translate because revising her thoughts was like playing with a puzzle, and the message “Is it done yet?” grated on my nerves because I informed her precisely how long it would take and that I’d get it back to her by late Thursday evening EDT. It is all too easy not to want to do specific jobs after a while based on the treatment of clients that do not understand that not everything can be done in 60 seconds. It’s incredibly unrealistic to expect that, but it is what it is and I have the right to pick and choose the jobs I take, for that reason alone. I am excited to see what this new opportunity brings. I wish every opportunity was a prosperous one. Alas, many are not, so I do my job and move on. That’s all I can do, my best.

And now, despite all this back pain, I am off to tackle at least two loads of laundry since kitten has moved along. I suspect she will be back soon to thoroughly inspect all the clean linens I’ve put down since stripping my bed and quickly dashing downstairs to the laundry room (Cat has already given me a mixture of approval, disdain, and attitude.). Now if I could just find the perfect pillow…

The truth is, the evil never truly rest. 😛

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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This is crucial.

Am I Wearing A Sign?

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I am thisclose (that is not a typo) to killing one of my clients. If you feel like someone is professionally giving you the runaround, it’s probably because they are. Though I suspect, some people are truly stupider than one can give them credit for.

There aren’t enough “LOLs” in the world to mask the utter stupidity I am dealing with. Making a HUGE mistake and then sending me a message about your mistake isn’t cute, unless we’re friends. It’s even less cute when that mistake personally affects me.

And then, I get the manuscript. Nearly 70,000 words that, after two pages, made me want to hang myself. I swear to God, I need to eat, calm the hell down, and look at it in a day or two because there is NO WAY I am going to be professional in this moment. I wish I had a bottle of wine on hand to smack over my own head…after drinking it, of course. I’m not much of a drinker, but man, my clients are going to turn me into a full-blown alcoholic. Should you ever see me wandering the streets aimlessly, kindly shoot me and put me out of my misery.

Oh, and the snow was no big deal. It looks like it totalled out around 5 inches or so, if that. Sadly, my poor Aunt got saddled with 2 1/2 feet of snow. I hope she doesn’t have to see a single snowflake until next winter. Praying for an early Spring, which is saying a lot with my allergies.

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How Not To Kill A Client

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How Not To Kill A Client

99% of the time, I love what I do. I’m a writer who doesn’t have to answer to anyone, but on the day-to-day, as an editor, there’s a plethora of crap that gets to me occasionally.

There is a fine line between being professional and being a bitch. Some people are slightly afraid of their editors, others think our jobs are “so easy a toddler can do it”, and others have more respect. I am pretty laid back and I will not mess with quality on the off-chance it’s actually presented to me (It’s becoming a rarity.). I have mastered that line between total pro and bitch. So when I got feedback on a job the other day and didn’t receive my usual 5 star rating all across the board, I had to go and check my interactions with this particular client.

Despite his one line comment (stating that I was efficient and delivered way ahead of schedule) and ranking, I know I was the epitome of skilled and professional. I looked at our conversations and all I can say is that he had very little to say, but asked me to be 100% honest and extensively edit, no holds barred. His first reaction upon receiving the completed manuscript was “It looks GREAT!” Furthermore, I asked him twice if he needed me to go back in and do anything more, even after I’d been paid. Technically, that is far more than anyone else would be willing to do. I know this because I always go above and beyond where others will demand more money to do so. As my “reward”, he gives me a low score on professionalism and quality. (In all fairness, he ranked those two sections at 4 stars instead of 5, but I KNOW I earned 5 stars.) WHAT.THE.FUCK?! Again, I had to double-check to see if I’d done or said something that could have been taken the wrong way. I went through our discussions and the body of work submitted back to him. Not a thing. I was thorough, honest, and highly complimentary of his work because it really is very interesting and well done.

I won’t lie; when I saw the feedback, I was PISSED. It doesn’t take much to piss me off these days, but I was violently livid, and rightly so. However, I know better than to confront someone about this. Instead, I decided that to show my professionalism was the BEST revenge. I turned around and left him stellar feedback as a client. I meant every word, but I wanted him to see I’m not some unprofessional lowlife. For anyone who has ever worked with me to say that speaks for them, but it says absolutely nothing about me, especially if I’ve only worked for you for a few weeks.

Truth be told, I’d rather a client say absolutely NOTHING than leave feedback that is less than stellar. If you have an issue, it’s perfectly fine to come to me directly and ask me to fix something, or go over the work again. Go directly to the source. Ultimately, this is my livelihood, not eBay. This is not amateur hour. My mother and Grandmother both taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, not to say anything at all. I do utilize that tactic most of the time, but if you piss me off, all bets are off.

Mind you, I do not name names. Not ever. A client could be on the New York Times Best Sellers List and I will NEVER talk about that or mention them by name because it is not my place to do so. Even if I don’t sign an NDA with a client, I still don’t discuss their work or give away their ideas. I have integrity, even when they drive me to the point where I’ve contemplated melon-balling my eyes out, or worse.

He’ll never read this, but he CAN bite me over that feedback. Moreover, while he was being an asshole, I am now officially triple-booked. My new client told me I am “seriously over-qualified for pretty much every job”. That comment alone made my day. 🙂

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copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.