Avoid clients who operate in bad faith

Recently a newsletter subscriber emailed me and said, “I would have taken this class, except you made a mistake in the course description.”

I sent a polite email in response and immediately unsubscribed her from my email list.

It sounds like I can’t take criticism, doesn’t it?

But that’s not the reason I unsubscribed her. I unsubscribed her because clearly we are not a good match. If my making a mistake in a course description is enough to make you doubt my competence as a story development editor, then I am not going to be the right teacher for you.

And it’s perfectly fine if that’s the case! If you want to judge my editorial ability from a typo in a newsletter rather than my extensive experience and knowledge of the field, it’s A-OK with me. I’ve judged people for the same reason. I get it.

But you don’t get to continue to have access to me when you’re not having a good-faith conversation with me. I avoid working with bad-faith clients, and I encourage others to do so, too.

Here’s why this was not a good-faith conversation. If the person writing to me really did think, “Gee, Jennifer is incompetent,” then the natural solution is to unsubscribe from the newsletter, since obviously its content is questionable. Or, even to say to me, “Gee, you’re incompetent, I’m unsubscribing.”

I respect that, actually. You’ve got your standards, and by golly, you’re going to stick with them! Nothing wrong with that.

But good faith is not dangling a carrot (“I would have taken your class”) before snatching it away (“except you made a mistake.”) Good faith is saying, “This error made me doubt you; can you explain why it happened?” Good faith is saying, “I don’t really think I can take advice from someone who makes mistakes.” Good faith does not have a “nyah-nyah” flavor to it.

I doubt the person ever had any intention of taking the class in the first place, which means that she’s also gaslighting me with her email (“Look what you made me do”). Again, there is nothing in good faith about that.

I’m not going to be the right teacher for everyone, and that’s fine. Not everyone is going to be the right student, either.

Freelancer editors are often under the impression that it is up to the potential client whether the client chooses them, but nothing could be further from the truth. You also get to choose your clients! That’s the “free” part of “freelance.”

By cutting off bad-faith operators like this one, I have more emotional bandwidth to support and encourage the students/clients who are a good match for me. And you will, too.

Beginning Developmental Editing for Fiction starts September 12, 2022

how to become a developmental editor

Naked Editing Book Club starts September 1, 2022

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