Some clients are good. Others are horrible. But worse than both might be the clients you don’t believe in.
When writer Barton Swaim took a job as speechwriter for the then-governor of South Carolina, he thought it was a dream job. In this Washington Post review of his memoir, it doesn’t sound like Swaim’s thinking lasted long:
“For a long time the job of the speechwriter had sounded romantic to me,” writes Swaim, who came to the position from the academic world. “The speechwriter, I felt, was a person whose job it was to put words in the mouths of the powerful, who understood the import and varieties of political language and guided his master through its perils…. A speechwriter has all the gratification of being a writer but had political power too.”
Swaim would soon be unburdened of those misapprehensions. He quickly learned that his job was not to compose soaring rhetoric but to cobble together the kind of speeches the governor would write for himself if he had the time. And this governor couldn’t write. At all.
First, whenever a client says “I’d do this myself if I had the time,” you’ve just been shown a red flag (stay alert for other signs of client dysfunction).
Second, I know we’re hired guns, but writing for a cause/person/company you can’t believe in or support puts you on morally wonky ground — and makes for angsty writing.
Or at least it should. (Ask me how I know.)
The money is always tempting. But if you don’t love the words you craft, there are easier ways to make a living.
Keep writing (for the clients you want), Tom Chandler.