Up Front by Emma Hart


Will Work for Foo

It's that time of year again, where after a blissful interlude of cricket, swimming, Wii and general lounging in the sun, it's time to go back to work. I've always had trouble defining work, because I'm aware that pretty much all the things I've put the most effort into I've done for free. Also I work in the same chair I play in. So as a work-from-home contractor, perhaps I mean going back to taking jobs. It's just a tiny bit depressing.

Most of the people I work for are wonderful. Perfectly reasonable. I like my job, and I'm certainly not in it for the money. Every now and then, though, I deal with someone who rubs me up the wrong way. I think it's because they're stubborn idiots who won't listen to reason, but it's possible I could be biased. In any case, the huge padded wrist-rest in front of my keyboard is to protect my forehead, not my wrists.

I'm a calm, reasonable, polite person – anybody who knows me well would certainly be too scared to tell you anything else – but sometimes I do wish I could be just a little more direct. Think of this as an exercise in blowing off steam so I can suppress another year's worth of screaming 'are you freaking kidding me?'. (All 'client-side' interaction is quoted almost verbatim.)

Client: And I'd like all the articles to be seven hundred words long.
Me: Are you sure? Because I’m pretty sure I can cover the topic in about four hundred words.
Client: Why would you do that?
Me: Well, basically the shorter it is, the more people who'll read it. And the fewer pad words, the higher the concentration of your keywords.
Client: I'm paying for seven hundred words and I'll damn well get seven hundred words. Don't you try to back out of doing the work.
Me: You're the boss. Three hundred words of cabbage-level verbiage coming right up.

Client: And I want a 5% keyword density.
Me: That will make your copy read like gibbering idiocy, are you sure?
Client: Of course I'm sure. That's what I want.
Me: Well, it's just that human beings won’t read it. Five percent means your two three-word keyword phrases have to be one 'word' in twenty. And if you only want googlebots to read it, I'd suggest just typing your keywords out over and over again 'no TV and no beer make Homer something something' -style.
Client: I said five percent.
Me: You're the boss. I assume you want to purchase full copyright as well?
Client: Of course.
Me: Yes. Let's just leave my name right out of it.

Client: So, we want the whole manual laid out like this sample page.
Me: No you don't.
Client: Pardon?
Me: That sample page has text which is centre-justified. And orange. There are huge paragraphs of waste-words, and from here I can see about twenty unnecessary commas. There's not one list or bullet point. And did I mention it was orange? On black?
Client: But I'm quite good at technical writing myself, I just don't have the time to do this. And I did all the CSS myself.
Me: Yes, I can see that.
Client: …
Me: You're the boss. One unreadable Hallowe'en monstrosity coming right up. Let me just remove a large portion of my brain…

Client: I paid for 400 word articles. That one is only 398. I'm not paying until you get it up to the correct word length.
Me: Is there something wrong with the content?
Client: No, it reads fine. But it's short. I want what I asked for.
Me: You're the boss. Cabbage cabbage.
Client: What?
Me: You wanted two words. There they are. And here's my paypal account.

Frequently-Questioned Answers

Yes, yes I am. What was your first clue: the girl's name, the boobies, or the linguistic competency?

No, I'm sure I am. What about the lyrical description of Lara Croft's breasts I just gave you made you think I was male?

No, it's nothing personal. I'm from New Zealand, we all swear like that.

Yes thank you, I have found Jesus. He was behind the couch. Now it's my turn to hide.

I'm sorry, if you want to buy my integrity, you'll have to pay me a lot more than that.

No, see, I'm in a different time-zone. It's Wednesday night for you, but it's Thursday for me, so… No, you're right. The reason you commission work, go to sleep, and find it there when you wake up in the morning is that I'm an elf. Should you fail to leave me my gold, your cow will stop giving milk. Also I'll cut your brakes.

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