As I carefully crafted an electronic “pink slip” terminating our relationship, I had mixed feelings when I hit the “send” button releasing my email.
Initially, there was a sense of sadness in severing our ties; yet I found great relief.
... Conflicted, yet determined to no longer be compromised.
As with any relationship, there were flashbacks of fond memories of the magic of times past. You know: the phone calls, the reminders of the good things the partnership produced and how we were both enhanced by it. How it made me feel special.
Five years was certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Still… there was the undeniable, nagging realization that over time, I was being devalued and taken for granted.
No matter how much I tried to romance this client by “cutting deals,” offering discounts, working at their convenience, and giving more of myself, the less I got in return.
In striving to be “cheap” and accommodating, ironically, I felt cheap.
All the while, I was unaware that there was another “offering” I provided that actually proved to be pretty costly in the exchange: I was selling my self-respect.
In the “AH-HA” moment that unfolded, The words of Dr. Phil played in my head like a movie soundtrack: “We teach people how to treat us by the things we accept.”
It was time for a paradigm shift.
Here’s the moral of the story...
So often we hold on to relationships, (personal and professional) long after we’ve “lost that lovin’ feeling.” Toxic unions. Relationships that fail to honor our gifts, our time, our experience, our needs. Or those of which we’ve simply outgrown. Relationships that leave us emotionally and financially “in the red.”
We do it out of obligation, out of familiarity, out of fear.
We ignore the “red flags,” the gut instincts, the lessons that experience grants us.
We hesitate to throw in the towel because of the sweaty equity we’ve invested.
We think we’ll have less.
But there’s great validity to the expression, “For every sacrifice there is a gain.”
Sometimes discarding something becomes necessary to declutter the chaos of our lives. When we abandon “stuff” that no longer serves us well, we often gain greater clarity, greater purpose, greater passion and greater self-respect.
Writers and entrepreneurs in particular, need to embrace this simple but profound principle,
as we pen pieces for publications and people that compensate us months, years, down the line, or sometimes not at all.
And how many of us, (somewhere in our creative careers) have toiled for content mills that paid us “factory-worker wages” for advanced skill sets and our college degrees?
What has been resoundingly clear amidst all the madness, is there is an “Art” to teaching people how to treat us.
And the quicker you master it, the more "advanced" you'll become, and the better your quality of living will be.
With this in mind, here are a few guidelines to govern future relationships, and help you to become smart about your art!
And the good news is that this works no matter what genre of writing you’re in (ghost writing , copyrighting, corporate writing, or blogging).
Anger is a wasted emotion that adversely affects your health, your focus, and your time. Instead, use that energy as fuel to ignite your next project. That cheating boyfriend can become the villain that gets knocked off in your working novel. That difficult editor that doubted your ability can be the “naysayer” that takes your work to new levels.
That’s a saying that the best-selling author of “He’s not that into you” used to often share with women who had been burned due to poor relationship patterns. Translated here? Align your time, “beauty” and talents with clients that “get you” and appreciate the value you bring to their project. Of course, you can’t convince others of your worth until you recognize it yourself.
Communicate your expectations early on.
Things like how you will handle last minute requests, project revisions, late payments, or terminating the working relationship. Put it in writing. Be clear. Address the journalism’s 5 Ws for optimal results.
Put a premium on your time.
Plumbers do. Why shouldn’t writers?
In his book “How to Win at the Sport of Business” Mark Cuban, the billionaire shark of the program Shark Tank, tells us “"How wisely you use your time will have far more impact on your life and success than any amount of money.” Take inventory. How much time are you spending on trying to collect from clients that don’t pay on time? Or trying to cultivate new business through social media circuits? As a wise man once said: “If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make cents.”
Retrain your brain.
Stop living in a poverty mindset…subscribing to the starving artist mentality. Sometimes it comes at a great price. If you’ll accept “crumbs” from others, that’s what’s likely to be on the menu.
Exit with dignity.
If a relationship has to be ended, do it with class and maturity. Even in situations where there were “creative differences” and disagreements, burning bridges is rarely prudent.