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Will (Not) Work For Free (Forever)

There is a time and place to write for free. I think we all understand that. And there's a time to acquire your skill, be a lowly intern -- basking in the bottom-dwelling ranks of the work place -- and we're generally okay with it because we know that's how it works; that's how we get to be paid one day -- and of course, how we hope to move up to a slightly higher rung of the ladder.

However, there comes a time, when we get past that; where we are at the higher rung, and now looking down at those below us with a smile. When and if we work pro-bono, it's because we're helping someone else, or we feel the cause is so worthy, we just have to donate our time or risk feeling like a loser.

I have a writer-friend, who also happens to be a snazzy French-to-English translator, who has her own business AEG Translations-- in other words, she's a PROFESSIONAL. Also meaning, she gets paid to do the job; the one she studied and worked hard for. Yet, to her dismay and the absolute hilarity of it all, she seems to get a lot of people asking her to work for them ... for free.

Her rebuttal to the latest request was on her blog, and I laughed and agreed so much, that I had to repost it. No, she didn't actually send this reply (I don't think) but it sure made me smile.

Here it is:

Dear John,
Thank you for the message! I am happy to provide test translations to potential clients. I understand that this is a test translation, that I will not be paid for this work, and that it does not guarantee that I will ever receive paying work from you. I know how important it is to verify that the people you work with can perform as promised.

To that end, while I'm working on the test translation, there is something that I need you to do. In order to ensure that clients can meet payment deadlines and that there will be no problems with the chosen payment method, I require a test payment from all new clients. To make sure that your account has not been flagged by the chosen payment service the test payment will need to represent a reasonable sum of money. Please send US$600 to my account before the end of the business day tomorrow. (This test payment is non-refundable.) My payment information is included at the end of this email.

I'm sure you will understand why such measures are necessary.
I look forward to working with you!
Sincerely,
Anne

If you too have had one of these "experiences," share it! We'd love to hear about it. Anne, thanks for writing out what we really want to say sometimes.

-HJS

Comments

  1. Ha! Thanks Heather. No, I did not send this letter to a client (or potential client). In fact, the name is a bit of a joke.

    "Dear John"... It's something of a goodbye letter because I would never expect to hear back from a client that I did send this letter to.

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  2. Totally get that. :) I assumed as much.
    Thanks Anne!

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  3. Haha wow. I LOVE that response!!!

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  4. Ha! Love it! Even though it's meant to be funny, I'm glad to see that she knows her value and isn't giving away her time, hard work, and expertise for nothing.

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  5. I can understand this and completely love Anne's fun letter (and personality)!

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  6. As a musician, I'm expected to play for free a lot. That used to be a big annoyance, now it doesn't bother me.

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  7. Angela, that's a great take on things. Good for you!

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