I ran into a sticky situation with an editor a few months back over writing revisions for a freelance magazine assignment. I’d written a short travel piece featuring three different locations, and received approval for the text. The art director wasn’t able to secure a free photograph of one of them, however, and I got a call asking for a new item to replace what I’d written.
As a businessperson, crafting something completely new goes beyond the definition of “writing revisions.” So, I asked the editor if there was budget to compensate for what I considered to be work and time beyond the original scope. The magazine had selected the locations, and the lack of a free photo was beyond my control—and it was their choice, not mine, to not want to pay for one.
That’s not the way she saw it. She maintained that this was simply one of the revisions that was indeed covered under our agreement: requesting “additional information.” It quickly became evident that we’d need to agree to disagree; I completed the task without further discussion. I’d had a solid, several-year relationship with the magazine, and it was only about 200 words. A good faith gesture. They’d generally been pretty low maintenance, as far as the revisions required for other writing I’d done for them.
But I have to admit, this decision stuck in my craw. It wasn’t how I would have handled the same situation with a freelance writer back in my days as an editor. In the back of my head, I thought maybe they’d throw in a few extra bucks when they paid my invoice. (No such luck.)
I haven’t done any work for that magazine since, and I’m OK with that. As it happens, I came across a terrific post from Derek Halpern the other day that applied to my plight: “Use This Technique To Make A Bad Situation Better FAST.” At the risk of spoiling Derek’s punchline, the key is to understand what good can be found out of a bad situation. In my case, I can name a couple of items:
- Their pay was at the low end of my range, so the financial impact was minimal.
- The assignments usually required finding the interview resources, which was time consuming.
It’s almost always a bummer to lose business. When you’re in conflict with an editor or a client, whether over writing revisions or another issue, it may not be business worth keeping.
A hardliner might say I gave in too easily on negotiating, or should simply have said, “No more pay, no more writing.” Others might argue that the editor was in the right, and I shouldn’t have asked for additional compensation. After weighing the pros and cons, writing the small item seemed like the right thing to do. I believe I took the high road. That said, I’m confident that my future time is better spent working with clients whose business principles align with my own.
In the comments: Have you ever had a client ask for something that crossed the line from writing revisions into scope creep? How did you handle it?
Photo courtesy of nkzs.