Have you ever made a big mistake?
Have you ever been so resolute in your prediction of how the turn of events would proceed that you never even questioned your course?
I make good decisions.
This is a mantra I repeat to myself all the time. When things are going well, I give myself credit: I make good decisions. When things are rough, I justify my dismay and pity myself: I make good decisions (how unfair).
For the most part, I do believe I make good decisions.
I am intentional, thoughtful and my anxiety and high level of sensitivity usually have me overthinking actions constantly, which has an upside – I usually don’t screw things up. I am accountable, responsible, and not a moron. Mostly.
I take care of myself and the people around me. I always excel at my job. Very rarely do I experience events like the one I am about to describe.
That’s not to say that people that make mistakes are bad people, or I somehow have my shit more together than the next person.
Usually, I don’t have to apologize or really check my shit because I have it pretty well together. I am empathetic to a fault and have a knack for anticipating people’s needs and feelings. This has awarded me immensely in my professional life, in that once I get to know someone, I know exactly how to help them. I work really hard. I make other people feel bad I work so much (see: every co-worker I’ve ever had).
So here is the story of how I totally got my ass handed to me, for just being me.
Seizing an Opportunity
It all started with a Facebook advertisement.
Now I know what you are thinking, no one clicks on those, why would you do that?
Well, I have been working for people who are advertising online long enough that advertisements on Facebook are kind of interesting to me. Not because I give a flying fiddlestick about what they are selling, I just want to know how they are selling it. This targets me for more ads of these types, but it doesn’t bother me so much. I see it as market research.
So this particular advertisement was for a company I knew I would be perfect for. I wrote for their niche and I had specific, unique experience with their market and product. I was stoked. I was so zealous that I shot off a message to them right away (bless Facebook) asking who did their content and if they would be interested in seeing my portfolio.
They agreed and I was over the moon.
Wooing My Way into a Job
I had worked on projects like theirs before, but those projects, for good reason, were proprietary. I didn’t have the rights to show them off, though I did have a portfolio.
So instead, I showed them how hard I could hustle. I started pulling up all of their campaigns, screen capping them, and commenting on the things I would change. I thought they were awesome changes. My portfolio and my audit were great and I was really proud of it.
It felt nice. I felt like I could really help them and felt I had done really good work.
Over a month went by and I never heard a word back. Finally, to end a perfectly horrible day squabbling with a nasty business that wouldn’t pay me and hours on the phone with the labour standards ministry, I opened my email and my heart lit up.
There it was, an email from them, my dream job.
So ready for some good news I hastily opened it. Within five seconds I felt as if I had swallowed a bowling ball whole.
A Series of Terrible Mistakes
I had made a series of horrible mistakes.
First, I hadn’t researched my contact thoroughly. Though I had spent ample time scouring the internet for every little detail about the founders, I hadn’t researched this person much because I hadn’t anticipated that I would need to. I read the contact’s biography on the site and it didn’t say anything of particular note.
This bit me in the ass big time. She came back swinging.
Apparently, my opinions were unsolicited. She was a self-pronounced copy guru and expert in her field (even though she was the same person who told me to go ahead and send her my portfolio on Facebook).
If I had researched her, I also would have found out that she had ties with the business that wouldn’t pay me, the one that I was currently in mediation with.
Yeah, that’s a big fucking oops.
Then she tore into my edits. She claimed that they had already decided to make almost all of the changes I had suggested, so they would not be remunerating me for the work I had done. Right, bud.
In all fairness, offering them my work without any safeguards was a bad call on my part. I figured, hey they are in x niche, they are probably good people and I really want them to see how awesome I am, so I will just do it. It will show how enthusiastic I am about doing the work.
Oh it is humbling how dumb I can be sometimes.
Learning I am a Horrible Person
She was angry, seemingly for my existence, but probably angered more by the fact that my edits were actually really good and they would go on to use all of them.
In her final paragraph, she delivered the most devastating blow.
I had the audacity to add a little spunk to my editing notes. I have been doing this with my clients from the very beginning and most really liked the way I approached their copy. They were always appreciative of my attempt to make editing fun.
She called me unprofessional and flippant and gave me her unsolicited advice that if I wanted to succeed with cold-calls, that I should start trying to make people like me first.
Okay, so maybe she had a point.
Through this horrific email, I learned that she was actually the main copywriter. She was not happy with the fact that I came in with the crazy turned way up and shit all over her work.
That’s not to say her stuff wasn’t good, it just wasn’t great. Now, reflecting on it, I am a bit surprised that someone with so much experience in her industry, and apparently amazing copywriting skills, managed to bungle it up like that.
But that is beside the point. She is only human, and I fucked up a potentially awesome opportunity by being a stanky bitch.
All of these little details combined triggered a pretty epic meltdown.
This debacle started to get me thinking about whether I was in the right niche or not. Considering her response, and the previous experience I had had with people in her industry, I don’t know why I didn’t consider changing niches sooner.
I can doooo professional language, I have a bloody philosophy degree. I have been there and I have done way too much that.
I can tell you, it is boring and no one cares.
I have written for doctors and scientists and business consultants (oh my!), and none have ever criticized me for my writing or editing style. That is not to say that she is wrong, however.
Anyways, I responded to the woman with a very brief, thank you for your feedback and good luck in the future.
Any other response, no matter how ‘professional’ seemed like a passive aggressive way of attempting to make her feel bad for what she had said to me. I didn’t want to engage in a misguided attempt to prove her claims wrong.
I tried my very best not to be her.
She had sent me a very long email with all the reasons she didn’t like me, when all she really had to do was say was, “We reviewed your samples and we don’t feel like you would make a good fit at this time.”
That’s all it would have taken.
Usually, I am not far off about people’s motivations. I am intuitive to a fault. I think she was doing just what I wanted to do to her after her email.
She was hurt by my critiques of her work. She had positioned herself as an authority and then this spunky little wiener (moi) comes along and unintentionally shames her.
She was upset. If she wasn’t she wouldn’t have gone on to list all of her qualifications, as if she was applying for a job I was posting. I hurt her ego so she hurt mine back.
Because I spent most of my undergraduate degree having my writing torn apart and bled all over, having someone destroy my writing without any empathy at all is super normal to me. Sometimes I forget that other people have not experienced this. I know how hard it is to write, and how scary it can be because of its undeniable personal nature.
Fair is fair I guess. Lesson learned.
You’ll be happy to know that I have changed the way I approach people about their work and wait until I have established a good relationship with them before I lay down any stank. So don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.
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