Horror Boss Stories: Freelancer vs Mini-bosses

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I have a full-time job as a digital marketing specialist cum copywriter – and this job is fine. I love this job. I have no bossy horror boss stories to tell in this aspect. But at the same time, I am also a freelance copywriter. When you are a freelancer, your mini-bosses scattered around different projects can be a nightmare.

When I started selling my writing services in my after-work hours, I took up minimal wage jobs. I’m talking about RM20 or less for every 1000 words written. I was scammed several times when I agreed to liaise with my customers on Skype – they ended up being super demanding, requesting about 3000 words daily and told me that they will pay me by the end of the week, and ended up blocking me afterwards. They are still actively scamming to this day, sadly.

Well, I featured those articles I wrote on my blog, scammed-freelancers.blogspot.com with their Skype IDs, where I found those customers and other details to warn off fresh freelancers like me. Having those articles published meant that the scammers would not be able to send those articles to their own employers, if there was ever one. The work would be 100% plagiarised from my site, which does not do well for anyone who wants to use the articles for their branding purposes. I started to note how scammers work with freelancers – communication outside of job platform, disappearing completely after getting some or all of the work done, and never responding when it comes to payment.

I then started to charge USD10 for every 1000 words written. Still a low rate, but at least reasonable enough for me to earn back the money I used for eating.

This stage is where I met all sorts of clients. I had some who would give vague descriptions such as “promote this dancing website in 600 words on 3 different blogs” and said it was all up to me, but when I send them my copy, they would say something like, “I want something to do with our new singing package, not dancing.” How was I supposed to know that if you weren’t willing to tell me? My articles would get approved by Staff A from the company before Staff B pops up and demand the article changed with a completely different set of requirements.

This kept repeating, and I eventually took down the work that I have done for them when they disappeared for almost an entire month when payment was due. They tallied completely with the scammers’ traits that I recognized.

I sent them an email informing them about the issue, saying that I would put the work back up once their payment comes through. I also informed them that their articles are put up on my scammers blog temporarily until they pay up, and boy, did they get defensive with their immediate responses!

Not a single sincere apology was given. Here’s what their ‘apology’ sounded like, after being unresponsive for 1 month, with an equally late payment and giving me a different set of requirements after approving my work:

“This is very unprofessional of you. How can you say that we are scammers? That’s so rude! You posted that we are scammers on your blog? You can stop working for us, take our work down but you should never say that your customers are scammers. This is bad for your reputation. Now we need to do brand recovery. Staff A, we are sorry that you need to deal with this freelancer. Please look for freelancers that are willing to think for the customers instead in the future.”

Excuse you very much.

Long story short they paid me the money, gave me insincere apologies laced with a very ‘lansi’ attitude and I put their work back up as promised. Then I blocked them and that was the end of our deal. I’d have just let it go if they have apologized sincerely instead of snapping at me immediately the way they did, but to this day I am still ready to tell the story of this client to anyone who is willing to listen.

I also had mini-bosses who would tell me that I had many errors in my writing, which I was glad to get more information about. Hey, room for improvement, right?

“What kind of mistakes are you referring to? Is it grammar mistakes or sentence structuring?” I would ask after running my article through Grammarly and other online grammer reviewing sites just to be sure (I found nothing other than optional sentence structure changes), and they would only say, “There’s so many.” They even stopped the project completely afterwards and left me a bad review – the first and only one within my list of customers so far.

By now I have pushed off plenty of these customers, who I can also regard as my ‘mini-bosses’. I am happily settled with 2 very pleasant customers who were more than willing to pay my rates without any complaints and are very understanding if I had to delay my work when I am sick instead of asking for proof that I am not just procrastinating.

My writing experience has allowed me to charge higher rates for all my customers, but the list of freelancing horror bosses never ends. I am now super cautious about taking up new clients, making sure that I am comfortable communicating with them before I start our collaboration.

Every now and then a rude one slips through, demanding unrealistically cheap prices and highly specific work that takes up most of my day. I am not afraid to snap back and drop them from my customer list anymore, unlike how I was at the beginning of my freelancing journey. Hey, freelancers need to be respected too!

For more Horror Boss Stories, read Horror Boss Stories: Here Are Some Stories of the Worst Bosses in Malaysia and Horror Boss Stories: Malaysians Share Their Story with Us.

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