#FailUp Friday is a weekly post where freelance education writers post mistakes and failures and what they learned. If you have a story to share, please submit it here: http://bit.do/WEMFailUp. Your story may end up in one of our #FailUp Fridays.
This story was sent in from a member.
I’ve been in the business for almost two decades and am still learning the ropes. (Sorry, newbies, it never truly gets easier.) This particular disaster occurred about 4 years ago. I was in a slow period and responded to an online ad. The company needed someone to edit an online college course for $1,500. The turnaround was tight, but that didn’t worry me because I had nothing else to do. Thank God for that because it turned into a FULL-TIME job for four weeks. I was to read the course and all its accompanying materials (end of chapter questions, test questions, answer keys). Yes, I had to verify the answer keys . . . . and you know how time-consuming that is.
The project turned out to be a nightmare. I worked 160 hours for $1,500. It was a course about restaurant management. Whoever wrote it was challenged by the English language. The writer was even more challenged by math concepts. So whenever there were math problems (figuring out overhead costs or what to charge for a meal based on the cost of its components), the math was wrong.
Sometimes the writer used capital letters with a parenthesis after it for answer choices in assessment questions. Sometimes the writer used lowercase letters with periods. But when I asked the project manager for a style sheet, she didn’t know what one was!!! I had to create one and then refer to it as the project dragged on. If I asked my project manager a style question or what the company preferred, she had no idea. None.
The going was slower than molasses. Did I mention how poor the writing and math was? So as the deadline drew closer and I struggled to keep up, the PM took some chapters from me and did them herself–and then deducted $300 from my pay!
So what can you learn from my mistakes?
(1) Find out specifically what the job entails. When someone wants to pay you a fixed sum for a course, be cautious. You must know the number of pages for the price. “Ten chapters” is too vague–it can mean 200 pages or 800 pages. The project manager may beat around the bush and say because it’s online so there’s no page count. Baloney. I was editing the material in Word before it was entered into the platform, so there was a page count. If you get a vague answer, do NOT take the job! I don’t care that you’re not busy. Next week you could get a dream job, but if you’ve already signed a contract committing yourself to a month of slave labor, you’re stuck doing the slave labor.
(2) Get the information about what the course entails in writing. It doesn’t have to be fancy: “You will edit 200 pages for $2,000. The page content will include text, end of chapter questions, assessment questions, and the answer key. The work will be completed by X date.”
(3) Ask for a style sheet. If the PM has no idea what you are talking about, offer to create one–for a price! (BTW if the PM has no idea what one is, that speaks volumes about the company.)
(4) Save your emails. They are legal evidence if you need to sue for payment. There was nothing in her emails saying that she could pull some of the work from me and deduct it from my pay. Fortunately when I mentioned this to the company’s CEO, the $300 was restored to me. (That made me wonder if this company had had “tangles” with freelancers before.)
(5) Be wary when working for a new company. If you’ve never worked for them before, it’s just not wise to be trusting. I don’t care if it has a “big name” in ed publishing. I once had one of the biggest names in ed publishing state in a phone call that they were going to publish my book. Shortly thereafter the editor who made the promise during the phone call got married and went on her honeymoon, while I worked on her requested revisions. She never returned to the company,and I was left trying to get the ear of someone else at the company . . . without success.