When Authentic Isn’t Good Enough

One of the secrets to my freelance career is that I do a number of related services, and the relationships often lead to new clients in one area because they worked with me in another. For example, a training client might become a coaching client. A coaching client might take a journaling class.

Jigsawing related services often means the difference between freelance survival or failure. And in today’s economy, failure is not something I care to contemplate.

Jessica Hagy: thisisindexed.com/2009/02/fate-decisions/

Jessica Hagy: thisisindexed.com/2009/02/fate-decisions/

I never hide my various lines of business, but occasionally a client doesn’t understand how I can be more than one thing. Most often, the way it leads to trouble is that a client sees me as a writer and doesn’t understand how come I can’t spend more time writing. If they don’t understand that I am running a training program, they may become resentful when I ask for a longer deadline.

“How long does it take you to write that, anyway?”

“I have other work that is on my plate. I can have it by Friday, but not Wednesday.”

“If you really wanted the job, you’d meet my deadline.”

“I do want the job, but I can’t accept it if the deadline is Wednesday because I can’t deliver it on Wednesday. Much as I’d like to help you, I can’t accept a job knowing I can’t meet the deadline.”

“Then you really don’t want the job, do you. Anyone could finish it by Wednesday.”

And so, because the client doesn’t understand that I’ll be running a training program, and doesn’t care (and I can’t expect them to) I lost the job.

It’s a bit harder when it come to friendships. I’ve long suspected that my workaholic tendencies make friendships difficult. And when your work supplies necessities, the work needs to come first. I try to keep the bonds of friendship alive and working, but there are days when I simply can’t meet a friend across the Valley for lunch, can’t chat with a friend for an hour, can’t read and answer a complicated email. And today it cost me a friend.

When your authentic dedication to supporting your family doesn’t leave room for friends, do you give them up? Do you let your family slide? Do you shortchange a client’s job? Today’s choice was not easy. I apologized and it wasn’t enough. My comfort was that I made the choice that hurt, but it was the choice I could understand. Sometimes being authentic isn’t enough. But it’s all I have.

Quinn McDonald is a writer, life– and creativity coach. She’s also a trainer in business communications and helps people who can’t draw keep art journals.