Doing What It Says on the Tin

Wordhouse-160WA guest blog by Gill Pavey of Wordhouse Writing Services

It’s tempting for the new freelancer to diversify a little when things are quiet, or make rash promises of turnaround time to secure a job against competition. Be warned though; if you compromise honesty and integrity, you could be on a slippery slope. If you are affiliated to any professional association or society, you will almost certainly be breaking part of the code of conduct.

The client is paying for a result, and expects this to be up to the required standard and on time. They may ask you to do something that you don’t advertise as a service but you’ve done it for yourself and a few friends as a favour, so what’s the problem? Of course you can do it, and within the time they demand.

Stop right there.

Step away from the sales fuelled hype and can-do attitude for a moment. This is the real world with real people, and there is no place for dubious or unsubstantiated claims of competence.

A number of occupations attract untrained, inexperienced people offering their services (“how hard can it be?”). When I see some adverts for proofreaders for example, mis-spelled, I laugh. I would no more engage somebody like that than I would my farmer neighbour when I want my car fixed, however confident he is.

Clients want, and deserve, a proper job done whoever they are. They have an expectation of honesty and integrity in all their dealings with you, because that is also what they are paying for. Claim to be an expert in something that you are not because you feel that the client is inexperienced or gullible enough to be taken advantage of, and you are off down the path of dishonesty faster than roadrunner.

Get out of your depth, and things can get messy in no time. For example, you are a novice copy editor approached by a first-time author of a 140,000 word novel which needs the skills of a structural editor. This looks like a gift, even though you have only ever attempted structural editing on your own novel, still being tinkered with after a number of years. It’s a big job and the thought of such a boost to your flagging income is seductive. At this point the honest person will hear the warning bells going off, from the consequences of doing a poor job to spectacular inaccuracies in timing and cost. If it does turn into a nightmare, it will go on for ever and the rashly-promised deadlines will go west too.

Of course, integrity can take more subtle forms. Do you avoid picking up calls because it might be a difficult conversation, ignore emails or take days to reply? Do you drop what you’re working on in favour of a rush job for a more favoured client and make excuses to client #1?

Clients should get “exactly what it says on the tin” and possibly a little more for goodwill. I believe that good old fashioned honesty and integrity pay dividends in the end, even if it means not proceeding with a prospective client. So, if someone approaches you with a job that you really cannot give the appropriate level of competence and service to, they may be surprised when you say no; but it would hurt both of you far more if you said yes.

Gill Pavey
Wordhouse Writing Services

Gill started proofreading for magazines and newspapers in the 1980s, dabbling in journalism, writing and copywriting over the years. In recent years she has been a columnist and feature writer in two of Ireland’s pet magazines. Wordhouse Writing Services was established in 2011 and is already attracting work from clients all over the world, for proofreading and copy-editing services.  She lives in rural Ireland with her two Dalmatians Diva and Dizzy, and has written an award-winning dog book “Polly and Friends”.

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