When it comes to paying jobs, where do you draw the line?
Most of my business comes through existing relationships: my former colleague’s new company, a neighbor’s friend’s business, an editor that moved to a different publication, subcontracting work for professional peers, etc.
Still, like most freelancers I know, I spend a lot of time hustling. I am always trying out new ways to market myself, and have mini storefronts on more sites than I can even remember. Some of them yield work from time to time, and others have resulted in the chirp-chirp of crickets. While I do have a few specialties, I am a generalist by necessity, and hate to turn down a paying gig. Some work is definitely more challenging and more gratifying than other work, but I am always grateful for what I get, and the fact that I am a working writer most of the time.
But, when you put yourself out there, you are bound to get some really random inquiries, and come across some interesting characters and unusual opportunities. I once had a completely demoralizing interview in which the CEO asked, “How much money do you make?” followed by, “How many children do you have?” I still get cold sweats when I think back in horror that I actually responded to these and other equally inappropriate questions. I got back at the old goat, though, by not writing a thank you note afterwards. I am woman writer, hear me roar.
There was also a non-local PR agency that started out wanting local communications, but ultimately wondered if I was available to deliver food. And the thrifty businessman who couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t work for free.
The clincher, though, was when I was offered a retainer working (in part) on behalf of a less-than-admirable government. Have you ever read Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad? It’s awesome all around, but there is a disturbing but hilarious thread about Dolly, a disgraced PR queen who, out of desperation, takes a job working to improve the image of a genocidal dictator.
For me, as it turns out, writing for violators of human rights is where I draw the line. A girl’s gotta have standards.