I’m a bit embarrassed to relate this. And I do not advocate treating clients this way. It is childish and unprofessional. (But it felt good.) In general I adore my clients.
I offer this only because the statute of limitations has expired. Here’s the story.
I was writing a white paper for a corporate VP. A one-time project.
She was driving me bats by larding up the text with all sorts of pompous and flatulent companyspeak.
When I wrote the word ‘use’ and she would change it to ‘utilize’. She’d cross out the word ‘after’ and insert ‘subsequent to’. Most of her comments were so tangled I couldn’t decipher them at all. She spoke in buzzwords. It was a bad fit from the start, and I should have realized it.
By the fourth round of revisions, the piece was a mess and we were both frustrated. She called my writing ‘too simplistic and downmarket.’ She wanted ‘a reset.’
Ordinarily, in unflappable pro mode, I would have simply shut up, written what she wanted and left town with the cash.
Instead, I threw a tantrum.
“So I’m too simplistic, eh?”
At a quarter to midnight, in a fit of pique, I rewrote the entire piece.
I set the thing ablaze with blather and bombast. I stuffed it chockablock with cliches and random combinations of every pre-fab nonsense phrase I had ever heard.
I packed in twenty-nine words where only nine were needed, and rendered every third paragraph as a one sixty-foot sentence. I played mix and match with the techno-jargon: I wrote next-edge and cutting-generation. I concocted ugly terms like ‘scalable unassailability.’
It was a tour de force of impenetrable corporatespeak, so laughable it could have been a Monty Python bit.
At that point, of course, I should have put the thing away, let the steam subside, and taken up the job again the next day, calmly, and without ego.
But that’s not what I did.
I was still smarting and figured I was as good as fired anyway. Like a dope, I wanted the satisfaction of a parting shot.
So at 1:30 am, with evil glee, I emailed this snide parody to the client.
I was invoking the freelancer’s option to bail, that freedom (which must be used sparingly) to disengage from any client, project, or situation that is intolerable, unprofitable, irritating as hell, or harmful to the soul. It is the ultimate stress-relief valve, unavailable to salaried folk.
And I hit ‘Send’ and slept contented, glad to be free of this root canal of a paper.
Next morning, there’s an email from her.
She says: “Yes! Great reboot and retake. This is definitely on point now. I’ve attached some minor changes . . . And thanks for midnight oiling this.”
Sometimes you can act like an ass and still come out okay.
A designer friend reminds me of his similar antics with a client who always wanted his logo bigger.
“Whenever we showed layouts with the logo at the proper size, the client would insist on enlarging it until it bulged like a tumor at the bottom of the page. We hated that.”
“The next time around, we decided go in with grotesquely huge logos. We figured he’d gasp at these cantaloupe-sized monstrosities and tell us to pare them back and back. And we’d end up at a reasonable size for once.
“Nope. The client loved the overbloated logos. Called us geniuses. Asked us to build a campaign based on an ultra-magnified, hyper-sized logos that barely fit on the page.”
“Around the idea of ‘Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”