Friday, 14 May 2010

In a Flap on a Friday

Long post ahead, more because I need to get all this stuff out of my head than because I want you to read it. But feel free to leave your point of view for me - it helps to have someone see this from the outside.

Feeling unsettled today. There are many reasons for this:

The massive freelance project I've taken on doesn't seem to be going anywhere. I've asked the editor what comes next (he's supposed to be supplying me with some guidelines and contacts), but he's not been very helpful and I'm petrified that the deadline will arrive and I won't have been able to complete the 10 000 words of copy that I'm supposed to hand in!

I had a meeting this morning scheduled for me by my boss at Red Tree with the ad company it is merging with, let's call them Orange Coffee (in the great tradition of random agency names). She seems to have given the folk at Orange Coffee the impression that I'll be available to them as part of my agreement with her to continue writing for Red Tree clients for the two months after I leave the company on a contractor basis to assist her with the transition.

This is not my plan at all! I don't want to take on any further PR or advertising work. I want to stop doing it. To give you an idea of why... one freelance feature story for a publication I often work with pays me more than my monthly salary at Red Tree. Surely I should be pursuing the work that I enjoy and that pays decently rather than the work I dislike that doesn't pay?

Then, the man I met with at Orange Coffee proceeded to take me to a meeting with the advertising wing of one of the local publishing houses and introduce me as the copywriter on a major project they want to undertake with government, which they would pay me for as a separate fee. This meeting made me very uncomfortable. There are also many reasons for this:

  • I have not signed any agreements with Orange Coffee, but will now feel guilty if I say no to this project as they've already introduced me to the client and "sold" me and my skills to the company. I know that it's silly to feel bad about something like that and will do my best not to, but I know myself.
  • I don't like working with government. In my experience, they have big ideas but move incredibly slowly, are often unreliable (in terms of deadlines and payment) and I've burned my fingers with projects for them before. Orange Coffee assures me, however, that I would be paid by the agency, not the client, and that boundaries would be set in place to ensure that no work gets done without government supplying the necessary funds, information etc. Not sure I fully believe this.
  • This project would mean a year-long committment to produce four sets of content at three-month periods (ie. one project per quarter). I would need to travel around the country to visit local government branches to collect the info and would probably have to give up at least two weeks of the month every third month to work on this project solidly. Now, I can't predict what will happen in a year's period. And I have other committments to keep in mind. I have monthly retainer clients whose newsletters or web copy needs to be written at a certain time during the month. I oversee a deacon team at church with TSC and lead a weekly small group. It would also tie my hands in terms of taking on new freelance clients in case the deadlines fall during those two-week periods when I would be travelling or unavailable. Furthermore, I'm not keen to tie myself to an unknown quantity for a year. But there's apparently no chance of doing the first project of the four and then making a decision - this is a package deal.
  • Once again, this would essentially be PR work thinly disguised as journalism. It's not the direction I want to head in. I want to write feature stories, not ad or PR copy. I've done that and I don't enjoy it.

On the other hand, this project would pay incredibly well. As in, one of the four sets of content would probably make me more than I've earned in a year of freelancing to date. And, although I'm not about the money, I do have to consider the wisdom of turning down such a big sum that would give us more financial security while TSC is studying and would give me more freedom in the jobs I choose to tackle going forward. All the same, this doesn't sit well with me at the moment. I think lots of prayer is needed and some advice from people on the outside. So hit me with your best shot.

Off to think about how I can put together a contract for the next two months that protects me from abuse from both Red Tree and Orange Coffee.

Have a good weekend.


Cam said...

*hands Tam a Fizz Pop Lolly*

Anonymous said...

This is just my 2c worth, and you are more than welcome to ignore it.

It sounds to me that you've been tricked/guilted into 'working' for the new company. Perhaps you need to sit down with the old Boss/company and say exactly what it is that you are or are not willing to do.

As for the new company's client, although you were introduced as the person, things change and it doubt it would be considered unusual if you left the company mid project (assuming you took it on).

A year is a long time to be tied up. Although the money is good, from what I understand, you've wanted to freelance for a long time and the merger of your company was the opportunity you'd been looking for to pursue that. You sound like you know what you want to do, and what you enjoy, so why turn your back on it?

And remember, you are mistrustful that you will actually be paid by the company (as opposed to Gov). What happens, in 3 months time, when you've turned down other jobs for this one and they don't come through?

Just my impressions. Hope your decision comes to you peacefully!

Flying Lessons said...

Don't do it!
A) Because it's the government. I haven't worked for the government, but I have worked for the City of Jo'burg. They pay really well, but they always give you a crazy deadline or give you the info too late. Which means that not only will you be travelling for 2 weeks, you'll also not be sleeping for 2 weeks.
B) It really sounds like everything in you says no - that's usually a pretty good indication of what to do.

Helen said...

I have no idea, and it sounds like a scary scary dedcision! I would say go with your gut feel, you've got experience with the government and the company, what are you feeling now about this?

po said...

Wah. I have no advice for you, but my gut feeling is it would be best not to do it, cos your plan was to go freelance and that's what you really seemed to want?

Damaria Senne said...

1. I think you're right - you were being pushed into committing more than you originally agreed to by your current company. Thing is, at some stage you are going to have to be firm about the direction your freelance work is taking, and that you don't want to do PR and/advertising work. Maybe you need to sit down and clarify issues -if she needs you for a bit longer, and it's acceptable to you, then you accept that it will be more than 2 months but definitely not what she's running around telling her new partners. GET IT IN WRITING, even if it's by email.

2. A large chunk of the work I've done comes from government, so I understand the frustrations and concerns you raise. So I would suggest you go with your instincts on this one, because you know what works for you and what does not work for you. And maybe it will be hard to say no; maybe it would be walking away from money. Or maybe it's something that you can do, or something you can work with a subcontractor with to help you complete the assignment. Don't forget that you are not their employee; that means that you are also free to amend the terms that are being offered to you, and to allocate resources you have, to make the work suit your needs. And because it's not bylined work, they won't really care as long as you tell them in advance how you are going to deliver their product to them.[that has been my experience at least]

Momcat said...

The cons outweight the pros here. Its amazing how unscrupulous people seem to sense the loyal and responsible people who can be taken advantage of and zone in accordingly. You've already made your decision. You just need the strength to carry it out. Tell them all to get lost. You have the right to do what you really want to in life.

Forever Feline said...

I'd caution you to steer clear of a person or company who uses guilt edged words and ways to ensure you do excatly as they want under the guise of apparently making you a great offer!
Money helps a lot but not when you are too miserable, stressed and tired to actually put it to good use and make a positive from it.
The one time in my life that I actually turned my back on an offer that promised lots of money but made me uncomfortable was the best time for me... just a short week later another offer came along that was perfect and I was in a position to swoop it up and say "yes this is for me and about time and I'm gonna enjoy it". Had I not trusted my instincts I would not have been free to take it.
G'luck and trust yourself xxx

Susan said...

Freelance is no walk in the park, as they say.

Anonymous said...

sadly I can offer no advice... but have enlisted the services of mummy to pray for you :D

Tamara said...

Thanks, everyone. Comments like these mean the world to me. Definitely one of the best things about blogging!

Tola said...

I'm late and feel i'm repeating what most people are saying but my little bit is it seems you got more reasons not to do it than the one advantage of doing it so my advice is No.