If it's a story about me, then I'll say so up front.

This is a blog about Truth, Justice and the American Way. The stories are true. No names have been changed to protect anyone's identity, including my own. If the story is about me, then I'll say so right up front. If I don't use a name to identify whom the story is about, then it's because it's not relevant. So please do not call me or e-mail me with your kind condolences or unwarranted congratulations about something that you believe is a cleverly disguised bio from my alter ego. These stories, like my photo, are unretouched.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Open For Business 25/8

I don’t know about you but I just love it when a client calls at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday to “run some ideas past you.” After all, freelancers don’t need no stinking “sleeping in” on a romantic, rainy Sunday. Sleeping in only results in spontaneous sex. Better to lie beside your spouse and listen to a conversation about distribution quotas while you quietly seethe. That will bring the population growth down.

I also love it when clients call in the evening, during a movie. Do you answer? Yeah, so did the guy in front of me in the multiplex last night. First he tried whispering. Then he got “stink eye” from his neighbors. When someone beaned him with a wadded up napkin, he left the theater talking all the way. You could hear the conversation. It was about a deadline that had been moved up. (Why are deadlines always moved up? Why are they never moved back to give you some breathing room? Why is that?)

I suppose he could have ignored the call but my experience tells me that if you don’t answer, they will just text you. Over and over again.

Why are we allowing ourselves to become on-call slaves? Because we live in the age of instant gratification. Early morning; late at night; weekends; holidays. BTW, what are holidays? I haven’t seen a holiday since 1972. And I live in Hawai‘i, the state that has more official holidays than any other state in the union. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, New Year’s Day, Prince Kuhio Day, King Kamehameha Day, Independence Day, Statehood Day (which is celebrated by native Hawaiians by displaying the flag of the nation of Hawai‘i upside down – the international distress signal) and all the rest. Oops, did I accidentally say “rest?” Ha, ha! That was a joke. The only people who get to rest on most holidays are state workers. For everyone else, it’s just a day in which the busses don’t run as often (for our convenience).

And it’s not just clients who are guilty of this behavior. Suppliers also call whenever the muse is upon them. Because we’ve all become accustomed to being available not just 24/7 but beyond 24/7. I once wrote about the appalling statistics of American workers in comparison to those of other developed nations. We suffer twice the rate of clinical depression as our European counterparts. And we’re literally killing ourselves – in 1980, we ranked 11th in the world in life expectancy; we now rank 42nd.

I have a plan. (You knew I would.) This is a shocker, so you may want to be seated for this – freelancers and entrepreneurs could declare their business hours and then stick to them. Out there in the real world of non-freelance (aka “paid”) work, businesses actually post their hours right on the door. They do. Then when the end of the day comes around, they lock the door and they leave.

I realize that this is a far fetched concept. But think about it:

  • · When you call your bank after hours, does the President of the bank interrupt his dinner to answer your call?
  • · Would you expect your hairdresser to meet you at Starbucks on Sunday morning to review some pictures of hairstyles that might look cute on you?
  • · Do you wake your butcher up at 11:30 at night to tell him about your upcoming dinner party and get his “feedback” on entrĂ©e choices?

Let’s try, shall we? Let’s tell our clients right up front, in writing, the hours that we are available for meetings and phone conversations and then (gasp!) turn off the phone. Unless you are a trauma surgeon, let’s pretend that no one will actually die if we don’t take this call. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Some unexpected sex? I don’t know about you but I could live with that.

Are we having fun yet?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Using Mom’s Hairdresser as Your Focus Group

To write about my husband’s clients would be indiscreet and highly inappropriate and we certainly wouldn’t want that. So let’s just say that I know this certain guy (let’s call him “Bob”) who has a number of small business clients (let’s just call them “clients” because calling them Dumbo, although tempting, would be inappropriate).

In earlier times, “Bob” worked at a fairly major Chicago ad agency and so he understands the etiquette of how a marketing plan and its accompanying creative product are handled. He knows that there is a creative director through whom all creative product passes before going to the client. He knows that marketing is not the same as advertising, not all cost savings are a good thing, and you don’t “rebrand” your business by changing the logo.

But small business clients don’t always know this stuff and trying to get them to understand it is like trying to teach a pig to sing – it’s not only futile but it annoys the pig.

“Hey Bob, I know that you told me not to be passing your confidential marketing notes around the office because it’s just a rough draft and all, but I was so excited about the concept and so thrilled about the work I thought I should share it with just a couple of key people. Twelve people within the company (including an intern and the third-floor janitor) loved it but the lady who does my mother’s hair doesn’t like it and now I’ve decided that maybe we should rethink this whole thing.”


“You know that new logo that the professional graphic designer who specializes in creating logos designed for us? The one we spent two months, seven meetings, 56 phone calls and 1,146 emails about? Well, after I dropped it off at Bubba’s Auto Emporium on Monday to have it painted on the company vans, Bubba Jr. decided to take it to his high school art class and these kids have come up with something entirely different that is kind of cute.”


“Bob, you can take that professional film production money out of the budget because I met this retired welder at my cousin Blanche’s wedding last weekend. He just started a wedding video business and he’s going to shoot the whole package – the commercials and the training film – on his iPhone for a fraction of the cost. Can you have the script ready by Friday? We’re going to save even more money with the on-camera talent because Blanche offered to do it for free and she looks so nice now that she’s got most of the weight off.”

I’ll bet you think that I’m kidding. I’ll bet you think that I’m exaggerating. I will admit that these examples are a compilation of the kinds of things that several different clients have come up with over the past year. Nonetheless, this weekend “Bob” has to try to break the latest news to the art director. I’d tell you more, but that would be inappropriate.

Are we having fun yet?