94. Deciding the Dealbreaker

What would my ideal work-scenario look like for my photographer-client?

That I worked only at his office, 3 days a week and got full compensation for it. 8 hours a day, did as much as I could, pushed the rest.

What does it look like for him, perhaps? Or if I should interpret the signs so far?

How about: I get paid for two days work, 7 hours per day, at his office. But he pushes a lot of tasks on me, so I feel obligated to do some of them at home, to keep my job. Then he can, through cajoling and subtle manipulation (called “professionalism” in his jargon) get me to do more, and pay less.

But he has also expressed that he is not interested in discussions about how much I should or should not do at home. He says it’s up to me. And yet … he pushes for me to do more, and twists my attempt at explaining why I couldn’t or shouldn’t spend time out of office for this and that. Either he pays me by the hour or by the task, right?

Well, no. He has also said, he doesn’t want to pay me by task done – and then let time consumption be my own damn business, if only I make it before a certain deadline, of course. He wants control. He wants me to be in his office. Some of the time anyway.

And, I guess, he wants me cheap, too.

So he can push me to do extra if I don’t perform tasks fast enough while in office. Then he can make me feel like I’m not “professional enough” or like I’m in the risk of losing my job (or steady gig if you will) if I don’t go the extra mile at home.

It is a strange hybrid. For I am not employed. I have a contract of sorts and I send him invoices from my company. But I don’t have employee rights. I am hired labor, no rights.

Except those I make for myself, of course.

So maybe I should propose him my ideal scenario? I mean, it’s not as if he lacks money – or so I gather. So he could pay me for three days, which is what I use now to do the tasks he requires and pays for with two days only.

But what if he pushed the envelope even more then? Invented new tasks? Who says he will stop? Why not just push for me to work 4 days and pay for three?

What if a newsletter isn’t finished and “has to” come out Saturday, but I had to do an important maintenance task to save his website from hacking? That took all day of the last day? Then I go home and do what? Do the newsletter for free? What about my other clients? My family?

In a normal job I could save those extra hours for later, of course. Could that be a deal?

It should.

I think my photographer client has to make a choice soon, about how he wants this working relationship to work out.

Or I will have to make it.

Even if I’ll be in over my head, or that’s what it feels like, once we go to the hospital and Jay comes along for the home ride. And with all the other things, like the rest of my business.

And Char not being happy about me saying no to a major gig. About the uncertainty it creates for our income situation, or at least for the length of time we have to dig into her savings and inheritance.

On the other hand, she said – very clearly – that I shouldn’t work for free. And she is right.

Would my photographer client work for free? Where is the difference between good service and working for free and being abused? Or letting yourself be abused?

Where is the difference?

I guess I’ll have to settle that matter soon, and that is one of the empowering and frightful things about being an independent.

But so far, for all the trouble and frustration it has given me, I still feel more empowered than frightened.

It may be a challenge to get other clients to replace one that has gone. But it certainly isn’t as big a thing as getting one single new job with one person or copany, to replace a job lost.

That’s at least how I feel now. And I have lots of good services to offer. And prospective clients. One here, one there. It all adds up …

That is good to know.

But it still doesn’t mean I should try to make the best arrangement with my again-difficult photographer client (yes, we had a minor row about my tasks vs. pay the other day – that is why I’m writing this now).

It is on both our interests, I should think.

But I also have to decide very clearly, what is my definition of a deal-breaker. Even if it hurts financially. Even if it is frightening.

But if you don’t know exactly what it is that will make you stop and take a new, in the short term more frightening course, like quitting a job or a big client, then you become even more frightened.

The courage to make that decision – and later stand by it, making it real – that is an act. Courage is action.

And deciding what my deal-breaker is with regard to this particular client is an action. An important action.

And once that decision is made, no going back, then the fear of actually carrying it out is lessened.

Let’s try it.