Posted in Writing

Boundaries (or… “This Righting Isn’t Write!”)

editor cartoon

She calls herself an editor.

In actual fact she’s a person with terrible written communication skills (as well as terrible manners) and a dubious grasp of the English language. She pays well, though—more than twice what I used to make per article—so maybe the practice of regularly having to advocate for myself is just part of earning that.

She’s one of two clients for whom I write regularly right now, both of them paying considerably more than I earned a few months ago. The other client gives me forty articles at a time, leaves me entirely alone for a few weeks, and pays me the same day I send them in. I love writing for him.

But this lady—lord help me.

She sends writing instructions that are incomplete and nonsensical… and then gets impatient when I ask for clarification.

This week her response to my invoice was a terse and un-informative email: “This invoice is NOT correct. Please revise and send me the correct invoice.” No specifics. I double-checked and replied that the invoice exactly matched the articles I’d sent her.  Eventually I got the unapologetic answer (accompanied by a late payment) that it had been her error. Yes, I know that.

She has sent emails accusing me of plagiarism when CopyScape showed up a “hit,” which turned out only to be a hit of the keyword-phrases, which I am required to include, none of my own writing. (She retracted when I advocated.) Yesterday’s email accused me of “outsourcing” my work to a non-native English speaker, due to incorrect English in the phrasing of some sentences. I pointed out that when the required keyword-phrases are strings of words that can not, in any way, be used “correctly” in the English language, then every sentence with that keyword sequence will necessarily have incorrect phrasing in it.

I also found myself musing over the choice sentences concluding her email (in which, remember, she was chiding me for writing like a “non-native speaker” of English):

I’ve worked with over 100 writers till date, I don’t pay lousy editors, because I started out as a writer long back in time. Please be aware I check every copy you right..  

I wonder in which language she started out as a writer? I just hope it wasn’t English…

This is fairly typical of a week’s interactions with her… She lashes out with a complaint that’s as rude as it is unfounded, I respond by advocating for myself, she backs down (or ignores my response), she sends more work as if nothing had happened.

The aspect of advocating-for-myself is something that has changed over the course of my ten months or so of freelance writing. I’ve come to know my worth as a writer, to stand up for myself, and to set boundaries. Ten months ago I’d take almost any pittance of a payment (because I was so  excited to get paid anything for writing) and work under any conditions set by a client.

Gardening… NOT tethered to the computer!

These days my main “boundary” is insisting on a 24-hour window for turn-around, because I don’t want to be living at the computer (instead of in the world with my family) just-in-case a client sends a project and expects an immediate response. I’ve committed to return any assignment (up to 5,000 words) within 24 hours of when the client sends it to me; whether or not they hear from me right away, they can count on getting it back within that time-frame.

I don’t do same-day turn-around any more, because I found myself a few months ago drowning in the unending tide of assignments flooding over me. I was never finished with a day’s work, because there was always another “urgent” flying at me. And if I stepped away from the computer for a few hours to run errands or hang with the kiddos, someone would be getting antsy on the other end of an unanswered email.

I suppose, once again, we come to a matter of balance. When the writing became incompatible with Mommying, it was time for a shift. Given my take-it-or-leave-it attitude in presenting my new working M.O. to this particular client, I wasn’t sure she would take it. But… I do know my own worth now, and stood by it, and she took it.

beach mama
Watching the kids swim… NOT tethered to the computer!

I’d written for her before, for a number of months through an intermediary—who very kindly gave me her contact information when he and I parted ways professionally. I actually didn’t contact her, because she had been my absolute least favorite client to write for, but evidently he also gave her my information, because she contacted me. I set my boundaries. And here we are.

She’s still driving me nuts, but she’s also paying well. And now I’m free to roam out of range of the computer—those afternoons at the beach with the kids, for example. An anyway, it’s a short trip to “nuts” for some of us…


I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

42 thoughts on “Boundaries (or… “This Righting Isn’t Write!”)

  1. I must apologize, because your frustrations make me laugh. So this is kind of an apology for loving your writing. I have no idea if that is proper of me or not, behavior wise I mean. :)


    1. Actually, I love it that laughing is your response. :) (And “proper” be hanged!) If we can’t laugh at stuff like this, Life would be an awfully long trudge…


  2. She sounds like a crazymaker, however you sound very rational (probably a pun in there? sorry). Good practice for future “difficult” clients, although hopefully only dream clients are coming your way!


  3. Holy crud (sorry, it’s exactly what came to mind….trying to clean up my language for the boys -ha ha)! What a trying woman — you are a SAINT for continuing to work with her. I know I don’t have to tell you to keep advocating for yourself — you will, but I’m so impressed with your self-confidence!


    1. I probably don’t qualify as “saint” since I’m taking her money in exchange for putting-up-with-her. I mean working-with-her. ;) And to be honest, it was easy in this case to set the initial “my-way-or-the-highway” boundary, since I had a pretty strong leaning NOT to work with her in the first place. But since she went for it, okay. She does pay well! ;)


  4. On the positive side–I’ve heard that chewing nails burns lots of calories. Sounds like you’re keeping the hardware store in business. :-)


  5. Thought that the client sounded familiar! :D I can’t believe that you are taking her assignments on your own choice but … maybe. Congrads on speaking up for yourself but she’s still paying dip-squat IMO for your work.

    However, the school of hard knocks does provide an education that is unavailable in the classroom.


    1. ha, I knew YOU’D recognize her! :) And yeah, I won’t argue that the work is still worth more than she pays. But it IS eye-opening to realize how substantial a cut we were losing to the “intermediary”… At least now it’s nearly three times the pay-out for putting up with her, compared to those earlier months. I’ll go with it… for now. ;)


  6. You’re braver than me. I would be afraid she would read my blog and recognize herself! Then I might lose her as a client. Oh, that might not be a bad thing. As always, I love your writing.


    1. It DID cross my mind before I hit “publish”… But here we are anyway. ;) Pretty much everything I wrote here I’ve also written TO her (except for telling her she’s rude), though I’m sure she’d drop me if she does read this. Guess we’ll see. ;) As you observe, I was ambivalent enough already about resuming a working relationship with her—if she walks, I’d be able to take that development with equanimity. :)


    1. Well, the blog does serve the most excellent purpose of evicting those tenacious tenants who would otherwise be taking up the rent-free space in my head. That’s worth more than a few bucks! ;)


  7. It’s nice to be in a place where you know your worth. Not easy, but nice…and much better than the alternative. ;-) Even better if there’s at least one other “believer” in your corner. Glad you found both.


  8. It sounds like a season of growth and process. Of course you took any job that came along at first, but you don’t need to do that any more. And, eventually, you won’t need to keep an abusive client. But not yet…


  9. I’m reading this… and wondering.. what must her life be like? That she addresses you (and I’m sure everyone else) in this way… I’m glad you can set healthy boundaries and not take her personally! It sounds like she is full of unhappiness :-(.


    1. Insightful—and no doubt true. I have a feeling she hasn’t set any boundaries to protect HER happiness…


  10. I’m a retired secretary. I’ve had my share of run ins. Even worked with a client with emails long, without punctuation or captilization, rendering it incomprehensible. At last, the boss asked her to take her issue to someone else.

    It was pretty easy for me to let her emails roll off my back, but if I had to deal directly with her, I would have killed someone. Kudos to you for your restraint.


  11. Sounds like you are certainly earning that better paycheck from this lady editor, Kana! I am so glad the extra time for gardening and “mommying” is turning out to be more than enough to outweigh the negatives of dealing with this lady!


  12. Good stuff Kana. I actually left a job recently where I was working with a woman like that. I didn’t advocate for myself very well, as you did. I just decided I didn’t need her in my life and moved on. I found more work straight away like it was meant to be :-)


  13. Kana – I always like the slice of life you bring to the table…especially when you were willing to take a slice out of your client…too funny, but good for you. Nothing ventured, right? I always value you stopping by. Thanks. Dan


    1. “Slice of life”—I love that image to describe a blog! :) (And slice of client—that’s just a bonus.)


  14. oh wow! that’s quite the rant! I just hope that the lady doesn’t read it :p hahah we need anonymous blogs. Sigh!

    I apologize for my disappearance (wait, is that right? lol) but I have been busy with exams but I haven’t forgotten about the anklet! Please let me know which measurements you need and we can proceed! :D


  15. I DID consider before I hit “publish”—if she DOES read it, I’ll be relieved of the hassles of dealing with her… Figured I could deal with that. ;)

    (1) circumference of your ankle, and (2) from the front of your ankle (at the point where you measured circumference) to the space between your 1st & 2nd toes. I think that should be all I need. :)

    Hugs—and welcome back! :)


  16. Kana,

    First and foremost, thanks for the follow at It is always flattering when a bona fide writer likes your wirting.

    I was entertained and amused by your blog regarding your challenging client. It reminds me of some of my clients who want to sue me because it rained during their entire stay in paradise.

    Keep up the good work.



    1. Really makes you wonder about some people, doesn’t it? ;) I’ll bet you’ve got some GREAT stories from that job! Glad I found your blog. :)


  17. I havent done any freelance writing for a while, been working on other things. Not sure what the next move will be but found this highly entertaining :-)


  18. OMG. I have come across a person or two like your client. Nothing like having someone try to impress YOU when she doesn’t have a clue how—and I HATE bad grammar. Hurray for not letting her get the upper hand. As usual, another thought provoking post. Thanks for sharing.


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