Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I broke up with somebody this morning.

We hadn’t been together long – just a couple of months – and I suppose our relationship was like so many others. It burned with a white-hot intensity and passion at first, but the novelty wore off quickly. Our 7 encounters a week dwindled to 4, and before long, even that felt like too many. Ours was no longer a mutually beneficial union. I put a lot of hard work and effort into our relationship, and while I know the other person was pleased with my performance, I myself began to dread the monotony. In fact, I started to feel used. Even though I was getting paid – hey, these talents ain’t free! – it wasn’t nearly enough to justify the time and effort I was putting into the relationship. I began to long for others, ones less demanding and more appreciative of my skills. I found another, through an ad on Craigslist, and began doing that one, too. And then I sought out a third.

No, this isn’t some sordid tale straight out of a trashy made-for-cable-television movie.

Unfortunately.

I’m referring to my freelance writing. Back in December, when I first embarked upon this adventure, I picked up a client who hired me to produce a batch of SEO articles every week. I was thrilled at first, and plunged into the work with gusto. Before long, however, it became tedious. I was responsible for seven articles a week, and that first month they all involved writing about car insurance. There are only so many different topics one can come up with relating to auto insurance, and believe me, I covered them all. Again and again. Just when I finally got used to that topic, they switched me over to kitchen cabinet doors. There are even fewer topics to write about for that subject. At that point they cut their writer’s assignments down to four a week, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I picked up a second client and found their how-to articles and topics considerably more interesting. For one thing, I got to choose the topics I’d write about. For another, they paid more. Still, I continued writing for my original client, out of a sense of duty and obligation, even though the return on my investment was minimal. And then, two weeks ago, they switched things up again and my new area of “expertise” became steel buildings.

Throwing it all away is tough to do! (Courtesy of mediabistro.com).

I couldn’t take it any longer. I found myself knocking out all four articles in a single day just to get them over with. Worse, they were eating into my valuable time, which could have been spent on the better-paying and more intellectually stimulating how-to articles instead. Factor in this opportunity with Groupon, and suddenly I knew it was time to cut my ties with them. So this morning I fired off a very polite e-mail, thanking them for the opportunity and letting them know that the experience was invaluable and I couldn’t have landed other clients without it, but I had to focus on other opportunities now since this is my sole source of income and blah, blah, blah. It was a very nice breakup letter, trust me. Their response?

Because you did not give us the required notice, you will not be eligible to work with us in the future.

Ouch. I had no idea there was any sort of notice required when severing ties – nothing was ever mentioned to me in the beginning. It appears somebody was taking this breakup rather poorly.

So help me, if I come home one afternoon and find a rabbit boiling away in a pot on my stove…

…well, I guess I won’t have to worry about dinner that night.

But also, I’ll be really freaked out and scared.

I wrote back and said I’d had no idea they liked to have a notice, and they told me two weeks was appreciated so they could reallocate their articles and continue to meet their client’s needs seamlessly, and I get that, I really do. I started to feel bad about the whole thing and almost volunteered to keep writing for another couple of weeks…but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. These articles are that mind-numbingly soul-sucking.

I was chatting with a friend about this whole thing earlier today. She asked, Are you concerned about being ineligible to work with them again?

My response? No, not at all…but I am concerned with developing a professional image.

Which is true. As corny as it sounds, I want my name to mean something out there. I want it to stand not only for quality work, but also for dedication and commitment. The whole thing has turned into a bit of an uncomfortable and sticky little mess, but I’ll just have to deal with any potential fallout and move on. All the freelance books I’ve read say you’ve got to know how to best allocate your time and can’t be afraid to say “no” to people. Today was all about me, saying “no.”

As for Groupon, things continue to move forward. I submitted my third and final sample article today, and will have feedback on it tomorrow. Matt – the recruiter I’m dealing with – said “this is your last, best chance to shine before you are evaluated by the writing committee.” Err…there’s a writing committee that will be checking out my work and making a final decision?! Yikes. I’m more nervous than ever now. I think I’ve done enough to impress them – Matt’s reaction to my first two articles was positive – but without hearing back on the third yet, and knowing it’s up to a bunch of strangers now, who knows?

On a completely unrelated note, yesterday I went back to my old place of employment to visit with my former coworkers and friends. First time I’d been back since that fateful day in late October when I walked out the door for the last time. It was a little surreal, walking into the lobby and seeing a stranger – albeit a hot one – sitting behind the reception desk where Kristy belonged. “Oh, she’s up in customer service now,” I was told. I signed into the log book, was handed a visitor’s badge, and then – because it was obvious everybody knew me, judging by the greetings I was receiving from people walking by – the hot new receptionist gave me free reign of the building. I ended up staying two hours, and it was great seeing all those familiar faces again. I shook a bunch of hands, doled out a lot of hugs, and recounted my unemployment journey thus far ad nauseum. Walking around the place I’d worked for more than six years felt familiar and comfortable, and by the time I left, I was feeling more than a little nostalgic for the past.

But then, as soon as I got back home and walked through the door, I remembered how much I prefer being my own boss instead, and felt a lot better about things.

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13 thoughts on “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

  1. Mark–
    fun post–although, of course I have to admit I was hoping you might be a gigolo.

    We don’t see enough of those anymore, out there in the world.

    Richard Gere really was the last and best.

    Alas.

    And…leaving your client and being told you’d no longer be eligible to work for them in the future is like breaking up with a girl you don’t like anymore and having her tell you she won’t let you paint her icky toenails anymore.

    run, Mark. Run.
    blessings
    jane

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  2. I’d say you’ve learned a valuable lesson in the career path of any freelancer. Once you’ve got your legal bases covered (like, did you sign a contract for any length of time? Didn’t think so!) it’s all about your time, indeed! Finding good clients is so key, and maintaining relationships with ones that didn’t work out is also great. But they must deserve it! It sounds like they served their purpose, like you served yours and it was the end of this business deal. Creative and cerebral, yes, but it’s still business!

    Good job!

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  3. The first paragraph had me NERVOUS! Although making these decisions is tough, realizing when a job/opportunity/ “Craigslist Date” isn’t fulfilling and saying so is a BIG step! Good for you for wanting more for your writing :)

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  4. In my opinion you did the right thing, Mark.

    “My response? No, not at all…but I am concerned with developing a professional image.”

    Exactly. I’m the same way. If I’m not 100% happy with what I’m doing, I can’t do it. I’m more into quality than quantity. I too have written articles for various companies and the pressure to pump out x-amount of articles a week was just too much. I felt like I couldn’t give quality.

    This other company you’re working for (Groupon) sounds much better and more of what you’re looking for.

    You GO, boy!

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    1. I just found myself shuffling words around but basically cloning the same articles over and over. They don’t care about creativity so much when they’re just trying to hit the right keyword density, so that was fine – but it wasn’t emotionally or intellectually fulfilling for me.

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  5. Sounds like deep down, you knew this decision was coming anyway. I’m happy for you that were able to make it and stand by it. If you do find a rabbit in a pot on your stove, bring it over for my Godfather theme party. We’re decorating our own horse head cookies! *squeal!*

    Like

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