Skrip - tyur' - i - ent: adj. Possessing the violent desire to write.


#127 In which our hero quits his job (epilogue).

I was a little worried about the actual quitting part of quitting my job. I had signed a non-compete agreement with my (then) boss that stipulated that I was forbidden from going to work for any current client or competitor for a full year.

Now, the reality is that this tiny little two man shop was in no way a competitor to the large agency I was going to work for. However, if you interpret “competitor” in a broad sense you could argue that any business that does advertising or marketing for another business is indeed a competitor. I was extremely worried that my boss would try to pull something like that. I was afraid that he would go to my new agency and do some legal saber-rattling. Would this be enough for the new agency to say, “Ugh, what’s all this potential lawsuit bullshit? No single writer is worth this hassle, just retract our offer” ? This is what kept my up at night.

On top of this was my boss’s paranoia. His former writer was a real piece of work, and when he left to set up his own business, he wrote letters to all their current clients saying, basically, “I’ve done all your writing for the past year. Now I’m on my own, so you need to start funneling your money my way.” So, I can’t really blame my boss for doing everything he could to keep from being screwed again.

But that wasn’t my intent. I just wanted to work at a place that had a real receptionist on the payroll.

So I carefully lined up my arguments, and thought up counters for anything he might say. I was going to be calm, cool and professional throughout, and if he wanted to be a screaming child, then it would all be on him.

Preparing for this was extremely difficult, because I am the first to let loose with a, “well, FUCK YOU, asshole!” when it comes to disagreements. But when it finally came to it, it was hugely anticlimactic. My boss was reasonable. Amazingly reasonable considering that 50% of his staff just walked in to his office and quit.

I had considered just showing up on a Thursday and saying, “Tomorrow’s my last day, sucka!” but I didn’t. I gave him two weeks notice. Don’t get me wrong, I was in a big rush to get the hell out of there, but, see… I’ve discovered that the advertising world in northeast Ohio is really insular. And while I highly doubted that this one guy with a little rinky-dink operation could harm my career in some way… I wasn’t sure. He might know someone who knows someone, and the next thing you know I’m in the outs with my new employer. So I played nice, gave notice, finished up projects.

Now, more than a little of my concern came form the fact that my boss was a little bit slimy. Not completely, but somewhat. I think it’s unavoidable if you’re working in junk mail. So I thought he might not be above doing something slimy to me and/or my career.

Here’s a quick example of his ooze: he set up all DM projects that came through the door to be paid on a per-project basis. Most advertising is billed by the hour, that is to say, if a client’s post card took the copywriter an hour to write, and the designer two hours to design, then the client gets billed for three hours of time. My boss, on the other hand, would just give the client a flat rate. Which, y’know, whatever, if that’s okay for everyone than I could care less. But the issue came in when any project I wrote had to be designed. See, without a designer on staff, we used freelancers. And since we got paid a flat amount, my boss paid a flat amount. Say my boss agreed to pay the designer $300 to design the project. If it only took the designer an hour, then he just made $300/hour. If it took him two hours, then he’s only getting $150/hour. Problem was that most projects take closer to 5-10 hours, so the designer might be down to $30/hour or less when all was said and done.

But, if this is agreed upon at the start, then it’s fine. My biggest problem was that my boss preferred to get the work started, then talk about what he was going to pay later. Now, shame on the designer for going along with bullshit like that, but still: sleazy.

Two things you need to understand to appreciate the next thing: #1. In advertising, clients always want to see examples of past work. “Have you done any non-profit work before?” “Sure, he’s a sample of a fundraising letter we did,” and so on. So samples are very, very important to getting new business. When I came on as a writer, I brought all my samples with me. So suddenly my boss had samples from dozens of companies and brands that were never available to him before. This is pretty standard in the industry. Even if the AGENCY has never done work for a specific company, if you have a staff member who did (say, while he was working at a different agency, or as a freelancer) then the agency can then claim it as their own. I know, it’s a little bait-and-switchy, but that’s the way it goes. #2. My boss had a huge beef with people who did freelance when employed by an agency. He saw it as flat-out stealing form the company. In his thinking, any freelance you did should be brought to the agency so the entire agency could benefit form it, not just the writer. He said he just could not understand how any person could rationalize freelance work as anything but theft.

So, when I quit, my boss asked that I not use any examples of what I did for him in my portfolio. That’s a bullshit request, by the way. It’s just another way of saying, “While I benefited from you working for me, I don’t want you to ever benefit from working for me.” But fine, it’s not like my work there was going to skyrocket the credibility of my portfolio anyway. But in return, I asked that he not use any of my samples in the future when pitching new business.

When I said it, I saw all the gears in his head come to a sudden halt. Me leaving not only left him bereft of a writer, it also took away lots of good samples, and pretty much ALL the samples he was using for brand/soft retail stuff. He mulled it over for a second, then asked if I’d be willing to stay on as a freelancer.

What a fucking hypocrite! But remember, I was still paying nice, so I said I’d consider it. Now, I had already anticipated this move, and there was NO WAY I wanted this guy using any of my samples in the future. I felt slightly dirty even showing them while I was working there, forget it after I moved on. To this end, after I got the offer at my new agency my first action was to remove everything that was mine form the sample books, and delete all my work from the website. I was looking for a clean break.

So why didn’t I just say NO THANKS to the freelance offer? Because I’ve been burned before. I went to what I though was a promising agency only to be fired two months later. Advertising is shit for job security. So, if I could get a little freelance work out of this guy, why not?

I’ll tell you why not.

Because several weeks after I quit, he emailed me asking if I could do some revisions that had come in on a project that was in the works while I still worked there. I emailed him back and said I could and gave him my hourly rate. He emailed me again, sent me a PDF of the work.

I couldn’t open the PDF, so I called him. We talked briefly about the project, then got to what I was really interested in:
ME: So, you’re okay with the hourly rate I gave you?
HIM: Oh, I didn’t see that.
ME: It was clearly on the email I sent you.
HIM: I didn’t see it. Maybe I didn’t scroll down far enough.
ME: Um hm. Well, it’s still $XX/hour.
HIM: Oh, well, I really prefer to pay on a per-project basis.
ME: I know you do. But that doesn’t work for me. I charge $XX/hour. That’s why I wanted to make sure you where okay with the rate.
HIM: Well, lets worry about the price when the time comes.
ME: I think the time has pretty much come right now. If you’re not willing to pay $XX/hour, I’m not doing work for you.
HIM: Okay, well, let me send you another PDF and we’ll talk about it.
And so it went. Finally, after a series of fruitless emails back and forth, I just called him and said, “look, you’re not willing to pay me what I want, and I’m pretty busy at my new job, so I can’t commit to doing this project. You’re going to have to find someone else.”

And I really thought that was it, that I was done with this guy. Until I got my final check in the mail.

For some reason, the check was short by two days. Honestly, I don’t think he was trying to screw me, I think he is just so disorganized that he didn’t check the dates and screwed it up. So I emailed him, pointed out the error, and he said he’d send out another check for the difference right away.

So when I got that check, I see that now he’s overpaid me by about a hundred bucks. I’m like, are you fucking kidding me? So I email him again, point out this error, and get this message in response.
Your so good. Would you keep the difference and apply it toward freelance writing for the XXX job? I should have revisions in a couple days.
First of all, learn to spell. Second of all, AARGH! So now I’m wondering if he overpaid me on purpose so he could come back later and use it as leverage for future writing. I email the guy back, and say, “Okay, look, I’ll keep this money and do the revisions, but anything over and above I’m going to charge you at a rate of $XX PER HOUR. Is that clear?” He says he understands and will get back to me.

Two months pass.

I haven’t cashed his check, just because everything that was happened before has made me very leery of accepting extra money from this guy. So finally, just a couple of days ago, I get fed up and mail the check back to him, along with a note that says that I won’t be doing any more freelance in the near future, so please take this check back and send me another one for the right amount.

I can’t wait to see what ends up in my mailbox next.


Blogger Rudy Wellsand said...

Oooooooh! Dark Site!

I tho't that was funny, how the "sleeze" treated you, and how you paid him back1

Congrats on your newborn, right out of The Scientist's LAB!

YOU are a man of MANY WORDS! That's probably what the Indians would have called you; "Here come MANY WORDS again!"

Have you ever tho't that something CONTROLS you, that makes you SAY, FEEL, and ACT the way you do? Is Destiny CONTROLLED by CODES?

You have DNA and RNA CODES in you, plus other CODES that switch things ON and OFF in your body; ALL to CONTROL you!



See the "Chosen"Code and "Color" Code; VISIT: ! SAVE or Print it to study.


Have you ever

4:36 PM

Blogger Lil Kate said...

Regarding the first commenter: What the hell?

Regarding your job saga: Man, I don't envy you one bit. I'm really happy that you're out of that DM job and I hope that you're happy at your new job. Thanks for sharing the story - you tell it very well. ;)

11:38 AM


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