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Me > You

November 30, 2010

Most people I know hate applying for jobs. It’s a humiliating and anxiety-provoking process that can make one feel like a small dog forced to dress in a stupid outfit and jump through hoops for the amusement of circus-goers.

As a freelancer, any day that goes by without me looking for new potential clients is a wasted day. I often have wasted days, and they fill me with shame. But, like most people, I hate applying for work. As a writer, I’m pretty hardened against the idea of rejection, so I don’t think I suffer the same kind of anxiety that many other people do while waiting to hear back from a potential employer. I send off my cover letter and my samples and then I stop thinking about them. Often, I don’t hear back at all. Ultimately, this does not bother me.

What does worry me is that I often find myself walking a fine line between making myself sound as awesome as possible and insulting the intelligence of my potential clients. In my experience, many people are aware that the act of writing is at best something that makes them feel vaguely uncomfortable and at worst something that might be a prelude to total nervous collapse, and yet they are still unwilling to hire a professional to do it for them. It is therefore my job to convince them that they NEED a professional writer.

My best argument so far as to why businesses should avail themselves of my services is another food analogy (I like food, so that’s where most of my analogies go). The analogy is this:  no one would hire a professional chef to warm up a can of Progresso soup for him. However, if a person were planning a big banquet in honor of his daughter’s wedding, he would be crazy to attempt the execution of said banquet by himself. So it goes with writing: when someone sends a personal email, it doesn’t need to be a brilliantly crafted literary gem. But when the piece of writing in question is really important, it might be wise to consult a professional.

The subtle insult here is that you, the businessperson, are NOT the professional chef of the analogy. You’re the schmo heating up a can of salty minestrone. I’m the one dressed in a frilly white hat, delicately poaching shrimps and caramelizing onions for your daughter’s big day. You are average and uninteresting, even sad, with your solitary bowl of soup. I am flashy and amazing, and someone else does all my dishes for me.

Perhaps due to my extreme feelings of awkwardness when telling someone just how awesome I am, I occasionally imagine myself having the following conversation with a potential client:

Me:  Hello, Mr. Frankenstein. My name is Greer Hed and I’m a freelance writer. I sent you a portfolio of my work last week and I was wondering if you might be interested in working with me.

Mr. F: Well, we took a look at your portfolio. It’s quite impressive, but I think for now we’d prefer to have our copy written in-house.

Me: (barely disguised snort of derision)

Mr. F: I’m sorry?

Me: What?

Mr. F: You snorted.

Me: Well, it’s just that I assume when you say “in-house” what you really mean is “in the monkey house,” because your copy reads like it was conceived of and typed by a chimp. I’m also guessing that this chimp was typing not with his little chimp hands, but instead with his freakishly large chimp testicles. This image is funny to me, so I laughed, but I didn’t want you to know I was laughing, so I snorted.

(awkward silence ensues)

Me: So…do I get the job?

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