When Life Lessons Slap You In The Face

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In case you missed it, I work from home. After I birthed the tornado commonly known as Bean, I painstakingly developed my writing/editing business that, while it certainly doesn’t produce a full-time income, it fills in the cracks and lessens some of the month-to-month budgetary pressures.

But here’s the thing about freelance work–if you can’t advocate for yourself, you’re SOL because no one else will. After four years, I’ve learned many good but also many harsh lessons, including that some clients will never be happy, I need to own up to mistakes and do everything in my power to correct them, and that working from home means that you actually have to, you know, work.

This past week, however, introduced me to a situation that I finally realized is all to common for many women, and I believed I was better than. It also helped me see that I have a long way to go before I can be the kind of role model that my daughter needs.

So, let’s set the stage: I have a great client. This was one of my first clients, and we’ve had an incredible, long-term business relationship. Great client merges with larger company and that’s when the trouble starts. Great client is still my boss and the work is still the same. But new company now handles billing/payments/taxes. Soon, payments become sporadic, and no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get new company to pay me in a consistent manner. Now, a logical person would have put her foot down months ago, but my inner-need to be a people-pleaser prompted me to keep working and let months go by with no payments. In fact, I’ve never been paid without having to ask (as in “could you please pay that two-month old invoice…pretty please?”).

Finally, this week, I essentially went on strike. I told great client that we’ve reached the breaking point, and that I wasn’t working anymore until I received payment and my long overdue tax documents. Right now, you’re thinking “good”…but let’s back up and see what the heck is wrong with this picture:

  1. Why in the world did I let this situation drag on for 10…yes, 10 months?
  2. Even worse, when I did go on strike, why did I feel the need to send an apology-laden, meekly-composed email that was basically a sugar-coated crap fest?

It only took me a few days to wake up (as well as some strong words from the hubs), and to realize that I was playing into every stupid stereotype we have about women in the workplace. As I waited and agonized, he repeated the same phrase over and over, “It’s business! The only person that’s making this personal is YOU!” Why was I fretting over a perfectly reasonably request? Why was I shying away from standing up for myself? But most importantly, why did I feel the need to apologize for asking that my client fulfill the most basic element of a contract?

What’s really pathetic is that, even with all my fancy (and expensive) education, and a plethora of strong female role models, I still approach advocating for myself with apologies, disclaimers, and deep, inner panic. Hubs is right in that I need to eject the emotion and treat business like business, and I need some serious self-awareness when it comes to this issue. I can teach my daughter to have determination, but how can I teach her to be her own advocate if she sees me apologizing my way through life as I ask for fairness?

So, I’m still on strike, and while I don’t want to lose my best client, I’m reminding myself that you teach people how to treat you. If I teach them that this is acceptable by not standing up, then I am giving them my permission to continue.

 

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